You Quit! Now What?
Recently I found myself coaching a candidate on how to proceed with her exit interview. She was leaving her company for a laundry list of reasons, but one in particular was that she felt she was being micromanaged by her boss.
“Will they ask me for feedback on my position and my department?” she asked.
Yes, I assured her, they most certainly will.
“I obviously can’t be honest, can I?” she replied. My gut instinct was to tell her that no, there was no way she should be honest. Then I got to thinking. What is the point of an exit interview if the employee is uncomfortable divulging information?
This dilemma prompted me to do my due diligence on the topic and come up with a solution to the problem of the exit interview. After reading a few articles and blog posts by HR professionals, I found that this was a common problem spanning companies of all sizes. In his article “Exit Interviews: How Can We Make Them More Than a Waste of Time?”, John Hollon suggests that anyone leaving a company should treat the exit interview experience as you were being cross-examined in court by the other side’s attorney. Hollon writes,
Say as little as possible, keep your answers to “yes” and “no” if you can, smile a lot, and get out of there as quickly as possible- because no good can ever come from an exit interview.[i]
I have to say, I agree with Hollon. You have already quit your job, you are feeling vulnerable and the last thing you want to do is burn a bridge and ruin future references. So if companies must have exit interviews, what can we do to make them more effective?
If people have an effective and anonymous outlet to air their grievances and make suggestions, they are more apt to do it than say, if they are asked to discuss it with their colleagues on the HR team. Regardless of HR confidentiality agreements, people are hesitant to share their concerns when they are discussing them with someone who is still presently at the company they are exiting. An idea would be to get an anonymous survey out to exiting employees where they can rate their experiences compared to how the job was positioned to them. This allows the HR department to collect data and view the results from an unbiased standpoint. Instead of “Oh well, Fred complained about everything when he worked here, so his suggestions really don’t hold too much power,” the HR team will be able to evaluate each opinion with fresh eyes. Perhaps you can uncover trends where employees see the need for changes.
Obviously there is no panacea for the exit interview, and each company is unique and thus must evaluate their exit process on their terms. Any way you slice it, though, something must be done to provide and glean constructive information from the exiting process.
[i] Hollon, John. Exit Interviews: How Can We Make Them More Than a Waste of Time? Retrieved January 4, 2012, from http://www.tlnt.com