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Being Honest In Exit Interviews Is Pointless 550

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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  • by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Monday July 23, 2012 @08:35PM (#40744049) 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

  • I disagree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GrahamCox ( 741991 ) on Monday July 23, 2012 @08:39PM (#40744087) Homepage
    I have to disagree. Being honest can serve two purposes: a) it can be extremely satisfying, if you have had a very bad time of things and they are coming to an end, and b) it can highlight bad managers or other employees that have caused you so much grief and they might be reined in so that they don't continue to make life hell for others.

    I had an appallingly bad manager some time ago who made my life hell with his ultra-micromanagment and his constant snooping. He finally drove me to leave and there was a bit of a showdown - I wouldn't exactly call it an exit interview but his boss was there. I told him exactly what I thought of him and why he was such a bad manager. I think he was actually surprised that his 'style' caused so much friction. Interestingly (though too late) several people came forward afterwards and told me they had had the same experiences with the same guy, and had asked for transfers to get away from him. My response of leaving was more extreme, but driven by the same problems. I heard a few weeks later he did get moved (not fired, unfortunately) and given a role that did not involve direct people-management. So these things can have a positive result for those you leave behind.
  • I disagree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DeDmeTe ( 678464 ) on Monday July 23, 2012 @08:44PM (#40744137)
    I had a worthless boss at a job I left, I requested an exit interview with the head of HR. They didn't normally do exit interviews, but I had been there for 6 years, so they wanted to know why I was leaving. Took a few months after I left to find time for a meeting, but I laid it all out. How I felt, why I left... 2 months later I got a call to come back. They fired my old boss after I opened their eyes to the BS he was pulling. I went back.. with a nice raise and a $4k signing "bonus". It works in certain cases. YMMV.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 23, 2012 @08:46PM (#40744157)

    I worked for the biggest jerk in the world, and when I quit, I told H/R the things he had done to me, and urged them to not just take my word but to ask around.

    Later that week, they fired him and escorted him out (not typical there).

    The next day, my former coworkers had a going-away party for him, but they didn't invite him (and they did invite me).

  • Was nice once (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Killer Instinct ( 851436 ) on Monday July 23, 2012 @08:52PM (#40744221) Journal
    I gave a good honest exit interview when i left my first fulltime software job.. Wasnt a asshole, and kept it professional, mixed in what i didnt like and what i thought they did real well. The company has hired me back 3 times. Did the same thing at all 4 exit interviews, and maybe if i ever need a job again (with this market one never knows) i will get hired back, and that is worth a lot to me personally. But theres been a couple other places i burned the bridge down from shore to shore, not even a splinter left. Assholes had it coming....and i delivered.
  • by mmarlett ( 520340 ) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:07PM (#40744319)

    I once told my employer that I was leaving in three months. I honestly didn't know what I was doing when I left, but it had gotten so bad for me that I just had to leave. Telling them that I was going was a great weight off my chest. About a month before I was going to leave, they scheduled an exit interview for me. I told them what I thought about what was going on. I also packed what little personal items I had and took them home with me. When I showed up the next day, I had been bared from entering the building except to go directly to HR, where the president was waiting to talk to me to tell me why my resignation was being accepted early. I insisted that he was firing me, because for me nothing was different this day than the day before. If knowing how I felt makes that much difference to them, then they are firing me. So, as was eventually backed up by the state employment agency, they fired me (and still insisted that they were just taking my resignation early). Did I burn a bridge? Not one that I ever wanted to go back across unless they were willing to rebuild it from their end. It was the environment that they created that made me decide to leave, and as long as it was as petty and difficult as it was when I left, I don't care to return.

  • by humanrev ( 2606607 ) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:07PM (#40744323)

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

    Positive feedback only feeds the trolls

    Not always possible or practical. If you're in an exit interview and you're asked for your opinion on how your boss treated you while you worked there (regardless of whether it's your own boss asking the questions or not), you can't just say nothing... uncomfortable silence is uncomfortable. You could try saying "I'd rather not answer that", but giving that kind of response tells plenty anyway. So, might as well be nice and lie through your teeth just so that you can part on reasonable terms. You never know if you'll run across your former boss in the future.

  • by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:16PM (#40744375)

    You never know if you'll run across your former boss in the future.

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

    In which case, you already know how it's going to end so don't get stuck with him as a boss again.

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

  • by DukeLinux ( 644551 ) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:18PM (#40744389)
    True. I used to work for a large company with a big pointless HR department. While setting up the exit interview they asked me casually why I was resigning. I matter-of-factly stated that I despised my boss because he was totally incompetent. In fact, he was...a "buddy" of the CEO who needed a job after a messy divorce. My exit interview was cancelled. They do not like to hear such things. I was not worried about burning bridges...I took two weeks vacation the day I resigned so that I would not turn anything over. I was the Unix admin. F**k them. Every job since then I networked into. Yeah, I am lucky.
  • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:28PM (#40744465)

    you can't just say nothing... uncomfortable silence is uncomfortable.

    that's your problem. work on avoiding having to give your power away.

    that's what is going on. they want to probe for weakness or reasons to 'mark you down badly'.

    nothing good comes from this. trust me. been working quite a long time in tech, in many of the top-named large and small companies. not once was an exit interview beneficial to ME. and I know for a fact that it has hurt me (a friend at a past job somehow got sight of my exit interview text and said that I was forever blackballed from returning to that place again).

    believe it.

    just say nothing or excuse yourself.

    its like getting questioned by a cop. nothing good can come from that. just say as little as you can and get the hell out of there as fast as you can.

    this is a no-win situation and they try to sell it as a way to 'fix' things that need fixing. there is zero truth to that, I assure you.

    please, for your own sake, bypass the exit interview. please. you will thank me years from now for this advice. I learned the hard way. you should not have to.

