A director of a company, who had just found out that one of his favourite staff members had decided to resign, told me that he would not give this person any more of his time or energy and he would not, therefore, be offering her an exit interview.

He was personally very triggered by this person’s decision to leave.  He felt it was an attack on him. He felt that she was ungrateful and that she didn’t deserve anything extra from him or the company.

He also said that it would be a complete waste of time to conduct an exit interview because if she had a problem, she should have said so before she made the decision to jump ship so that they could have done something to address the problem.

I am confident that this person didn’t speak up beforehand because this director was not very good at receiving feedback. He had the potential to argue the point if people didn’t agree with him.

However, I think he is right… it is too late to try to fix problems once the person has left.  Unfortunately, the bit that he was missing was that this staff member did not feel safe to speak up before she left the organisation and chances are, even if she was offered an exit interview, she would have been unlikely to say very much at the time because what was to be gained?

And Adelaide is a small place; so, you don’t go around burning bridges, right?

However, I think there is real value to be achieved from holding an exit interview but only if they are conducted in a way that is safe.  So how do you make it safe and effective?

I believe that the best person to conduct an exit interview is someone independent from the employer; someone who can give the feedback in a way that can be heard and acted upon.

An employee or leader is too close to the situation.  They may feel ashamed or embarrassed if they discover at the eleventh hour that they have been partly responsible for this person’s decision to leave.  And if we feel blamed, chances are we then go into defensive mode.

But an independent third party can interview the person in a sensitive manner.  They have no emotional attachment to the person leaving or their reasons for leaving.  They can then provide that feedback in a way that can be actioned.

A person leaving your employment has a story to tell about their experience working for you.  That story might be good or not so good.  There are lots of reasons why people move on.  But gathering information about everyone’s stories and experience will help you to constantly improve your workplace and ensure you provide your team with a welcoming and safe place to work.

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