Farewell – But Can We Have a Chat?

Exit interviews… A phrase that makes many people roll their eyes as soon as they hear those words. Are they worth the effort involved or should they be consigned to the dustbin? Many companies conduct exit interviews – either by a member of management or the HR department for several reasons.

Firstly is to discover if there are any internal reasons for the person departing the business and if action could be taken to ensure no one else leaves for the same reason. Secondly is to ensure that any information required for the businesses ongoing operation has been handed over so it can be dealt with by someone else. This could just be as simple as a phone call that had been arranged with a potential client to a deal that is about to be closed for a large sum of money.

But doesn’t anyone actually tell the truth in an exit interview or doesn’t it merely consist of a stream of platitudes and clichÌ©s? From the employee’s – or rather ex-employees – perspective they still might need a reference from this company or how some bonuses outstanding they don’t want to risk losing. The employer might just be required to do this by senior management and have no interest in wasting time with someone would is perceived as not be having been able to cut it in the business. Will the employer roll out the old we will miss you and you’ve done some fantastic work for us sayings to which the departing employee will respond with I’ve really enjoyed working here and I will really miss the people?

Imagine the shock that would occur if both parties agreed to have a pull no punches, be frank and forthright with each other, conversation in which the truth was actually given! This could only happen if both sides felt protected from any fall out or retribution. Perhaps both parties should have to sign agreements guaranteeing that what is discussed in the meeting will have no impact on references, bonus payments or any other issues that might make the departing party from being less than honest? Would you ever tell the truth in an exit interview without this commitment from the employer?!

A surprising number of people question regarding this issue admitted to not even attending their exit interview or ignored the call when the time came. A clean break is required by many – especially if the departure was less than pleasant – so having to deal with another conversation after the fact when people only want to look forward to the future is a massive negative. So in hindsight just what does any party hope to get out of an exit interview and would you willingly disclose all of the home truths the boss would rather not know?

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