  • by jamesh ( 87723 ) on Monday July 23, 2012 @09:46PM (#40744621)

    I bet you're glad that's behind you! I've seen a few cases where 4 weeks notice was given and the employer opted to just pay out the remaining 4 weeks (or force leave to be taken) because of a perceived risk (employee moving to another job etc), but this option was in the employment contract. 3 months is a bit of a stretch though, especially as you thought you were giving them plenty of notice.

  • by Sir_Sri ( 199544 ) on Monday July 23, 2012 @10:53PM (#40745005)

    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.

  • by robthebloke ( 1308483 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @02:15AM (#40746063)

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

    I've seen someone rage quit, declare his boss a moron, before starting work at a rival company. Six months later the two companies merged, and he got his old boss back. Funnily enough, he was made redundant during the restructing process.

  • by neyla ( 2455118 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @02:28AM (#40746117)

    On the flipside, Norways laws on that issue are fun. There's very few (and enumerated in law) situations where they can withhold your paycheck. If neither of those applies, you can file for their bankruptcy. That tends to get their attention, to put it mildly.

    Bankruptcy-filings are public - they must be afterall, because all creditors of a company has a legitimate need to know. And if there's one kind of headline that companies would like to -avoid- in the newspapers then it's headlines of the "Acme files for bankruptcy, unable to make payroll."

    The logic is that since everyone know they -should- pay you your salary, the only reasonable explanation for them not doing that is that they -can't- and if they are unable to meet their financial obligations they are, by definition, bankrupt.

  • by neyla ( 2455118 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @02:49AM (#40746223)

    None of this is universally true. But most of it is at least close to true for many people in USA. That's the unsurprising result of weak worker-protection laws, a government that is more or less company-owned, weak or non-existant labour-organization and high unemployment.

    Of course any suggestion for improving any of the above is stamped as "socialist" and discarded. Meanwhile 93 cents out of every $1 of increas in national income over the last decade went to the top 1%.

  • by digitalsolo ( 1175321 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @09:12AM (#40748177) Homepage
    I was very unhappy at my old job (with management). I was polite in my exit interview, but certainly did not give them any praise, including the people conducting the interview. I had no concern about the repercussions, simply because the company I was moving from was hated in the industry, and the company I was moving to had a long history of disagreement with them.

    In this case, the management of the company I was leaving telling the new company that I was "not a team player" and all the other drivel serves me better than a glowing review. Of course, it's worth noting that I had been a liaison to the new company prior to moving there, so they already knew I was a hard worker and competent.
  • by BenEnglishAtHome ( 449670 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @09:58AM (#40748797)

    I used to work at a place where the local director was the absolute power king over every employee, every division, every task in the geographic area. He had to report up the line to someone from a different city, but if it happened in or around Houston he was responsible for it. Call him a "choke point" if you like but there was no "stovepiping" in the organization. Such would be impossible since he knew everything that was going on.

    He also knew every name of all 2000 of his employees, their spouses names, and most of their kids names. The guy was amazing to work for and almost no one ever left.

    Anyone who did leave (most via retirement) got an hour of his time. It was an unstructured time. He asked few if any questions. Anything you said was heard by the only person in the place who could unilaterally fix any problem. He was there to thank you for your years of service and hear anything you had to say.

    Understand, please, that this was a guy who fixed problems. I once saw him suspend an entire working group for a day and send them home because of the way they had treated a retail customer. He then called all the first and mid-level managers in that department and ordered them to drive in from their outlying offices, stand at the counter, and serve the walk-in customers for the rest of the week while he personally conducted customer service training for the suspended employees. Sweetest guy you'd ever want to meet but, boyohboy, he could kick ass when he was forced.

    Given all that, not much changed after he heard an exit interview because few people had witnessed enough continuing bad behavior to warrant a change. Still, the few bad managers we had would try, years in advance, to transfer out employees who were nearing retirement. If you were a jerk boss and you let someone retire out of your group, The Director would hear about you. And you would, quite likely, find yourself demoted to working alongside the people you used to boss around. If he was told about a real equipment safety problem, you'd see him talking to the maintenance guys and their boss, personally, to find out how to fix it. If he was told that the paper workflow in a certain place was screwy, you'd see him drop in to shadow some low-level employee for a day.

    Hell, he shadowed two field employees per year for an entire day of public interaction out of general principle. Truly a great guy.

    That was a quarter-century ago. I realize times are different now and people are much more mobile. No executive could spend an hour with everyone who leaves; there aren't enough hours in the day. Thus, exit interviews, even if they happen, are conducted by an HR drone.

    Exit interviews to an HR department are a waste of time. Exit interviews with the big boss can be something completely different.

  • by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Tuesday July 24, 2012 @12:48PM (#40751649) Journal

    My dad worked for Douglas Aircraft, and was laid off. Got a job at McDonnell Aircraft. Two years or so later they merged and my dad became his former boss's boss. How's that for a flip.
    Always treat people with respect, you really don't know what will happen in the future.

    My Sensi was telling us a story the other day how some years ago he didn't see another car and cut someone off.
    When they pulled up to a light, right as the other person was getting ready to tell him off, my sensi apologized about how he was sooo sorry and was glad he didn't cause an accident, then opened a 12 pack of Coke he just bought and tossed the guy one.

    Two weeks later the guy shows up in class to pick up his kid, and recognizes Sensi as "that guy who gave me a Coke" not "That jackass that cut me off".

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling