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Being Honest In Exit Interviews Is Pointless 550

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the but-burning-bridges-is-really-fun dept.
Esther Schindler writes "Say that you're leaving a job, either on your own volition or because they decided it was time for you to 'pursue other opportunities.' Before you leave, the HR department wants to chat with you about the employment experience, in an exit interview. 'Oh goodie,' you think. 'Now I can really tell them what I really feel.' Don't do it. If your employer couldn't find the time to ask you what was good or bad about working at the company while you were still working there, writes Lisa Vaas, why bother with honesty and potentially burned bridges now? (If they did ask, give them constructive feedback before you leave this job; they deserve it). Discuss."
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Being Honest In Exit Interviews Is Pointless

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  • Easier headline... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Monday July 23, 2012 @08:25PM (#40743959)
    Easier headline: exit interviews are pointless.
  • by stanlyb (1839382) on Monday July 23, 2012 @08:27PM (#40743971)
    Let be honest, you must lie at EVERY interview. Exit, Enter, Middle, Top, Bottom, Pointless, etc interview. You may NOT tell the truth. You MUST lie like...like politician. At the end of the day, all the HR do believe that you LIE. So why disappoint them?
  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Monday July 23, 2012 @08:31PM (#40744021)

    Happened to me when they ran out of people to do the work.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23, 2012 @08:34PM (#40744041)

    Maybe you must but that is only because once you lie once you are on a slippery slope. Take the high road and don't lie. Liars will win in the short game but honesty is the best strategy for the long game.

  • by trout007 (975317) on Monday July 23, 2012 @08:34PM (#40744043)

    If it is someone that can actually make changes be honest. If its an HR person forget it.

  • Ask for money. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ryanrule (1657199) on Monday July 23, 2012 @08:42PM (#40744121)

    Advice is not free.

  • by Macthorpe (960048) on Monday July 23, 2012 @08:43PM (#40744129) Journal

    I don't know. I've had jobs I've hated so much that the exit interview provided some much needed catharsis to combat years of stress.

  • by mikeiver1 (1630021) on Monday July 23, 2012 @08:58PM (#40744255)
    Been there, done that, nothing good came of it at all! Exit interviews are simply pointless for the exiting employee. They are simply another keep busy activity for the over payed HR tools. I have never seen any substantial changes come of the info gleaned from them and being critical of the company, management, and your fellow past employees can only result in trouble down the line. Remember that they can't speak ill of you but they can simply answer that they would not rehire you. The kiss of death for anyone looking for a job now days.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:02PM (#40744277)

    Tell the boss how good they are even tho they are the worst type of asshole in the universe

    Ummm, no. Thousands times NO! In this instances say nothing. NOTHING!

    Positive feedback only feeds the trolls.

  • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:05PM (#40744301)

    Is this the same slashdot crowd that gets all uppity when a politician lies?

    I smell the stench of hypocrisy in the air.

  • Re:I disagree (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gordo_1 (256312) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:16PM (#40744369)

    That's not an exit interview. An exit interview is conducted by some HR flunky who has no real sway over anything. They're just doing their job and that typically involves recording your parting thoughts in your employee file. As the OP recommends, nothing particularly good will come to you as a result of being honest in an exit interview. Just smile and be friendly with the HR droid. You never know when you'll need a reference in the future and some anonymous HR person you never worked with looks up your file only to find a diatribe of complaints.

    If you need a cathartic release, you're better off to go home and bash a printer with a baseball bat or something.

  • by SydShamino (547793) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:24PM (#40744433)

    I don't think that's true. One of the biggest reasons people voluntarily leave a company is because they didn't like their immediate manager. That's true at bad companies, and it's especially true at otherwise great companies.

    One problem during normal employment is that, very often, you are supposed to take complaints first to your immediate manager. If you don't like him, you have to either go around him (which could get you in trouble with him) or go to HR (which could get you in trouble with him).

    That said, if you do work for a good company, they may not realize that your manager isn't very good at his job. Someone has to be promoted to manager before the company learns how he manages, and not everyone will be able to adapt to it.

    So, the exit interview could be a time to let someone at the company know that, while they are a really great place to work overall with an excellent business plan, communication plan, work/life balance plan, etc., you found yourself in a situation where you didn't care for your recent immediate manager and therefore chose to move on. I doubt you've burned many bridges saying something like that, and now they know. A good company might later be willing to hire you back, especially with all the nice things you said about them overall.

