Bartleby: Talking it over
Is there a point to exit interviews?
“Do you feel your job description has changed since you were hired?”
“What prompted you to start looking for another position?”
Such questions are typical of the exit interview, to which an email from HR may invite you after you’ve handed in your notice.
Do you accept?
And if so, how honest should you be with your soon-to-be-ex-employer during the discussion?
Just like humans, corporate entities do not want to admit their faults.
As such, many companies deal with resignations badly.
Exit interviews may help them do better.
More important, understanding why workers leave is critical if you want to stop more of them heading for the exit.
Recruiting and training top talent is a big cost for firms, particularly those in the service sector, so anything that can be done to reduce staff turnover is valuable.
Poaching is part of any competitive industry, so knowing what drew an employee to a different firm can be useful, too.
Former employees who leave happy can in future fill a role as corporate ambassadors.
For firms the best exit interview is the one that doesn’t happen.
A study conducted by the Harvard Business Review concluded that they should be “the culmination of a series of regular retention conversations”.
Such attempts will not work every time, or even often—staff churn is a fact of corporate life.
For unsalvageable cases, some firms arrange a one-to-one conversation with the leaver’s manager.
Others offer an online form, which is less personal but provides the opportunity to collate feedback easily.
Such exchanges are best scheduled after the initial rush of emotion has passed but before the employee has checked out mentally.
The information gleaned can be revealing.
In some firms, it travels all the way up to the board.
The incentives for a departing employee are less clear.
(If you are pursuing legal action against your employer, your lawyer is likely to tell you to avoid the interview altogether.)
It is tempting either to ignore everyone and just walk away or, conversely, to really let rip.
“When one burns one’s bridges,” wrote Dylan Thomas, “what a very nice fire it makes.”
But letting off steam by unburdening yourself of all the wrongs and little things that ever upset you is a shallow game.