is there any point to exit interviews?

If you’ve ever left a job, you might have been asked to do an “exit interview” to talk about your experience there, why you decided to leave, and whether there’s anything your employer could have done to keep you. And if you’re like most people, you might have wondered how your input would be used, whether it would be kept confidential, and whether telling the unvarnished truth would burn a bridge.

Exit interviews are tricky. Companies often pitch them as a way for employees to improve the company for the colleagues they’re leaving behind, and sometimes employees are intrigued by the idea of having a chance to point out serious problems. But real candor can come at a high risk to the departing employee – particularly when they’d be criticizing the same manager who they’ll be depending on for references in the future.

At Slate today, I wrote about how employers should handle exit interviews. You can read it here.

{ 183 comments… read them below }

  1. Stephanie

    Yeah, I’ve never bothered at jobs where I’ve left voluntarily. I just never saw a point when the reasons for my departure were commonly known (e.g., in one job, four people before me left because of low pay and slow advancement…and I became person number five to leave for (wait for it) low pay and slow advancement). I always left like “If I don’t go, what will happen? Can they really withhold my pay? If they fire me…I’m already leaving anyway.”

    I wonder if HR shouldn’t just dispense with the whole notion of exit interviews…

    1. Seifer

      I left my last job because of low pay and a horrible boss that believed everything a terrible coworker was telling him. My predecessor left because of the same coworker. My successor left because of the same coworker. My successor’s successor left because of the same coworker. I still have contacts at the company, so I know that everyone named her in the exit interview. And yet she’s still there! The same thing is starting to happen at this company and so I don’t really have much faith in the concept of exit interviews actually affecting anything.

      1. Red 5

        This is exactly why I don’t bother with/care much about exit interviews anymore. I left a job because of a supervisor who was doing some stuff that was incredibly messed up, and I had evidence to show it.

        I still had friends that worked there and it was a business I went back to once in a while for stuff at my new job and I never saw any sign that anybody even whispered a peep about it. I gave up after that, if I get forced into an exit interview I’ll just say it’s personal reasons and move on with my life.

      2. Lily Rowan

        Yeah, I worked at a place where we all assumed the bad bosses got to stay because the org was generally worried about high turnover. The high turnover was because of the bad bosses! More people would have stayed longer without them!

        And I was supposed to have my exit interview with my bad boss, but she ended up being out sick that day, so I had it with her boss, to whom I gave a little meaningful eye contact without actually saying anything bad, and definitely got the impression that the grandboss 100% knew what was up. Which just made it all MORE frustrating! My next job wasn’t great either, but it was better than that place.

      3. Anon for this

        It’s really sad to hear this, but competent companies do take one’s exit interviews into account :) Long story short, I know a past coworker years ago who kept getting passed over for a promotion but was asked to train those who were being promoted/hired for that position. They finally had enough with that manager and took a job elsewhere and said in their exit interview it was because that manager refused to promote them despite them being qualified for it and applying. It turned out the company had been looking into that manager and losing that star employee because of that manager was the nail in the coffin and they fired the manager (on top of other issues with him). Sadly the employee moved on already but at least their exit interview didn’t go unnoticed.

    2. Fortitude Jones

      I wonder if HR shouldn’t just dispense with the whole notion of exit interviews

      Probably. I don’t know of any changes at any of my prior companies that came about because of exit interviews. They seem to collect this information and then…nothing. It’s a waste of everybody’s time (the only reason I went to my last one was basically to brag about my massive pay increase, full-time remote work flexibility, and excellent benefits package).

      1. Antilles

        I don’t know of any changes at any of my prior companies that came about because of exit interviews. They seem to collect this information and then…nothing.
        Which itself feeds into the cycle of pointless exit interviews – advice ignored is no more useful than advice unspoken; if you know it’s not going to change anything, might as well just give a bland vanilla discussion and avoid any potential arguments/resentments over the truth.

        1. Lynn

          Most of my jobs, I have left with nothing to really say in an exit interview. The one where I might have had some things to share, I chose not to. If they wanted to hear from employees, they would have made it possible to give feedback before I left. It was tempting, at the time, to cast myself as the wise avenging hero. “Gosh, Lynn gave us great information. We had no idea that having a supervisor who only showed up long enough to yell at his direct reports was impacting morale and employee retention. Her wise counsel surely has saved our backsides. We shall go forth and manage like real bosses instead of complete jerks.”

          Unfortunately, in a situation bad enough to make you question giving real feedback, the result is more likely, “Lynn is sure up in arms about something that doesn’t matter. She must have been very hard to work with and has a lot of sour grapes and lack of gratitude for how well we treated her. What an awful employee. We are glad to see her backside.” And that is what they will remember when they go to give a reference.

          I just don’t see a lot of upside to being brutally honest with folks who may give my references down the road.

          1. JSPA

            How about splitting the difference, and turning, “if they wanted to hear from employees, they would have made it possible to give feedback before I left” into, “the specifics of any one complaint don’t really matter. It would have made a big difference to feel that there was a robust procedure of getting and using feedback from employees. Also, a commitment to making the sorts of changes and interventions that stop small issues from growing, piling up, and festering. Those things slowly degrade the work atmosphere for everyone.”

            This doesn’t even state that you are the person who had a bad problem! It explicitly disavows a single huge problem. and it tells them about something that they can address procedurally, rather than by firing a particular person.

            1. Mongrel

              I think the problem (that I’ve encountered anyway) is that there are very few managers\upper echelons who will actually change, or implement change, based on suggestions from lower down the structure.
              Most fall into two categories, again IMO.
              1) Just don’t care. You’re the cheapest replaceable cog as far as they’re concerned.
              2) Think they’re good at taking feedback but aren’t.

              Where I work had a strong culture of #2, they’d always ask for feedback and ways to improve the product but the minute you broached anything you’d be asked “Who’s going to pay for that?”. They’re getting better, but only if you’re employed at our Head Office.

            2. Lynn

              I just don’t see any point to splitting the difference. Why should I risk my reference by going out on a sour note?

              A good company will either already know, or will soon find out, whatever I might tell them (though I would be more likely to do so with them). And I certainly am not going to stick my neck out for a bad boss/company, tempting though it might be to have “brutal honesty” day when I leave.

      2. Elizabeth West

        Ha, same. I would probably have loved the opportunity to say, “Well, this offer was just so good I couldn’t find a compelling reason to turn it down! Surely you understand!”

        I think of these as being like the *anonymous* surveys companies sometimes use. They gave us a mandatory one at OldExjob and we all just said neutral things, because we knew nothing was going to change. I copied it and filled out a much less flattering one later and didn’t turn that one in.

        1. PossiblyEnoughDetailToBeIdentified

          We had one of those where I worked with my friend in IT support. Apparently, some people *were* filling it in honestly because my friend told me (in horror) that HR were asking him if there were ways of using the IP address of the respondants to identify who had said what “anonymously”.
          He told them “no”. But since it was HR, there was no-one to report this blatant violation to, and he quit about a month later (so did I, but I hear that the entire HR department was fired about six months after that)

          1. CJM

            Our “employee satisfaction” surveys were sent to each employee individually with a personal link and stern instructions that only the individual receiving the email should use that particular link to complete the survey. Yet we were assured that the surveys were anonymous. How dumb do they think we were?!

            1. TardyTardis

              Got that. I had a friend who said she filled hers out honestly, but she was on her way to an already planned retirement. The rest of us? Are you joking?

      3. Seeking Second Childhood

        My place was the exception that proved a rule. A former co-worker cited pay, benefits & telecommute — the head of HR said they couldn’t match the new offer, but she put the gears in motion and we got approved for telecommute.
        (Until the whole company took it away but that’s another story.)

      4. Minocho

        I just told my manager what he suggested he wanted to hear during my one exit interview. Why poison the reference when I knew my boss was a jerk and wasn’t going to change?

    3. London Calling

      One of the reasons I’m actively job hunting is that I know there is no point in complaining about anything at my company – or constructively criticising, if you prefer. They nod and look serious and say how much they appreciate the feedback and all it does is mark you as trouble.

    4. Wendy Darling

      I’ve left one job voluntarily and I was at least the fourth person to leave after a short tenure (I was told my position was newly created when I applied, then when I started I began to hear about my predecessors, all of whom had quit within a month so they “didn’t count”…. yikes). There was no exit interview. They told me the previous 3 left because they “weren’t a good fit” or “exaggerated their skills and couldn’t handle the job”.

      I’m pretty sure they left for the same reason I did, which was:

      1. the position was managed by someone who didn’t believe the position should exist and thought the entire premise was stupid, and as a bonus this person was a big jerk
      2. the expectations for the position were a mix of very, very senior level work and actually impossible things
      3. their budget was about 15% below market rate for someone with 0-1 years’ experience to do this high level work, so they were exclusively hiring new grads and very junior people to do this difficult-to-impossible work.

      I didn’t do an exit interview — they didn’t ask me to and I didn’t think it would be productive to tell them their problem was that they were out of their damn minds. They reposted the job at least four times in the year I was looking for work so they apparently didn’t learn anything.

      1. JSPA

        “Wanted: independently wealthy magic-worker with unresolved self-worth issues, masochistic tendencies a plus”?

      2. writerson

        Hi, are you me? I also left a position where I was the third person in less than a year – despite being told during interviews that it was a “newly created role.” I quit after 6 weeks because the manager was terrible, would call me on Saturday night demanding reports and expecting far more than I was hired to do.

        I did have an exit interview, during which the very nice HR rep sighed and said, “I know the issue is probably BOSS, but she’s married to the CEO’s college roommate, so we’re stuck with her. Sorry.”

        They re-posted the job at least twice more over the next several months.

    5. EinJungerLudendorff

      There is only a point to it if HR is actually dedicated and empowered to fixing the problem.
      But in that case, the problem may already be fixed before anyone decides to leave over it.

    6. Nanani

      “Doing exit interviews”, like “having a social media presence” or implementing a given management philosophy, needs to be more than a surface gesture.

      Throwing together a twitter account and having an intern post bland messages isn’t a useful social media presence, and having a exit interviews as a formality with no effect on the workplace isn’t a useful practice.

      Unfortunately it’s a lot easier to do the basic minimum, go “Look, we do the thing,” and call it a day than it is to actually solve the problems brought to light by exit interviews.

    7. smoke tree

      The only time I was asked to do an exit interview was from an internship, and in that context I think it may have been more helpful. I didn’t have any huge issues to report, but I did have a chance to talk about what my internship had covered and some of the strengths and weaknesses of how it was set up–and the interview was with HR, not my manager, so it was easier to speak freely. They seemed pretty invested in making the internship process a positive learning experience, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they did take student feedback pretty seriously.

  2. Dagny

    You’re the expert, Alison, but my advice to anyone leaving a nasty and vindictive manager is to proactively seek out other people who can give references and speak to the quality of work product. If you hand a prospective employer a list of a half-dozen people at the company who can vouch for your character and work product, you can end-run around the manager you’re leaving.

    That does not address the question of handling the exit interview, however. Best I have for that is to request that someone else perform it.

    1. A tester, not a developer

      At my (large) employer, only HR and your manager can give references related to work product/performance. Everyone else can only give character references.

        1. Fortitude Jones

          Right. I’ve had that same policy at every place I’ve worked so far, and I knew managers/supervisors who were still giving out references when employees they liked asked. As long as they didn’t get caught or say something to tank the job candidate, how would HR really know if they were giving references they weren’t supposed to be giving?

        2. Antilles

          It’s even less enforceable than the normal if they’re allowing “character references”. Like, when someone calls to ask about Johnny and I start with saying he’s a really honest and standup guy, the very next sentence from the checker is going to be “Oh, that’s always good to hear. How is he to work with?” At that point, any sort of declining is going to be worse than if I never said anything, so duh, of course I’m going to answer.
          And frankly, it’s not even clear what how to draw the line anyways given that you primarily know each other via work anyways. If I say he’s a great communicator and very punctual, that’s a character statement…but in context, it’s obviously related to his abilities at work.

      1. Cobol

        They only can, or the policy only allows those people? I’ve given (and taken) references that weren’t allowed under policy.

      2. GR

        Just curious, is that a policy they publicize proactively internally? I’m asking because I work at a large corporate employer, and that sounds like a policy they would have to somehow cover themselves, but I have no way of knowing that unless they tell me proactively so if someone asked me for a reference I would feel free to give one if I wanted.

        1. Fortitude Jones

          At my previous employers, this policy was posted on our intranet where everyone could easily find it and HR made a point at each place to direct everyone’s attention to it (and sometimes sent out a reminder email with the policy attached). So management couldn’t claim they didn’t know it was the policy – it was quite clear.

        2. A tester, not a developer

          I don’t know how proactive they are about it to lower level employees – I’m not a manager, but I’m senior in my role, so I ‘supervise’ junior staff. I’ve been told about the policy in relation to when people’s contracts end or they are laid off.

          And as to not getting caught – it’s a large employer in a relatively small community. The risk of getting caught is non-zero.

          1. TardyTardis

            True. Which means, pretty much, that they can do as they like and nobody will say a thing, not if they want to get a job somewhere else in that same community.

      3. Dagny

        That’s a great way to get sued (or add to the damages award) if the employee left over discrimination issues.

    2. stuff

      It’s so funny that every company asks for references but then has a policy that refuses to provide them. Oh, the irony.

      1. Fortitude Jones

        I think what’s interesting for me is, I’ve only been asked for references at two employers out of five – my current company didn’t even bother doing a background check for me. Either I’ve been extremely lucky the past six years, or the reference check thing isn’t nearly as prevalent as it used to be.

        1. JJ Bittenbinder

          2 of my last 3 jobs did not ask for references. When I inquired about this, they said that they felt that their interview process was robust and “99% of all candidates are only going to provide the names of people who will speak well of them (as they should).” They are both large, Fortune 100 companies and both have official policies that they only provide employment verification and not references (but, as others have noted, the workaround is for managers to provide a reference with the disclaimer that they are providing it as an individual and not a spokesperson for Corporation X).

          It’s a nice contrast to the 3rd of the 3 jobs, which required 5 references! And it’s not as though checking 5 (they do in fact check all 5) references has improved the quality of their hires. It’s not solving the problem they are seeking to solve.

          1. Fortitude Jones

            Ha! I work for a software company that partners with two Fortune 100 software companies and has one super well-known product of their own, so I wonder if they take your companies’ stance that their hiring practices are good enough to weed out problem employees without having to jump through the reference hoop. I mean, most of the people I’ve met have been at this company over a decade or more, so they’re doing something right in terms of retention. I haven’t been here long enough to determine whether there are other problems from not conducting reference/background checks though.

      2. Massmatt

        I was going to mention this, I had an employer like this. It’s as though they think references function solely for their benefit and no one else’s. Really if I am asked for references is future I will be tempted to first ask “do you GIVE references to employees that move on? No? Then you’re not getting any!”

      3. smoke tree

        I worked for a company that had this policy, and enforced it really strictly–absolutely no one was going to give them. The only way to get a reference from that place is to hope that your manager quits before you need it. I think it’s their way of discouraging employees from job searching. It’s really crappy in any case.

      4. Gazebo Slayer

        I once worked for a company that won’t even verify employment. So if you list them on your resume, you end up looking like a liar. Unfortunately, they hire a lot of young people straight out of college and tend not to pay well, so a lot of their employees will need references soon. :-(

    3. Observer

      That’s a good idea. But it doesn’t change the applicability of Alison’s advice – especially since many employers DO call prior jobs even if you don’t put them on your reference list.

      1. Dagny

        How exactly would they do that? Call up and ask for Observer’s former manager?

        While they can talk to HR and ask if the person is eligible for rehire, they will have a hard time finding out names and phone numbers of people who are not known to them. I worked at a Fortune 100 company that did not have a main telephone line for our office.

        1. Observer

          For one thing, regardless of the policy, if you have a nasty manager, it’s quite possible that HR is as much of a problem as the manager. At minimum, they might say that someone is not eligible for rehire, which is not so good for a candidate.

          It’s also not necessarily so hard to find the correct manager to talk to. LinkedIn, staff listings on company web sites, a phone call or two, etc.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss

      IMO opinion, an exit interview is pointless. If you have a good relationship with your manager and are leaving for a reason outside of the environment being toxic, then you should be able to be honest with them for the reason for leaving and an interview isn’t necessary. If you’re leaving because of a toxic environment, the odds that the company will take anything you say seriously to make improvements are slim to none. And I would never use a toxic manager as a reference.

    5. lemon

      yes. this is what you might *have* to do anyway, regardless of doing or not-doing an exit interview, if you’re leaving a bad manager.

      i gave a diplomatically honest exit interview when i left my last job. that was kind of unusual because two months before i left, there was a really bad incident with my manager that required HR intervention. the other person in my role left immediately after this incident. the first thing they asked me at the exit interview is, “are you leaving because of that incident?” so i answered honestly.

      but the only reason i felt safe-ish being honest is because i knew i couldn’t trust my manager for a reference anyway. he’s the type who’d give you the backhanded compliment type of reference. (i’m thinking of a tale from academia, where a prof wrote a letter of recommendation that stated that the student “had excellent penmanship,” which is basically tanking any hopes of getting into grad school.) i built up other relationships/references outside my team, and that worked in terms of getting a better job.

  3. VX34

    Pointless. If an organization isn’t taking the time to receive, and act on, feedback from employees before they are leaving….what makes me think they’re gonna take any action at this stage?

    Especially if I’m leaving because I have unresolved grievances.

    Yeah. No. Pass.

    1. NotAnotherManager!

      Well, many people don’t provide feedback until they’re leaving, so there isn’t an opportunity to act on it before you become aware of it. I work with a lot of people brand new to the workforce, and a surprising amount of entirely fixable stuff comes out in exit interviews. Or people will make suggestions of things that will be helpful to new hires that they didn’t think to mention because they were past that point and it is only the HR question that prompted the idea. I don’t know – I get a lot of useful information out of exit interviews, and we constantly adjust based on feedback both from current and departing employees.

      When I first got my managerial job, too, I asked for the prior six months worth of exit interviews, in addition to meeting with all of the current staff. That information was invaluable to me as I was figuring out where to start restructuring my team (one of my initial goals was improving retention).

      1. Birch

        NotAnotherManager! that is such a great strategy!

        I agree that it’s more about documentation, especially if you’ve already tried to give feedback. I’m already planning mine (temporary contract) based on things I’ve offered feedback about, things that have changed positively and things that didn’t change.

      2. Jules the 3rd

        Yeah, what happens 6, 12, 24 mo down the line can actually be affected by exit interviews.

        It took about 8mo for them to fire the coworker I warned them about, but to this day, I hope that my exit interview that laid out her unethical behavior, made them watch a little closer and catch her embezzlement.

      3. Mr. Bob Dobalina

        Some companies will not share the feedback from exit interviews, and it remains in HR. Sadly, there are plenty of dysfunctional companies that take zero action on feedback from exit interviews. It’s just a check-the-box item on an off-boarding list.

        1. NotAnotherManager!

          I understand that – and it’s pretty clear from some of the responses, even from HR people, that the process is perfunctory and pointless in some organizations. That’s not the form mine takes, so I’m happy to have them. (Even my crappy former head of HR let me have my exits, and that was someone who wouldn’t let me have the full comp chart for my direct reports.)

    2. Sleepytime Tea

      I requested an exit interview with HR at a previous job because there were some issues with my supervisor I wanted them to know about. Things like he was violating my ADA accommodations and my director was trying to enforce an illegal PTO policy, and when I fought for my rights on these things I started being treated badly. I knew our HR guy and trusted him, and while perhaps I could have gotten HR more heavily involved, I didn’t want to stay someplace where there was that much animosity, regardless of any protections HR could offer.

      My HR guy was aghast at some of the things I told him, and asked if I would have an exit interview with my VP because he was SURE that he would want to know about these things. I was hesitant, but he said he would join the meeting if that made me more comfortable, because he felt there were issues that the VP should really hear from me. So I agreed. I was dispassionate about everything and just laid out the facts (which were pretty indisputable, I had evidence and data to back everything up). My VP listened for the most part, and didn’t interject much, except on something that he really didn’t know much about but insisted I *must* be wrong (whatever, if you want to look into it you will).

      At the end of the meeting, he basically started telling me how ACTUALLY, I was being treated more than fairly. Because, you see, the company had instituted a new policy recently that you couldn’t smoke in front of the building (on a public sidewalk, but whatever). One day I was at the corner waiting for the crosswalk (next to, but not in front of the building) and I was smoking. SHOCK AND AWE. A supervisor had seen me. UNACCEPTABLE! They could have written me up but they didn’t! See how lenient they were for me? I was just *blatantly* violating company policy, smoking on a public street corner off the clock like that.

      Even my HR guy seemed blown away by this reaction. Honestly, based on the sh*t show I was seeing with my supervisor and manager who reported to this VP, I was… not shocked. All that exit interview did was cement for me that I made the right decision leaving.

  4. SaffyTaffy

    I had a very good experience with an exit interview that was conducted over the phone with a central HR person. Because I wasn’t speaking to the HR of the branch where I worked, when I explained why I had left the branch, the person I spoke to was kind of shocked. There ended up being an investigation, someone’s contract wasn’t renewed, and I got a formal letter explaining that I’d be welcome to return at any time.
    But that wouldn’t have happened if the branch HR person had spoken to me, because that person already knew the problems and didn’t care.

    1. Kiki

      I think having an exit interview with someone who is as removed as possible from the work and issues of the departing employee makes the most sense. Having an exit interview with your manager may be satisfying to some people, but I think most people will give the most honest answers to a neutral party who can relay the information where it needs to go.

      1. PossiblyEnoughDetailToBeIdentified

        I have a friend who works in the IT support department at his company and so gets to ‘wander’ from desk to desk, chatting while he fixes computer issues – he’s friendly and unassming and so he gets the *honest* answer as to why people leave (mostly due to pay, but there have been other reasons), while HR get a neutral non-answer. This is mostly because HR have been told the real reasons and done nothing to help resolve them, so people stopped bothering with the truth.
        Meanwhile, my friend has a dozen or more salacious stories to share when we meet up as we both know several of the people who have moved on (in some cases to my company, where so far they appear to be quite happy!)

      2. Fortitude Jones

        Agreed. The company I worked for two companies ago also gave employees the option to do “anonymous” online exit interviews (I put anonymous in quotes because I don’t truly believe any of those workplace surveys are anonymous). I did the survey because there were a lot of things I needed to get off my chest and had I done it in person with just me and the HR rep, I would have been too bitter/emotional to remember all of my grievances and things that they needed to be aware of would have been missed.

  5. Booksalot

    My company did skip-level interviews in small groups (with Panera for lunch, no less) and my group was COMPLETELY dominated by the office Elderly Guy Who Never Shuts Up. The VP just would not rein this guy in, so he spent 45 minutes monologuing about every thought that passed between his ears. The rest of us simmered the whole time, then whisper-complained to each other in a huddle in the hallway immediately after the meeting. The entire process did more harm than good, because we were so bitter about how it was handled.

    So, TL;DR: if you think exit interviews can be replaced by earlier intervention, realize that phoning it in is worse than doing nothing at all.

    1. Pennalynn Lott

      At my current company, we do skip-level interviews. The VP starts the meeting with everyone. After 15 minutes, Directors have to leave. After another 15 minutes, Managers have to leave. Then the VP listens to the staff for half an hour.

      I’m staff.

      My biggest complaint and why I’m looking for another job even though I’ve only been here full-time two months is my Director [Mr R]. One of his biggest supporters is another staff-level person. There’s no way in heck I’m going to speak candidly in front of her.

      Plus, Mr R is the VP’s hand-chosen person. The VP has only been here about a year and moved the existing Director (the one I interned under) to a different part of the company. VP came from a company known for its toxic culture and she seems hell-bent on recreating that culture here.

  6. Spreadsheets and Books

    Someone should forward this to HR at my last company.

    They just yelled at me for 45 minutes because I was unable to give the four weeks of notice they wanted. I got grilled on the morale of the others on my team (idk, ask them), whether there was an in-fighting among other members of my team (idk, ask them), whether the other person who gave notice the day before I did and I were conspiring to quit together (no), etc. I wasn’t comfortable telling them the reasons why I was leaving so it was just an all-out assault and I ended up leaving before the meeting was over because there was nothing left to say.

    1. Jennifer Thneed

      I’m so glad you left before they wanted you to. People don’t do that enough.

  7. Not Me

    I received very helpful feedback from exit interviews. I don’t expect everyone to be 100% candid in an exit interview, I’m sure a lot of it depends on the interviewer too.

      1. NotAnotherManager!

        I’m not the prior poster, but we scrapped and revamped our entire orientation process based on employee feedback, particularly from exit interviews.

        We are getting less useful feedback from exits than we used to; however, that is because there are now more formal checkins and other processes to ensure we’re picking up feedback before it hits the departure stage.

        1. irene adler

          Hey, I want to work where you work!
          Such a joy to see a place where they take actions like that.

          1. NotAnotherManager!

            It always surprises me when people don’t take that info seriously! I mean, when I have more than two people tell me that orientation was too much information and, on top of that, a lot that didn’t help them learn to do their job, we have a major problem. It does not do anyone any good if we’re not setting them up for success – not the organization, not the employee. It took some time and effort to get the information we needed for the revamp, but continuing to do something that’s not working seems kind of dumb (and counterproductive) to me.

      2. esra

        I worked somewhere and gave honest exit feedback about my manager and director. It ended up prompting them to contact the other 70% (not even joking) of the dept that had left in the six months prior, and both the manager and director were out of the org within the year.

        1. JJ Bittenbinder

          Essentially the same thing happened when I left a previous job. My feedback about the director alone did not prompt any immediate changes, but by the 3rd person who gave similar feedback, they saw the pattern. He still works at the company but no longer manages others.

      3. Not Me

        Yep. One situation as an example: It was a new role for the company, the original hire had tons of experience. He left about 10 months after starting due to family reasons and gave me lots of info on how the role should be utilized, the pay scale was way off (he was over paid for what he was doing), and the manager didn’t know how to manage on call employees. We made changes to the team as a whole, trained the manager better for her new direct reports responsibilities, and re-calibrated the role before hiring for his replacement.

        He said his reasons for leaving at that time were purely personal, but there was no way he would’ve stayed in the role much longer due to the mismanagement.

  8. (Former) HR Expat

    I don’t trust that exit interviews will change anything unless leadership wants it to change. But when I’m conducting them, I’m very transparent about the process, who gets to see the information, and how I’m going to anonymize their feedback. It’s trickier when working with small companies or locations that don’t have a ton of turnover, but it’s important to me that I’m doing whatever I can to minimize any fallout for exiting employees.

  9. Adlib

    I was 100% honest in my exit interview when the HR lady asked if there were red flags because she hadn’t looked at my form yet. She acknowledged the issues I was talking about and asked if she could pass it on to leadership. I said yes, but from what I know of my colleagues who are still there, it changed exactly nothing. I’m still a believer in being honest in these things because eventually, maybe one company will be serious about making things better.