  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:30PM (#40744475)

    if you need a shrink to talk to, hire one.

    go to a bar. chat with the bartender.

    find some person online and vent to them.

    venting is useful and needed.

    but never vent to HR.

  • by Angst Badger (8636) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:38PM (#40744539)

    ...and then be blandly pleasant. Otherwise, just don't do it. What are they going to do, fire you?

    I'm always amused at the naive goodwill that people extend to their employers. Most of us live in at-will states, without unions, and without any real workers' rights that can be exercised without spending more than they're worth retaining counsel. These are the people who can fire you at any time for any reason, but they want two weeks' warning if you leave on your own. Why give them extra freebies?

    Look, forget the employer-employee bullshit. You are a vendor, selling a service. Your employer is a customer. As long as they're buying what you're selling at the best price you can get (which includes work conditions and perceived job security as well as pay and benefits), the customer is always right. As soon as they stop buying, or you find someone willing to pay more, then go attend to your new customer. The old customer wants to take more of your time for free? Politely decline. You're running a business -- you -- and the only point in giving something away free is if it leads to another sale.

    Don't bother with work ethic or pride in your job at this point. Those are good concepts and they have their place, but that place is well before anyone starts talking about exit interviews. If you're leaving voluntarily, they treated you well, and you feel like extending the courtesy, sure. But even then, don't say anything that can be used against you later. It's just business, and that's how they see it. Go and do likewise.

  • Re:I disagree (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:40PM (#40744561)

    very uncommon experience.

    you had your one. don't expect another in your lifetime.

  • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:46PM (#40744615)

    Who cares unless he will be your boss in that future time.

    You care, because one thing you do not want to find out is that the person you are applying for a new job with knows someone who knows your old boss. For the same reason you don't bad mouth your old boss in a job interview - no potential future boss wants a whiner on their staff.

    My GF has a particularly bad boss, who, as it happens, is very well known in both the community and in their field. Guess how likely it is that they're going to get a call when my GF is looking for work.

    But yes, you hit the nail on the head with

    Just skip the exit interview and get on with your life.

    unless you have a very specific reason to help them improve, don't. E.g. if your job was never intended to be permanent and you're moving on to somewhere else then sure, you can gently provide generic feedback, but generally you're going to get yourself in trouble opening your mouth.

  • by blackbear (587044) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:53PM (#40744655)

    I never lie at any interview, nor on my resume. However, I VERY carefully weigh what I say before saying it in order to manage perceptions. Of course one must be completely forthcoming during an interview, yet say very little. Otherwise they'll move on the next guy until they find one who fits their template. This next guy is going to have roughly the same skills as you unless one of you lied on your resume. If you've been honest on your resume, then it may as well be you that gets the job. It makes no difference to the company.

    During employment you must continue to manage your image. And above all, never actually try to make things better. You were hired to do a job and it wasn't to fix the company. This is true even if you were told otherwise by the owner himself. There is a reason things are the way they are. "Good enough" makes money, and the customer is buying the perception of quality. If the markets were truly free, and the customer well educated then the lowest price for the best quality would win. Instead, a million small emperrors buy new high-priced clothes every day while government, investors, and the tech press cheer them on. If you're the guy trying to tell your boss that what he sees is what he gets, then you're going to get fired. Because while you're telling your boss that he's being stupid, the "smart" people are telling him he's brilliant.

  • by Enry (630) <enry@wayg a . net> on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:57PM (#40744681) Journal

    Say nothing but good things -

    Tell the boss how good they are even tho they are the worst type of asshole in the universe

    Thanks the co-workers for their generous help and guidance even tho they are clumsy back-stabbers

    Give great praises the company even tho they are giving you the pink slip

    That will make them happy, and happy people (often) do not find time to do more harm to you, leaving you plenty of peaceful time to look for new jobs

    As a manager of highly technical staff (and highly technical myself) no.

    Granted, I've only been doing this for a few years, but I really do want feedback, and not just when you leave. I can't answer every problem you bring to me, but I can at least hear you out and make suggestions or see what I can do on your behalf. Telling me I'm the greatest person you ever worked for is the worst thing to say if it's not true - it makes me think I'm doing a good job when I'm not. I realize not all managers are like me, but I have to imagine that many of us want feedback, be it good or bad. I want to make sure that you as an employee succeed at whatever it is you want to do. If that means you feel like you have a better opportunity elsewhere then that's my loss. I'll still be a reference if I think you deserve it.

