WORKPLACE SAVVY

Exit interviews can be helpful


Published: Sunday, July 28, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 26, 2013 at 6:56 p.m.

Q: I like my current employer and supervisor, but I've given my two weeks' notice to start a great career opportunity with another company.

I'm scheduled for an exit interview, and my supervisor has encouraged me to answer questions very honestly. Although I'm pleased with my current employer, I see areas that could be improved to make it a better place to work. I just don't know if they are ready to hear it. How honest should I be?

A: First, let me say that I'm a proponent of exit interviews. I think businesses benefit by obtaining candid feedback about ways to improve the company from people who were part of the workplace — from "insiders," if you will.

So I encourage businesses to conduct them because you'll be surprised at things you didn't know, you'll get confirmation for things you suspected and best of all you'll get ideas for improvement that employees don't bring up during employment but are willing to share on their way out.

Having said that, the usefulness of exit interviews is dependent on the quality of information that employees are willing to share, which in turn is predicated on what opinion employees have of the process.

If employees think exit interview information will be ignored or, worse, be misused by management in punitive ways, then employees will simply say that "everything is honky-dory."

But if employees know the information is put to good use — bad policies changed, frustrating procedures are fixed, problem employees are dealt with — then businesses are likely to get honest, useful information.

So ask yourself, how will the company use the information I provide? Then proceed accordingly. Whatever you decide, remember:

-- Don't assume confidentiality — speak as if you were in front of others.

-- Don't burn bridges and always take the high road — I once did an exit interview with an employee from a department I knew was dysfunctional, yet he managed to be frank, constructive and never personal. He acknowledged problems, offered solutions and even empathized with the beleaguered supervisor.

I was so impressed with his feedback style that to this day I try to emulate him.

Perhaps you should too.

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