  10. NopeNopeNope

    My (male) HR rep asked me to give a one on one exit interview with the (female) VP of Human Resources as I was the 12th woman to leave the overall department in just about 9 months. Still didn’t do shit even with documented proof of the VP of the department I was leaving approving increases and promotions for men but any promotion for a woman had the % increase reduced or the title dropped (i.e. Guy and Lady are both Analysts in the same department but promotion for Guy was for a Senior title and 10% increase and promotion for Lady was submitted for the same title and pay but was reduced by the VP to a II and only a 5% increase – general consensus of employees and mid-level managers is that Lady is the better analyst with seniority at Company but Guy plays golf with VP)

      1. TardyTardis

        The company I worked for *finally* had a female plant manager–in 2015. Guess how women were treated overall *there*. Yes, they played the Title and Job classification game, and it was just a coincidence that the lowest level office jobs were all women and one Hispanic man.

  11. Anne Noise

    Yes, please. I work in a unionized organization, and am on union elected leadership – we rely heavily on those exit interviews as documented proof of management disputes, interpersonal issues and potentially unresolved grievances. We also find employees who have another job lined up are far more candid than they would otherwise be, and using those interviews to tie retaliation and harassment issues together to one department or person are incredibly helpful.

    1. Double A

      Man I wish my union would have asked me for feedback when I left, but they were just like “management did what it was supposed to do, you’re voluntarily resigning (even though it’s because your site was closed and you got transferred to a position for which you have no experience and were offered no training or coaching) so you get nothing including not being eligible for unemployment.” Really didn’t feel like my $100 a month union dues got me anything and I could have used that extra $1200 is spent last year to cover 6 weeks of unpaid time between jobs.

      1. Anne Noise

        Working with other locals in our Council and some others in our area, that doesn’t surprise me. It’s hard to provide your own time, money and effort to support nothing, or be the one to enact change. I’m so sorry they weren’t able to help you better.

    2. Jaydee

      I was in union leadership at a previous job and we found that exit interviews were rarely useful because most people didn’t bother. Even though one of the nicest, most sympathetic managers was responsible for conducting them (and genuinely wanted honest feedback she could share with the rest of management), I think most people felt like they didn’t amount to much by that point. Like, you know salaries are low and workloads are high. Me telling you a week before I leave isn’t going to suddenly make things change.

      We (the union) conducted a survey of bargaining unit members annually and it was AMAZING. The workers really wanted us to know how they felt, and we made sure they could trust us to provide deidentified info (it was a small enough workplace that it wasn’t hard to identify people based on their title, office location, and years with the organization). We had data that management didn’t have about reasons why people might be considering leaving, what things were frustrating them, what things made them stay, etc. We used that info to set bargaining priorities and decide what grievances to bring.

  12. BRR

    I imagine exit interviews are like some other scenarios, if a business is concerned about the topics in an exit interview it’s ongoing conversation and not a one time thing. In other words, I imagine most businesses that would take an exit interview seriously are continuously discussing these topics. Not only waiting for feedback when someone leaves.

  13. Close Bracket

    This is oddly timely. Previous jobs, I didn’t give feedback when I left. I said basically the same thing I said to the job I was going to: looking for growth opportunities, blah, blah. I’m currently considering leaving a job that I just got, and if I succeed in finding a new position, I am considering being really candid about why I’m not giving this place a chance. I’ve been here a short enough time that I wouldn’t list anyone here as a reference, or even put it on my resume, and it’s a big enough place that I don’t think anyone will care that I go. The usual fears of repercussions down the road don’t really apply.

  14. Lord Gouldian Finch

    Reminds me of when I left a real dumpster-fire employer. The management was less malicious than utterly, incompetently, clueless. But I didn’t see any real point giving them what I felt was an accurate assessment. So I settled on some blander but accurate things like “we could use more regular check-ins” (they were supposed to be weekly but over three months my manager missed half of them, during a time I actually needed her feedback on projects) and “maybe better communication” (things were so bad at one point a coworker and I were working on doing a Time Consuming Task and someone from Other Department came by and asked why we weren’t using Easy Tool to do the job automatically. Nobody on our side had been told Easy Tool existed).

  15. Brett

    At last job, exit interviews were something they actually did pretty well.
    The exit interviewer was the chief recruiting officer (and I mean officer literally, he was a commissioned police officer). He was the first and last formal contact you had with the organization, and he took that role very seriously (as did his predecessor). The interview was pretty extensive with lots of note taking, and he stated that he used the notes and exit surveys to build his case (futilely unfortunately) for changing retention practices.

    As a satisfying long term conclusion, the one person who I did blast in my exit interview, who I literally called corrupt at the expensive of his employees, pled guilty to federal corruption charges two months ago and is facing decades in prison, thanks to an investigation by the department I worked for. My exit interviewer at the time made it clear that he shared my opinions of that person.

    1. Fortitude Jones

      OMG, that’s amazing! Amazing that your feedback was taken seriously and amazing that they actually uncovered a crime. Wow.

      1. Brett

        The crime wasn’t due to my feedback though, even though the department I worked for is the one who tipped off the feds. They had a lot of evidence that the corruption was going on, and the feds found the smoking guns. It was so bad that after he was arrested, his successor found thousands of dollars in rolled up cash in his desk and an ATM card to an off-the-books account containing five-figures of general account tax revenue.

        I do think that having the recruiter also run exit interviews was extremely helpful. The recruiters have a huge vested interest in exit interviews being taken seriously.

  16. Not happening

    The first time I was asked for an exit interview, I naively thought the feedback I provided would be relayed in a professional manner with only those on a need-to-know basis. I was honest and candid. It was handled so poorly that it affected my career in the industry for years to come. Never. Again.

  17. Czhorat

    It gives closure, if naught else. It marks the occasion, formally turns the page. If you take it as ceremony is isn’t as bad.

    The frustrating thing is that it’s terribly one-way; in almost no circumstances is it smart to pour a can of gasoline over your boss’s desk and light a match; I work in a pretty small industry, and yesterday’s boss could end up being tomorrow’s client, or vice-versa.

    Take a half-hour to say good-bye, reflect on any of the positives for your tenure, and ride off into the sunset. IT’s the right way to end things.

    1. Mediamaven

      I completely agree with this advice. I had an employee who was a good employee, then became a mediocre employee when it was clear she was falling out of love for her job. She resigned after a year and a half or so. I wished her well and even though she hadn’t stepped into the higher level role I had last promoted her too, I had every intention of always serving as a great reference for her. She decided to tell me in her last week that our culture was poor because I hadn’t given enough presents and prizes (same week I had a massage therapist come in and treat everyone to free massages). Within three months of a lavish holiday gift. Within three months of about six really nice meals both out and and in the office. Also being promoted and given above average compensation and more PTO than any other company in the industry. I was absolutely shocked and it left a very bad taste in my mouth and completely changed my perception of this person. This was a person who never once went above and beyond which is where rewards come from. So I’ll confirm her employment and that’s it. She didn’t help the company and she didn’t help herself.

  18. Finally Friday

    Of all my jobs, only had one exit interview; it was very much part of that place’s HR culture.

    Since it was only a contract and I knew the department was folding (eventually, in 18 months), and there was little way this was going to come back to haunt me, I was brutally honest. It felt good to unload.

  19. Agent J

    I wonder how the concept of exit interviews got started. It seems like they have become less meaningful and more Ineffective Things Companies Do Because Everyone Does.

    To echo others, I also see them as pointless. When I left ToxicJob, I had to have exit interviews with Terrible Boss and HR. HR knew why I was leaving (we had several conversations before I put in notice) but was powerless to do anything because Grand Boss refused to do anything about Toxic Boss. I gave honest feedback to HR for records purposes, hoping one day someone will look at what’s been documented and do something about it. But with my boss, I stuck to standard “new opportunities” narrative to avoid dealing with the drama and stress.

    I will also echo that, if possible, make a list of and develop good references outside your direct boss/manager before you need them, especially those who are senior to you even though they are not your direct line manager. That preparation has helped me immensely in my career.

  20. tinybitbyte

    When I left the military, it didn’t really matter about an exit interview because my contract was up. I had a meeting with my First Sergeant about what would make me stay, but his advice was so off the mark for what I needed it didn’t help sway my decision to get out.

    My first job post-military I resigned from, I guess I had an exit interview? It was at a smaller company and the meeting consisted of the manager verbally abusing me and saying how worthless I was at my job for daring to leave. Sooooo, not so great. I don’t think I even ever got to the part for my personal feedback. If asked I probably would have given crazy hand gestures with “THIS!”

    My second job, not at small company, was just a contract switch within the same company and nothing really changed regarding my feedback or suggestions. Overall my experience has been “great concept, except in practice.”

