How to handle an exit interview

by Evil HR Lady on August 22, 2012

Dear Evil HR Lady,
I read your article, “How much information should you give when resigning,” and you said you are supposed to remain positive and keep all the concerns to yourself in exit interview. If we do this, how will they ever know to change? Not my issue?

To read the answer click here: How to handle an exit interview

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Sophie August 22, 2012 at 8:40 pm

How would you handle an exit interview with your manager, if your manager asked you to bring a list of specific things she needed to work on – but then would never do anything about it? This happened with me and a former coworker of mine. Our manager asked former coworker to bring a list of concerns she had with manager’s style. She did just that and they had a long conversation on her last day. I know the things she told our manager, because I helped her with the list (she asked the rest of her peers for input). Our manager has never improved on the areas she pointed out to her. Now I am job-hunting and hope to have a new job soon, and I know that I will go through this same process. Should I bring my list of concerns (if asked – could be moot) and try to address them with the boss, or just forget about it?


Evil HR Lady August 22, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Since the boss asked directly, I would bring up three easily fixable things. If you don’t, she’s likely to remember you were disagreeable when you exited.

But that’s kind of strange.


Sophie August 22, 2012 at 9:20 pm

Thanks for the suggestion, I will definitely do that. I don’t want to burn a bridge but there are some things I’d like to say to her. It’s a dysfunctional workplace on a whole (they never fire anyone), hence my job searching.


Charles August 23, 2012 at 6:06 am

” . . . you said you are supposed to remain positive and keep all the concerns to yourself in exit interview. If we do this, how will they ever know to change?”

I don’t meant to be rude; but that last line just makes me laugh! Really, if only I could get folks to change just by me telling them to. Ha!

Spot on in that if they didn’t listen to suggestions when the employees are there, why on earth would they listen to an soon-to-be ex-enployee?

Maybe, just maybe, they might take notice after a large number of employees leave; But, I doubt it.

I once did a short term assignment for a non-profit which had a director who had 12 assistants in the same number of years (and one of those assistants stayed for a whole 2 years, so he really threw the average way off). Her excuse – “good help is just so hard to find!” Never, but never, would it occur to her that SHE was the common denominator in those “12 lousy asistants.” The assistants were always at fault. Sadly, management was well aware of the problem; but they felt that she just had to learn on her own. (and in the meantime, treating decent folks like dirt) That director never would have done anything but blame the messenger if anyone suggested that she needed to change her behaviour.


Evil HR Lady August 23, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Yeah, people do not like to recognize that they maybe–just maybe–have something to do with the problems at their companies.


Andy Lester August 23, 2012 at 9:06 pm

“If we do this, how will they ever know to change? Not my issue?”

Surely you’ve tried to change things in the past, right? How did that go? It’s not likely to be any different just because it’s a different person asking in an interview mandated by process, not by any specific interest in your point of view.

It also helps to remember that it’s not one’s job to try to fix everything in the world that one doesn’t like. That road leads to crazy and unhappy.


Lydia August 24, 2012 at 11:22 am

When I conduct exit interviews, I always guarantee anonymity, but recommend people discuss any concerns with their manager directly (as I can’t). I also give them the option for me to bring things up confidentially after they have left, along the lines of ‘I’ve had several recent discussions and the theme of x has come up’.

However I really feel the the biggest value comes from allowing someone to get any concerns off their chest directly to the company rather than going around complaining to friends and family – it is an opportunity for closure. It also allows me to keep an eye on situations I may not have been aware of, and to then chip in from my own observations, and hopefully to improve circumstances for their colleagues or replacement going forward. I also take the change to ask if they are concerned about any other colleagues so that I can potentially intervene or at least be prepared for future exits!

I don’t think that anyone leaving believes that 100% of their gripes can or will be fixed, but it does give me leverage as an HR practitioner with the ear of the MD when it’s needed. Thankfully our culture is open enough that most of the time the leaver sits down and starts with ‘my manager already knows all this..’.

Like many things, exit interviews have limited value but I don’t believe that they have nil value.


Michelle August 24, 2012 at 11:07 pm

I’m sorry, but I disagree. You don’t want to burn bridges, but you should be honest as to why you are leaving. One person’s comments aren’t going to change much, but when several people make similar comments that information can be reported out in aggregate (to maintain confidentiality) and we will then know where there are issues. Examples that I have personally been involved in addressing based on exit interview feedback include:
- lack of training & development opportunities
- lack of promotional opportunities
- relocation requirements
- work-life balance programs

So, please be honest in why you started looking for a new assignment. I’m not asking you to fall on a sword or tell us everything that has ever gone wrong but give me the big picture issues. If it is more than just you experiencing, something can be done to fix it at the company.


Evil HR Lady August 25, 2012 at 8:03 am

All of those things are neutral in terms of your boss, so yes, bring those up. Some of them, of course, are not fixable. When I worked for a small credit union (160 people), there was no one between me and the head of HR. Had she quit, there was no way I would have been qualified to take her position. Therefore, to be promoted, I had to leave.

That’s not a bride burning statement.

Neither is “there are no programs in place to help with work/life balance.”

However, “My boss drains every minute of my time, makes me work nights and weekends and disrupts my vacations” can only serve to make your boss feel negatively about you.


Jay from Philly March 26, 2013 at 6:24 pm

What company gives exit interviews? I haven’t been contacted for an exit interview in 16 years, and for that one I didn’t bother to respond. I flat out don’t believe in anonymity for the remarks of the departing employee. Even if HR guaranteed it all the former boss would have to do if figure out who quit. IF they know who quit. A few years ago I went to personnel and gave written notice. They accepted my resignation and gave me a copy stamped with their seal of approval. The day after my last official day I got a call from my workplace asking why I hadn’t shown up to work. I could have have stated in exit interview (if this employer had one) stating communications was terrible, but it never would have been told to the right person.


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