    Anyone want to work for me?

  • by X0563511 (793323) on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:12PM (#40744781) Homepage Journal

    I believe I would have no problems working for you, based on that. That said, I've had excellent bosses at terrible companies. There's more to it than your immediate supervisor.

  • by blk_prometheus (1171663) on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:41PM (#40744957)
    Never, ever give an exit interview!!! Why? Because an exit interview is used by your company for legal purposes. Maybe you said in the exit interview that you had no concerns, and no negative things to say. And remember the HR representative is probably taking notes, and they may have a questionnaire for you to fill out. But then in the future maybe you decide to sue them for some reason. They'll pull out your statements from the exit interview as evidence that you have no reason to sue them. And yes, they do keep your exit interview records on file. Your own words would be used against you. Also, HR cannot withhold your final paycheck if you don't do the exit interview. That's the law!! I heard this on an NPR show about 15 years ago. The guest for the show was a woman who decided to do research on how HR departments work. While doing the research, she somehow got invited to a conference for HR professionals, where the presenter for the conference stated "It's Us against Them"!!!! Us is the HR department, which is there to protect the company!!! Them is you, the employee!!!! Don't drink the koolaid!!! Remember, HR is there to protect the company, not you.
  • by j00r0m4nc3r (959816) on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:54PM (#40745009)
    they will be happy with you.

    I couldn't give a single fuck if they are happy with me or not. That cop is not your friend, no matter which side of the law you are on.
  • by modecx (130548) on Monday July 23, 2012 @11:23PM (#40745093)

    Sure, if they are asking about YOU, then you have a justification to act cautiously. If they're asking if you saw so-and-so drinking the other night, not so much. Unless you want to protect so-and-so from the consequences of their actions.

    Oh, sure they could be asking about your friend, or whatever, probing to find out if you were in the vicinity of a rape which involved a rapist vaguely matching your description, where some young thing got slipped a date rape drug. Oops. Cops are legally allowed to lie to you, that does not go both ways.

    During an interview you could unknowingly confess to breaking laws you might not have the faintest clue actually existed in the first place; talking allows them to develop probable cause to search, issue warrants, etc. And if they somehow catch you in a lie, no matter how innocent, and they could all of a sudden be talking obstruction of justice charges and trying to put the screws to you.

    Talking to cops is how innocent people (you're guilty of something, though, I guarantee it) wind up in trouble. It virtually cannot benefit you, it is an unlevel playing field, and the only thing that makes some cops happy is fucking with people who think like you.

  • by Auroch (1403671) on Monday July 23, 2012 @11:38PM (#40745177)

    I've had it both ways. Sealed letters in academia can be ruthlessly honest "Do not take this person as a graduate student", but business references, ya they have to worry about defamation, where they seem like a bunch of MBA illiterate waffle.

    Even then, there are ways to say bad things without saying bad things. /. lets people post anonymously because people value their privacy (cough they're cowards and have something to hide cough) sort of thing. If you put someones name down as a reference you need to be absolutely sure they're not going to say something you don't like, because sometimes they can and will.

    Sealed letters in academia are notoriously easy to freeze, open, read, heat and re-seal. If you're at a level of academia where they do sealed letters (grad and above), you should be smart enough to know this...

    The best way for an employer to legally "not-recommend" you in a reference check is to leave a long, uncomfortable silence when the person asks about you.

  • by codepunk (167897) on Monday July 23, 2012 @11:47PM (#40745249)

    A extremely wise manager once told me, people do not quit their jobs, they fire their bad managers.

  • by XaXXon (202882) <xaxxon@NOspam.gmail.com> on Monday July 23, 2012 @11:51PM (#40745273) Homepage

    Sorry, but you are extremely wrong. The cops must always be treated as your enemy. You never know what their motives are and they can put you in jail.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23, 2012 @11:52PM (#40745279)
    Law abiding citizens that work to help the community have nothing to fear from Uncle Leo.

    This is 2012, who IS a law abiding citizen? I literally don't know a single person under 30 who doesn't smoke once in a while. Hell, a huge chunk of the senior citizens I know smoke.
  • by GrpA (691294) on Monday July 23, 2012 @11:54PM (#40745291)

    I remember one exit interview when I was made redundant. I still remember my ex-boss saying "You know, it's OK to be unhappy about this, you really don't have to smile so much. It makes it feel like I'm doing you a favour by making you redundant"

    Which, in truth, he was.... And he already knew what I had to say about the company that wasn't so nice...