  21. Lora

    I have never, ever seen an exit interview result in any changes in a company with management problems, even when those problems were as straightforward to resolve as, “your one specific middle manager, who you can absolutely afford to lose, is doing something highly illegal, which has been reported to you and verified by many other people.” What I have seen result in changes to management problems in a company:

    -New CEO fires a whole bunch of managers en masse and brings in his/her own people from outside
    -Class action lawsuit
    -Company is acquired and the new company management absorbs the offending company like the Borg
    -Company goes out of business; I’ve seen company owners who decide they’re not cut out for management after their companies fail.
    -Regulatory agency padlocks the facility doors. Not issues a warning – *padlocks the doors*, and typically issues a large fine.
    -Employees unionize, which typically results in some low – middle level managers being blamed and then replaced and senior management is advised by lawyers thereafter

    That’s it. I can’t think of a single company that significantly changed its culture and mismanagement behaviors because of a preponderance of exit interviews, an inspiring book, or McKinsey / PWC / BCG report. McKinsey and PWC et al. get paid the big bucks to tell management the exact way in which they are screwing up, so from my perspective an exit interview is nothing more than a request for free consulting, except they won’t take it even that seriously due to not being in the form of a $600/hour PowerPoint presentation.

    1. Gazebo Slayer

      Yeah, sadly most companies won’t change for the better unless they’re forced to: an observation relevant not only to exit interviews but also to pretty much everything else about working life.

  22. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

    Remember the three letters on here about a workplace that was a total dumpster fire, where the entire team along with the manager acted like they were a college frat and let one employee cover for them and pick up all the work? which eventually ended in an investigation, the entire team bring fired, and the manager turning her life around and working on being a better person? It all started with an exit interview. The team would have happily gone on being a cesspool of workplace dysfunction, if the one mistreated coworker had not brought it up in her exit interview (link to update #2: https://www.askamanager.org/2017/10/update-is-the-work-environment-ive-created-on-my-team-too-exclusive-2.html)

    1. Washed Out Data Analyst

      OOPS I should read the comments before I write one. I also thought of this letter!

    2. Hey Karma, Over here.

      But that person was hired by someone outside the department (manager specifically said she would not have hired her) for the purpose of getting an outside view of the department.

      1. Close Bracket

        And it worked, sort of. They got an outside view, but it would have been better if that view came before the person left rather than after. They implemented changes, but they lost a valuable employee.

  23. PMeIL

    Exit interviews are pretty pointless because whatever problems that are causing you to leave probably preceded you and management already knows about them. 99% management is actively choosing not to do anything about them.

    As an example I left a job where I wrote a scathing review about my boss and cited her as the reason I was leaving. The reason I did this was because her boss wanted her fired but they took away his power to do it and just put her under a different boss. That new boss also wanted her fired so they put her under a third different boss. She is still there so……

  24. Going Anon

    Hopefully exit interviews is something that will apply to me soon. Question: what is the best way to avoid signing anything when you leave. From what I’ve heard from former coworkers, they’re obligated to sign an exit interview form agreeing they won’t say anything bad about the company when they leave. But, are you actually obligated to sign an agreement with a company you are already leaving?

    1. RandomU...

      That sounds weird…

      If you don’t want the confrontation, just smile and let them know you are in a big hurry for an appointment and you’ll take it with you to review and/or have your attorney review before you sign it.

      I’ve refused to sign things while working for a company so I’m not sure what hold a company you no longer work for has over you.

      1. irene adler

        I like the ‘have my attorney review this before I sign’ exit line.

        What could they do, fire you? For refusing to sign something?
        I guess they could bring legal action against you. But that would be very silly on their part.

        1. Massmatt

          In cases of layoffs you often need to sign something in order to collect severance pay, which depending on the company, your role, and tenure, could be a lot of money. A prior job would pay 2 weeks per year of employment. But they specifically recommended people review the materials and consult with an attorney, it was not a “sign this now” situation.

          But for someone who’s just quitting? Yeah, what are they going to do if you don’t sign something?

    2. Earthwalker

      Companies that do this usually make some sort of severance offer contingent on you signing. So it’s “no signature, no severance check.” If your company is not tying some sort of penalty to refusing to sign, then there’s no incentive to sign. And if they are, I’m told that sometimes the law provides a solution, but you might need to contact a lawyer.

    3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain

      You don’t HAVE to sign any agreement, but it’s been my experience that they usually do tie something to signing it — your severance package if any, or continuation of your health insurance until the end of the month or some like that. They can’t withhold your final paycheck. It’s completely OK to say that you would like time to read any papers over in depth and you’ll get it back to them later — invoking a lawyer might be OTT in most situations. But sometimes the papers they want you to sign are merely that you acknowledge they have given you information they may be legally required to give you about unemployment insurance or COBRA and you understand your rights…blah blah blah. Read everything. You don’t need to sign those either, but it’ll sometimes come across as silly and hostile if you don’t initial that you returned your keys/badge/parking pass and received your info package.

    4. Pennalynn Lott

      Whether compensation is tied to it or not, just [nicely, politely] say, “I’m going to have to have a lawyer take a look at this before I sign it.”

    5. Bilateralrope

      I’d go with: dont touch a pen until after you’ve read and understood whatever they want you to sign.

      If they try to say that you must sign something, then ask for their reasons in writing so you can talk to your lawyer.

    6. Fortitude Jones

      Nope – you are under no obligation to sign anything of the sort (and WTF?! I’ve never heard of such a thing).

    7. Nicki Name

      In my line of work (programming), it’s common to have to sign something on the way out, but it’s typically a reminder of conditions that you agreed to on taking the job in the first place. Things like keeping company secrets secret, not working for any direct competitors for a certain period of time, etc.

    8. College Career Counselor

      Yeah, sometimes you can be pressured to sign a “non-disparagement” agreement as a condition of getting severance. But if you’re leaving voluntarily, I have no idea how that would be enforceable.

    9. whistle

      I like the advice to say you need time to read it over and consult with a lawyer. Another option (especially if the document is very simple and would make you feel silly to say you need to talk to a lawyer) is to just say matter-of-factly “Oh, I can’t sign that.” Do not provide a reason.

      If they push for signature after that, you can say something like, “I”m not sure about all the implications of what you are asking me to agree to, and I just don’t see any benefit to me in signing it. ” Hold firm with that last line if they keep pushing. “I just don’t see the benefit. ” Or even, “Can you tell me why it would be in my best interest to sign this document?”

    10. Jennifer Thneed

      A lot of those things are just scare tactics and wouldn’t stand up in court. Even if the HR flunky giving you the document doesn’t know that. And if they say they’ll hold your final paycheck if you don’t sign, well, that’s illegal at the federal level. “Pretty sure that’s against federal law, so let’s just pretend you never said that.”

      If you need to return keys, badge, whatever, THEY should sign something acknowledging that they received it from you. That way they can’t claim later that you stole company property.

      If they’re giving you something (like $$), then they’ll want a signature, but you can still take the document with you to sign and return later rather than feeling pressured for time. But if you’re not getting anything except gone, you have no reason to sign anything. If you’re uncomfortable saying no, you can still take it with you “to read and sign and return later”, and then just shred it instead.

  25. RandomU...

    As a manager, I think the ones my company does are pointless. I asked our HR person after an employee left if there was any sort of review of the exit interview comments that she would be sharing with me. She told me she doesn’t share anything with the manager unless it’s really bad.

    I mean I get it from a protecting an employee point of view, but maybe there’s some feedback that would help me run my team better or information on things I need to watch for that I may be missing about the team or work environment.

    I mostly feel like it’s a ‘tic the box’ activity like collecting badges and laptops. If an employee gives accurate and unfiltered feedback (and I don’t think that happens very often, which I totally understand!) and if that feedback is then fed back into the organization at large (which I don’t think it is very often) then it could be valuable. But I don’t think either happens often enough to be worth the time and effort.

  26. Washed Out Data Analyst

    The only AAM letter where I recall an exit interview working is the one where the LW admitted to excluding and bullying an older coworker who was good at her job (and the LW was mad she was making her look bad and “showing off”). If I remember correctly, the bullied coworker explained what happened in the exit interview, resulting in the OP and her entire team getting fired.

    1. RandomU...

      Ah yes the ‘UnManager’

      I think that also worked because the employee was hired by the ‘UnManager’s boss and had a closer relationship with them vs. the real manager who was terrible.

  27. voyager1

    Last place I left made the “exit interview” required to be eligible for rehire. However the “interview” was just a form and you could submit a letter with suggestions for improvement. You never met with anyone and it went through HR. So basically it was a employee survey.

  28. MsMaryMary

    OldJob was a large, multinational company who gave departing employees an exit survey. It seemed to make the feedback a little less personal. I know that after a number of employees left and cited their (low) pay as a reason, the company did a compensation review and adjusted comp accordingly. For example, I got a 14% increase at my next review. When I left, I used it to make it clear my direct manager was terrific and was NOT the reason I was leaving.

    I intend to be far less open when I leave my current job. Many times exit interviews are done in person, sometimes multiple times (with the owner as well as direct managers) and people definitely hold grudges based on some of the feedback.

