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.

I often get asked to come and help an organisation or business when they are going through a conflict crisis. 

The wheels are falling off, and they ring me to help them get through the crisis. 

After being briefed by the leader, the first thing I do is meet with all of the parties for a confidential venting session.  This helps them to get clarity about the issues and to get some stuff off their chest. 

One of the questions I always ask in these venting sessions is who is the boss? It sounds like a silly question.  Surely the leader who engaged me is the boss – but the reality is that often a completely different person is deemed to be the boss of the office or workplace. 

Sometimes two people are vying for the position of leader/boss. 

What this tells me is: 

  1. There is not a lot of clarity about vision, roles and responsibilities and expectations; and
  2. Someone has stepped into the void.  If the leader is not leading effectively, someone else will step up and lead.  If two people try to fill this void, then there can be war. 

Every organisation needs to have a boss or leader.  An orchestra needs a conductor; a beehive needs a queen bee; dogs need a pack leader.  

One of the roles of leadership is to make everyone feel safe; safety comes from knowing where you stand, knowing where you are going and knowing who you go to when there is a problem. 

Every organisation needs structure, rules and most importantly, an effective leader. 

 

I have been working out. I had a bit of a break from really working out over the last few months due to a mix of work and family commitments. But this is bad form for me and I realised that I had to get fit again – really fit. 

So I started doing group exercise and really pushing myself. 

Oh, the pain!  I have had sore legs, arms, glutes, quads etc… You know you’re alive after you work out. 

Working out is the process of working a muscle until it “tears” or “gets exhausted” and the muscle then needs to repair and then the muscle gets stronger.  

You can’t truly fit without putting all of your muscles under stress.  No pain, no gain. 

The same is true of your conflict muscles. 

Most of us are so conflict-averse that we avoid conflict like the plague.  So what that means is that we tolerate behaviour that is rude or inappropriate; we say yes when we are thinking no; we are compliant so that we don’t rock the boat.  As a result, we complain about other people, we feel bad about ourselves for not taking action and sometimes our health is negatively affected because we are so stressed about the behaviour of others. 

Conflict is just information that there is a problem. When we put it on the table and talk about it, then we have some chance of resolving the issues and making a change.  

So I think that dealing with conflict when it arises is like working out.  It’s uncomfortable initially but over time the muscle gets used to working in that way and it gets easier and easier. 

Being assertive, looking out for ourselves, speaking up and expressing our concerns or providing feedback is good for your soul and your physical and mental health. 

So don’t be scared of your team “working their conflict muscle” – in fact, I say you should encourage it.  It’s not as scary as you think.