    So I convinced him that although the timing was less-than perfect, I would be fine and though he would do well. I have him advice on who could do what I did and completed a handover with him of my clients.

    Four years later, I forgot to erase them as a referee on my resume and applied for a job, which I got offered the same day. The reason? They called my former boss and said he gave such a solid reference that they had no doubt I was the best candidate they would find.

    Being honest in an exit interview has a point. Just remember to leave bitterness and vicious attitudes at the door and treat it with the professionalism it deserves, because it really is a step towards a career somewhere else.

    Good candidates have good resumes.
    Great candidates have good references from prior employers.
    Exceptional candidates have good references from the person who gave them the exit interview, because the employing company knows they will maintain their professionalism no matter how bad things get.

    GrpA

  • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @12:00AM (#40745319) Journal

    I can't answer every problem you bring to me, but I can at least hear you out and make suggestions or see what I can do on your behalf.

    Telling me I'm the greatest person you ever worked for is the worst thing to say if it's not true - it makes me think I'm doing a good job when I'm not. I realize not all managers are like me, but I have to imagine that many of us want feedback, be it good or bad.

     
    Dear Sir, You are an exception to the rule You may be that one gem out of the one gazillion rocks that genuinely want to hear the truth But my original advice still stands - for the rest of the 99.999999% of the bosses do not want to know the truth, and I ain't gonna want anyone to get hurt just because they thought truth is more important then their own future

     
      I disagree. I think that most people are happy to act on rational, substantiated and objective criticisms. I am, you are, and so is the OP.

     
    I am no longer young, and my decades of experience in office politics tells me that your ideals is blocking you from gaining a more thorough insight into true Human Nature

  • by AK Marc (707885) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @12:33AM (#40745553)
    I bad mouthed my boss in my most recent job interviews. It wasn't complaints, but statements about why I was unhappy there. "He was promoted from COO to CEO and, well, he made a good COO..." "Oh, and in the 9 months since I left, he managed to run the company such that it's bankrupt now."

    "The owner and CEO hired from two distinct job descriptions, and follows neither in evaluating my performance" (i.e. he yells at me and threatens to fire me for performing the duties in my job description according to my written KPIs because he changes his mind on a weekly basis how he wants the company run, and I'm supposed to read his mind and do what he is thinking, even when it directly contradicts my written goals and duties).

    Complaining "he makes me work too much" or "work is hard" is what most complaints are about. Mine were about lying bosses who run the companies out of business or don't know what they want well enough to tell me what they want, but want me to do what they are thinking without the resources or authority to do so.
  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @02:34AM (#40746147)

    Yep, it probably depends on the company. Big companies tend to have very strict policies about this, because they have a LOT to lose in a defamation lawsuit. Plus, big companies tend to be smarter about many things IME, in a ruthless kind of way. How does it help the company to tell the truth about some employee who quit (or was terminated)? What exactly do they have to gain from it? Nothing at all, but they have everything to lose: defamation lawsuit, going postal and coming to the old employer with an assault rifle, tear gas, and a gas mask, etc. It's much safer for them to just let the bad (in their opinion) employee go on about his life without any interference from them, and maybe they'll even get lucky and one of their competitors will hire him.

    In smaller companies, it's easy to see how some egocentric person would want to make an ex-employee's life miserable, and as smaller companies haven't created policies about every single thing to cover their asses from lawsuits, they get away with it.

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @02:49AM (#40746225)

    Sorry, but he's right about the cops. The cops in this country are pretty bad; their whole job is to help prosecute as many people as possible, in conjunction with the DA whose mission it is to do so, because it makes him look "tough on crime". This is all part of the prison-industrial complex. Remember, we lead the world in incarceration per capita, and the cops are a big reason behind it. This isn't like some nice, peaceful country in western Europe where the cops are only there to keep the peace.

    Don't forget, we used to call cops "peace officers", and they wore blue. Not any more. They wear black now, and we call them "law enforcement officers" now; pretty soon, we'll probably just call them "enforcers". The cops are far more militarized than they used to be as well.

    The cops cannot be trusted.

    That said, the poster above is correct; if they're looking for information on someone else who has nothing to do with you (except that you happened to be a witness), it's probably safe to tell them everything you saw. The only people you have to fear in that case are the possible criminal and his associates, not the cops. But if they're questioning you about something you may have done, call your lawyer. They're probably looking for a way to put you in jail.

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