  29. DCGirl

    I did one two jobs ago where the HR rep defended the company against all of the reasons I cited for leaving. For example, one thing I cited was the fact that the company’s workers comp provider took 18 months to authorize surgery for a wrist injury I experienced at work. After I finally had the surgery, closer to 21 months after the injury, the workers comp carrier took six months to authorize follow-up physical therapy. The HR rep’s response was that once it’s turned over the workers comp carrier it’s out of HR’s and the company’s hand. I begged to differ, because someone in that company cut a check every month to pay the premiums to a company that denied needed medical services to employees. But, no, no it wasn’t HR’s or the company’s issue.

    If HR can take the information provided and act upon it, why bother having exit interviews at all?

  30. Pennalynn Lott

    I was new to inside sales and was partnered with a guy, Craig, that my company had poached from a competitor. He had a lot more experience than I did at the time, so he was supposed to be my mentor and coach. Instead, he spent all of his time reaching for things on my half of the long desk we shared so that he could brush his hand/arm across my chest. He would also get up out of his chair and stand over me to answer the simplest of questions (to look down my shirt and/or to try to massage my shoulders). Every morning when I came in, I pulled all the technical manuals off my shelf and fanned them out in a semi-circle behind my chair so I could point to a physical boundary I wanted him to stay behind. He also used to drop his pants to show me what color and kind of underwear he had on that day, and he’d mime m@sturbating at his desk when he was on particularly boring or difficult phone calls with customers.

    I went to my manager early on about it. I was told, “We paid X-thousands of dollars to bring Craig over; I expect you to find a way to make it work.”

    When I put in my notice after a few more months of Craig’s gross behavior, I was pulled into an exit interview with HR, my manager, and *a tape recorder*. The HR woman asked, sweetly, what my reasons for leaving were. I said, “I’ve been offered a salary and commission rate that I just can’t pass up.” She tried again, asking if I had any advice for management, anything I’d like to see changed. I said, “Being here these few months has been a great learning experience for me. I’ve definitely learned more about the real world of business than what they taught us in school!” When she tried a third time to get me to open up, asking if there wasn’t anything else I wanted to add, I just smiled and said, “Nope. That’s about it.”

    To this day I have no earthly idea why she had a tape recorder. Other people who had quit before me said that wasn’t the case in their exit interview. I don’t know if they were trying to trap me or were finally going to do something about Craig. But no way was I going to be recorded saying anything but bland things.

    1. Agent J

      Ugh, this is incredibly gross and I’m sorry you had to go through that.

      You may not know the answer to this, but I wonder why they couldn’t just tell you what the tape recorder was for? Could they not legally say, “We’ve gotten some sexual harassment complaints about Craig and would like to get your experience on the record, if you’re willing to do so?” Why be so squirrel-y about it?

      1. Pennalynn Lott

        Right? IIRC, she said something along the lines of “trying something new.”

          1. Not Me

            It’s likely they didn’t have anyone willing to come forward to HR with a complaint and so they had no reason to fire him.

            1. Random commenter

              “I went to my manager early on about it. I was told, “We paid X-thousands of dollars to bring Craig over; I expect you to find a way to make it work.”

              Sounds like they had a complaint.

              1. Not Me

                And the manager told her to deal with it, so I highly doubt the manager treated the complaint properly. So I think it’s safe to assume the people who would take action didn’t have a complaint brought to them.

                1. Pennalynn Lott

                  HR knew.

                  We had a one-person HR department, a grandmotherly woman who spent her days checking everyone’s outbound phone calls against the client database and then writing up anyone who made personal phone calls. (This was back when cell phones and service plans were outrageously expensive). She called me into her office to have me sign a writeup and I told her that the phone call was, indeed, personal but it was to a therapist to set up an appointment to help me deal with Craig, since my manager had told me to “make it work.” She excused the phone call.

                  As far as I know, no one ever said anything to Craig because his behavior didn’t change one bit before I left.

                  And because the HR woman was such a nasty piece of work*, I didn’t trust her tape recorder stunt.

                  *It was her idea to create a contract that said if you left the company within 12 months of your starting date, you had to repay the company $1500 for “hiring, onboarding, and training” services. All of that was done in-house, and the “training” was on-the-job. There were no out of pocket expenses for the company.

                  But the really nasty part is that she didn’t give you the contract until after you’d started. So, you’ve quit your old job, turned down any other offers, started with them, and then are told you’ll have to pay the company back for hiring you if you leave before a year is up. Pretty much everyone they hired was straight of college and very naive so they just signed. I said I’d have to have our family’s lawyer take a look at it first. HR Woman never brought it up again.

                2. Falling Diphthong

                  The manager who told Pennalynn to make it work was in the exit interview, sitting next to HR. What part of that says “This is the time to get Craig’s sexual harassment finally taken seriously”?

    2. Close Bracket

      He also used to drop his pants to show me what color and kind of underwear he had on that day,

      And when I think it won’t get worse,

      and he’d mime m@sturbating at his desk when he was on particularly boring or difficult phone calls with customers.

      I’m so sorry.

      1. Fortitude Jones

        Right?! This whole thing was bananas, but these two parts in particular made my skin crawl.

      2. Jaydee

        Those two things, alone, should have been the basis for outright termination. Like, I’m struggling to figure out what a warning would be in this situation. “Craig, you are absolutely expected to keep your slacks on while in the presence of others. You are also not to make hand gestures that simulate se*ual activity. If this happens again, you will no longer work here. Is that understood?” That sounds like something an exasperated middle school assistant principal says to a pre-teen at the crossroads between just being kind of an idiot and actual juvenile delinquency.

  31. Duffel of Doom

    I was selectively honest in my last one, because it was a toxic environment AND they thought it was a good idea to have the top 3 folks in the org (including my boss) be the ones running it. No room to point out issues with anyone when all 3 problematic people are there.
    I mentioned money as one of my reasons for leaving because I’d been there for 2.5 years without a review or raise. They claimed my review had been in the works (I’d heard that for months) and then seemed disdainful because my new salary “isn’t that much higher.” The kicker was that they handed me my written review when I left.

  32. Earthwalker

    I declined the exit survey and interview because the request screamed “we’re just going through the motions.” The annual employee satisfaction survey, which looked similar, had always made more trouble than it solved. The exit survey was all about onboarding, which is ridiculous to ask of someone onboarded a decade before. HR said employees could schedule an exit interview “if you want one,” which told me that they thought that an exit interview was not a benefit to the company as much as the company doing the employee a favor. When you quit from overwhelming frustration it feels like you’ve just got to tell someone why, to make them understand at last, but if they never listened to you as an employee, why would they listen to an ex-employee?

  33. Natatat

    I had an exit interview at my last job with the Director where I had a very toxic manager. I alluded to some of the issues but wasn’t completely blunt. I wish I could have been, but I didn’t want to risk the reference (toxic manager liked me somehow and gave me a very good reference) and I was staying within the same institution and would likely still have some rare work overlap with the person. It’s unfortunate, because working for this manager was a truly awful experience that affected my mental health for awhile, and I wish I could have saved others coming in the future from having the same experience.

  34. OysterMan

    This reply might be Not Helpful but…

    I’m in HR. I’ve conducted exit interviews. I’ve seen exit interviews thrown into a drawer never to be looked at again. I’ve seen bad things done with exit interviews.

    I never attend my own exit interviews, and I recommend to my friends/family to refuse to attend theirs or give very non-committal answers if forced to attend. My best friend also in HR does the same.

    Many other people in HR get upset with me when I express this sentiment (so I generally keep it quiet), but I have little trust for executives and leaders who might get access to this information.

    1. Agent J

      This honesty is so refreshing, so thank you for sharing. Sometimes it’s good to have your experiences validated.

    2. Buttons

      I am in talent and leadership development so HR adjacent, and I tell everyone the same thing. Don’t bother.

  35. Evan B

    The one and only exit interview I gave helped ‘wake up’ my manager to a number of issues with the way he was managing his department that he had been ignoring for literally years. To the point that I believe they put him on a PIP and then took his department away less than a year after I left. I really hope it helped my former coworkers, but I wish it didn’t take the first controls engineer to quit EVER in the history of the company to wake him up to that fact.

  36. stitchinthyme

    I once said in an interview (direct quote), “I would rather swallow razor blades than ever work here again.” Obviously, I didn’t care about burning bridges — I’d only been there 4 months, during which I hadn’t actually done any work anyway, so I wasn’t going to use them as a reference regardless. I didn’t even have a computer my first month there — and I write software for a living! I’d literally bring in books to read to keep from falling asleep at my desk.

  37. Nicki Name

    “and it’s often much easier to simply hand departing employees a pro forma exit questionnaire and call it done.”

    That actually gave me the best exit interview experience I’ve ever had. The reasons I was leaving had nothing to do with my immediate chain of command or my co-workers and almost everything to do with the department being badly under-resourced (there was also a bad commute getting worse). I was happy to check all the boxes about not enough people or support and return it to HR. I heard a few months later that they’d been able to significantly increase headcount, so maybe it helped!

  38. GrumpyNurse

    I’m very torn about exit interviews. I’ve had two.

    The first one involved me dunking on my terrible manager and she was “transferred to a new opportunity” (suddenly, with no subordinates) inside the company shortly thereafter. I was hardly the only person to complain. This I found satisfying and feel like I contributed to a positive change in my old department.

    The second was much less satisfying. In discussing why I was leaving, I brought up how a coworker (sidebar: one of the best workers, but one that was not down for management’s buzzwordy brainwaves) was basically chased out after being blamed for a situation that wasn’t her fault. This turned – very suddenly – to me being subjected to a twenty minute long lecture about how it was totally wrong for employees to not have absolute faith in management. In a moment, I immediately went from a mentality of “help improve my old department” to “damn I’m glad I’m leaving this place is a trashsfire.” As a result, I clammed up and smiled blandly for the rest of the interview. I have since learned that this department is having a mass exodus of staff and I’ve heard allegations of illegal activity. I wonder how everyone else’s exit interviews went.

  39. Anonymoose

    When I left my last job, the person who conducted the exit interview was the reason I was leaving. To me it was just another day of “smile and bear through this interaction with this person.” It was very clear with my last job that despite the fact that they routinely cycle through new position in my position every 1-3 years because there’s no growth opportunity, they have no intention of making any structural changes.

  40. Pipe Organ Guy

    I have had only one exit interview in my career, and it followed my previous church position. Background: I was gone on vacation, and when I got back, I saw an email from my boss. She wanted to meet with me because she had some thoughts about the choir. Fine. We met after church, and she dropped her bombshell, aka her thoughts about the choir.

    She wanted to split my position in two, separating the work of choir director and organist. Oh, and the already-not-great salary would be split in half, too. She even told me who she would hire as choir director. She hoped that I would stay on as organist. Not much to be said after that; as I left, I said, “You know, this really comes as a blow.” Her response was that she understood, but she was going to hire What’s-His-Name.

    After a couple of days, I emailed my resignation. That prompted a meeting. I got a trusted choir member to go with me to be a witness to whatever transpired. First thing, my boss tried to walk back what she had said in that Sunday meeting. Then followed ten odd questions, but I answered them fully, knowing that I probably was burning a bridge with the vicar. The following Sunday, my departure was announced. (The congregation was bewildered; mostly, they liked what I had been doing.)

    I also sicced the local chapter of the organists’ association on this parish; the administration was made to understand that paying the musicians as independent contractors (which is what they had done with me) was not cool. There were other things, too. At any rate, this was six years ago. I’ve moved on, and the vicar has moved on and to a different state. I hope she learned some things in her time at this parish.

  41. Buttons

    I have only agreed to one exit interview and that was with a company that didn’t do employee engagement surveys and the exit interview was conducted by a third party company. In my last position, I declined by saying “I think the results of the last engagement survey reflect my thoughts and experience and feel like it provides the leaders with the pulse of employees. “

  42. That Girl From Quinn's House

    I worked somewhere where they sent our annual employee survey to our personal email addresses. The link was valid for 30 days. It arrived 4 days before my last day at that job, and 5 days before I boarded a plane to move to another city on the other side of the country.

    That survey, I answered with brutal honesty. From my new city.

  43. Coffee Cup

    Once upon a time I had a horrible job for a short while. My team leader was a serious narcissist who seemed nice but was an awful bully. They bullied and verbally abused you for the smallest (or perceived) things. The job itself was very time sensitive and involved scheduled interview with vulnerable people, and yet I was once called out of one for having done *gasp* my overtime sheets “wrong” by deleting a few extra rows. She never missed an opportunity for petty power play. Anyway, I didn’t last long there. The HR officer who had done my initial screening was really disappointed (she and I had a pretty good rapport) and asked if we could do an exit interview. I thought it would be a bad idea because to me the problems around the department were so known and obvious, but I decided to do it anyway. I told her about a lot of things; the overtime story made her gasp (“I am the one who checks and approves those things and I can’t think of anything I could care less about”). She asked me if I would be willing to give written feedback, and I did, documenting many instances of verbal abuse and humiliation. A few months later there was a major shakeup of management there and I heard my testimony and the comments of another colleague who left around the same time played a major role, and that although people had been complaining all the time, no one had really spoken up. To this day, I am glad I did it.

    1. CJM

      Wow! I’m glad to hear that your honest feedback made a difference. Giving honest feedback at work often feels like shouting into the wind. Good on you!

      1. Coffee Cup

        Yes! I don’t know how they are doing now, but it was so satisfying at the time! But even just writing the letter without knowing or thinking that it would make a difference was satisfying enough!

  44. CurlyRose

    I just left a very toxic non-profit and had to do a 26 question exit interview with the founder/Executive Director. I found the majority of the questions to be unhelpful and repetitive but went along, but I absolutely called her out on the one I thought crossed the line: “Who do you think doesn’t do their job well?” I had no qualms telling her how absolutely inappropriate I found that to be and that I thought it was a prime example of the organization’s us against them toxic culture. That seriously pissed her off and thankfully I don’t need her as a reference so I didn’t care!

  45. Maxwell Edison

    I was the person quoted first in the article, worried about the manager who fancied herself an amateur therapist. It turned out all my worries were for naught. No one even mentioned an exit interview, and I certainly didn’t bring the topic up.

  46. CJM

    I was more honest in my last exit interview than I expected to be — because I was retiring! One of the HR representative’s questions was “what can senior management do to lead more effectively?” I replied that they kept losing respect among employees because they repeatedly announced bold new programs with great fanfare and then failed to launch them. The HR representative looked a bit shocked at my answers, but what did I have to lose? And maybe my feedback helped to improve my colleagues’ work lives. (I don’t really believe that; the place is so big and corporate and dysfunctional that real improvement is unlikely.) It felt darn good!

  47. Megasaurusus

    Exit interviews are like perfunctory performance reviews – Something people think they’re supposed to do, so they perform the ritual without understanding the underlying reason why the practice started in the first place. It’s just busy work for HR. Having done heartfelt exit interviews with inappropriate backlash, I’ll never voluntarily do another again.

  48. Sally Forth

    I had one where I was surprised (in a large medical institution) to find myself in a room with my HR rep, the VP of Info Service (my dept), & the VP of Legal. I had complained to HR about my boss earlier in the summer and they took it seriously but due to vacations, etc., hadn’t taken action. The boss was under a lot of personal stress and was spiraling down. I had been job hunting for a while. When I resigned, the boss was furious at my lack of professionalism in giving only 2 weeks notice and yelled so loudly that security was called.

    The last person in my job had taken legal action, which didn’t occur to me until I saw the gravity of the exit interview. As a result of the exit interview and the pending legal action they put my boss on suspension and then fired her.

  49. recovering from micromanagement

    At one job where I resigned with 3 weeks notice, I flat out refused to do an exit interview. First attempt: “But we’d love your input!”. Me: “I’m not comfortable with that, so I’m going to say no”.

    One week later: “When can you come in for the exit interview”. Me: “Yeah, that’s not going to happen”.

    Another week: “We really need for you to participate an exit interview, it’s CA law”. Me: “CA law does not require me to do an exit interview. Full stop. I will not be doing this, and frankly, your behavior about this is pretty much all the information you need from me”.

  50. AnonEmu

    At my last job (the one y’all helped me leave, thank you!) there was a short exit interview while I signed some offboarding forms re donating unused sick leave, etc, and there was a chance for me to comment to the HR person, after she made a comment about me basically living at work, that I was told before I accepted the job that the hours were significantly different. She got a look on her face that indicated that she was really not thrilled with my supervisor re how work hours had been presented vs what they actually were, and that combined with me leaving after just 6 months and high turnover in that office to begin with….idk if it helped anything. But I felt good that I was at least able to mention one of the major reasons for me leaving. I have no idea what happened after I left, but I also have zero interest in finding out. It’s one of those ‘shut the door mentally’ events that you just don’t revisit, except in nightmares (I -still- have nightmares about the boss from that job)

  51. Little Tin Goddess

    At one job, I left early due to the round of layoffs I was caught up in. I had been there just about a year when these layoffs were announced so I started looking. When I finally got a new job and gave my notice, I was harrassed by HR via email for an exit interview. I kept ignoring the emails until my second to last day and I finally responded that the only thing they needed to know from my exit interview was I was being laid off because they were off-shoring every aspect of my job and that if they weren’t doing THAT, I wouldn’t be leaving.

  52. Tisiphone

    The last time I had an exit interview was when I was laid off. I came in to turn in my badge and cell phone and it was very informal.

    I had three weeks notice while my group lead and manager tried to save my job and the HR person taking me through the process complimented my professionalism throughout and asked me if I had anything to say. I told them I was sad to be leaving and that if anything opened up again, please consider giving me a call.

    About a month later, I did get a call. They had need of extra people for a project, was I available? Sure! They brought me back in at the same wage but no benefits due to the temporary project work. A month after that ended, I got a call offering me my job back! I took it and got laid off again a month later. Then there was more project work.

    Meanwhile I kept looking for something more permanent and I eventually found it in a different field. But the numerous callbacks looked damn fine on my resume.

  53. Amememememe

    I didn’t get an exit interview at my old job. Instead there was an A4 price of paper that was a photo copy of a photocopy of a fax to fill out on my own time. Which was not entirely relevant to my country (multi national company, but mostly in the one that isn’t mine), and didn’t have space for more than a sentence.

    There was also that element of they already knew something was wrong. I mean, the CEO of a multinational comapny called two junior/entry level staff shout at us for having a slow Sunday. Which sent the 2 of us working into anxiety/panic attacks and we had to take turns crying in the back room. That kind of behaviour wasn’t common, but similar situations were. And the company knew that, so putting it a paper wasn’t going to do any good.

    I just decided it was better to leave and be done than not.

  54. Who Plays Backgammon?

    I see no reason to make things better if I won’t be there to benefit. If management was genuinely interested in improving things, they wouldn’t wait till people leave to ask.

    1. TPS Cover Sheet

      The company I worked for had these annoying surveys pop up every fortnight when you logged in asking about all kinds of things. I don’t know if they ever acted on the stuff, but they surely did ask.

      1. Who Plays Backgammon?

        My group has had a constant stream of people coming and going for years (one lady lasted a whole 2 months, long enough to get a specific qualification on our company’s nickel, then beat it). One guy who left a couple of years ago said at the end of his 2-wk notice he got an email asking his reasons for wanting to leave. The email said his reply would be anonymous. He took that with a good dash of salt, but gave a watered-down version of his reasons. Mainly that the job was seriously misrepresented as basically sales, which was what he wanted, but it actually was mostly admin/customer service.

  55. TPS Cover Sheet

    I’ve heard of them, but never really had one. Not even in the big companies I worked for. Though I had to sign a 14-page NDA that stated that I should not even say I signed a NDA… oopsies…

  56. Sarahnova

    Yeah, I’m wrestling with this right now. In my notice period with a company I used to love and now… Don’t. A big part of the reason I’m leaving is one particularly toxic person who has personal relationships with the Board, but they’ve heard it all before and nothing changes, so… I’m sad in part because once they weren’t this company that would just shut their ears and cover up.

    I may just put it down to salary and a nebulous desire for a particular career move.

  57. Media Monkey

    in the job i left a month ago, i was asked to do an exit interview by phone with HR (based in another country so someone i had never met). I ignored the request and no one chased it up. i had a bland cover story all ready about leaving for a promotion and payrise and to move my career in a slightly different direction (all true). i wouldn’t have mentioned my disengaged boss (not a horrible person but a really bad manager who barely even managed to say goodbye to me after 18 months working together), the horrible company politics and blame culture that exists.

  58. cncx

    My last exit interview i tried to just let it go and be neutral and non committal (leaving for new opportunities new city etc) and the HR person was like “we know that’s not why you’re really leaving” and it was just a horrible gaslighting mess. because i didn’t give them the ammo of the dramatic departure of closure they had to rustle one up. it was humiliating. never again.

    I also wonder how some people get HR jobs with so little people skills.

  59. Someone commenting

    At my first job, which was a work study co op placement with a bank that eventually would lead to a uni degree, I viciously slagged off the uni at the end (the profs we had and the uni administration were acting utterly useless and vicious).

    Totally unprofessional, I know, and totally out of line. It was my first job though and I had no experience with that kind of stuff.

    To my surprise, all the other students placed in that uni that year also complained of the same thing when they all also left after the same first semester as me, and they axed the co op with that uni the next week on. I got the last 4 weeks off work paid too, so it worked out.

  60. Martha

    In the last 2 years I’ve left two jobs (and now work at an amazing company and was able to negotiate a MUCH higher salary woohoo!)
    Job #1 was a very toxic environment, I couldn’t wait to leave. This company was well known in the industry for being a horrible environment. When I left I likened it to leaving an abusive relationship.
    HR did the exit interview and I knew the HR person was nothing but a massive gossip. I didn’t say anything, just essentially refused to answer any of her questions. I knew anything I said would be spread around the office like wildfire. I also knew if I had made any comments about how negative the company was and how I felt all of the employees were overworked and mentally abused by the company, it wouldn’t do any damn good. The company wasn’t ever going to change (and hasn’t from all accounts from friends still there) and all any comments I would make would do is just burn bridges. I felt it was safer to keep my mouth shut, that it was a no win situation. HR was pissed because I wouldn’t feed into her gossip machine. I wouldn’t tell her where I was going, what the salary I was making was, or why I was leaving the Hell Hole.

    Job #2 I stayed at for about 15 months. It was a good job, I liked the company but the work just wasn’t a good fit for me, I wasn’t interested in it and I knew it was something I’d never be passionate about. When the opportunity to go to my current company came up I jumped at it. I did the exit interview with one of the executives and told him I loved the company and it wasn’t anything personal in any way shape or form. My only criticism is that they needed to turn the dang heat up in there, it was like a freezer.

    I think exit interviews can have their place. However, if the environment is toxic like my first example, there really isn’t much point. Nobody is going to be honest and say why they’re truly leaving and nothing will ever change.

  61. Al who is that Al

    Our HR was at a different location, a whole mile away. So they sent me a 6 page 50 question document to fill in when I left, I had been there 3 months…. guess what didn’t get filled in

  62. BurnOutCandidate

    At my company, it’s commonly known that the top ten reasons given for departures in exit interviews are 1) below market pay and 2) a complete lack of career growth and advancement opportunities. And in talking to work friends who have left, HR gets really annoyed when these come up in the in-person exit interviews.

  63. ceiswyn

    If I feel comfortable sharing my reasons for leaving, then I have probably already shared them. If I don’t, then I’m not going to share them just because someone has set up a meeting with me.

    Speaking of setting up a meeting with me… I once left a company where my team was based in the UK, but HR was all based in the US. I told the HR team what my availability was, and what hours I could do IF GIVEN NOTICE. They consistently ignored this information, phoned me while I was driving home etc, and were surprised when I declined to seriously inconvenience myself just so that they could have an exit interview with me.

    The US office’s cavalier attitude to the UK office’s working hours was one of the reasons a number of people had already left…

  64. solar

    I gave one exit interview. From what I can tell (from friends still at the company), absolutely none of the feedback was taken. This is a small few-dozen person company where many people were leaving for the same reasons. I minorly regretted that interview. I made sure to keep it to a small number of points, without emotion, but it was time and effort into something completely pointless.

    It’s worth bringing up issues as they arise. If nothing is being done about those issues, causing you to leave, then it’s not worth giving an exit interview. If you’re leaving for issues unrelated to the company, send a one-line email and decline the interview.

  65. Clisby

    I’ve had only two exit interviews – both with the same employer. Neither was with my manager – that seems like a really weird thing to do. The first was with the director of our IT department. I was honest about things I thought could be improved, but had no personal gripes with anyone. I wasn’t leaving because I disliked the job; my husband and I had decided to move to a place about equidistant between our families so we could see mine more; he found a job, and I went along. About a year later I went back to work for my old employer, telecommuting, and worked there until I retired. I had a retirement exit interview, but don’t remember much about it. Again, I wasn’t retiring over something terrible. I was just tired of working.

  66. The Last Hoorah

    From the perspective of the employee, exit interviews are pointless with no upside, and IMO, one should never take that as an opportunity to vent, complain or tell the critical truth. If you must do an exit interview, please give bland, generic answers only. Many industries are small, and people know each other, and there is no point in risking some negative feedback getting out to the industry network. The exit interview is not the appropriate time to air grievances or to raise problems. Too late! You are leaving, so exit gracefully and professionally, without critique.

    I am hoping to have an exit interview soon! I am sure to enjoy coming up with answers that are meaningless and innocuous. Or maybe I will just decline the exit interview, as other commenters have recommended.

    In any event, when asked why I am leaving, I am going to say…

    “I want to spend more time with my cats.”
    (with a totally serious face)

  67. Sirah

    I had to do an exit interview for a job several years ago, and I’m very glad I did. I was not familiar with the concept before then. It was the only opportunity I had where I felt safe to expose my boss’s behavior, which is why I felt compelled to leave. I had been repeatedly told to “Go over your boss’s head” by my family, but like many people, I was nonetheless terrified of the repercussions. I finally got to tell someone at the company how she ruled through intimidation, pointedly gave me the silent treatment when I did something she didn’t like (going so far as to gaze in the direction opposite me when passing my desk), and told me point-blank to my face that she wanted to fire me because I was getting scheduled medical treatment every other week and apparently letting the whole office down. I felt like it was important that somebody know that that was her attitude, and I finally got to tell someone there at the company.

  68. boop the first

    I quit with nothing lined up, in order to ensure I could take my summer trip. The job was a bit of a mess, and I was just holding on to it because it sounded temporary. But the job just kept going indefinitely and I don’t actually want to be associated with it, the practices were so bad.

    But my boss is so controlling, that he would keep me after shift regularly just to talk over my decision to leave, to weave a story of me coming back after vacation, in order to create confusion. He lied to everyone that I wasn’t quitting at all. I am terrified about going back for the last check, because I know it’s going to be an Event where I have to endure harassment and confusion. I know I can just say “no thanks” and walk out, but I might still need a reference and he’s already known to be a chronic liar.

    I keep having nightmares where I go back to work by accident, realize that I promised myself I wouldn’t go back there, and have to sneak out without the boss finding me! Aaah!

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