how can I get out of doing an exit interview when I leave?

A reader writes:

I’m hopefully giving my notice very soon and looking for advice on how to decline an exit interview with my boss’s boss. I haven’t had a one-on-one conversation with this person in the five years I’ve been at my job. We’re a small team of fewer than 20 people, so I am sort of of the opinion that she should just schedule annual one-on-ones with everyone anyway, since there are a few folks on the team who don’t get direct interaction with her on a regular basis. I think that would help both junior employees, and more senior employees like myself who are sort of stuck in the middle.

Based on prior colleagues leaving, I know she is polite but a bit gaslighty in exit interviews, and I genuinely do not want to go have an awkward conversation when I should be working on transitioning and wrapping up work.

Thoughts on how to politely decline? They won’t be involved in a reference for me in the future, so I’m not terribly worried about that, but I don’t want to be rude or disrespectful to a colleague.

You can try, but you might not be able to get out of it, at least not if you’re trying to keep things amicable.

You can try saying, “I don’t think I have anything useful to raise, and I’m so swamped with transition stuff I need to finish before I go — could we skip it, and I’ll let you know if I do think of anything that might be useful?”

You can also try not being responsive enough about it. If she asks you to put something on her calendar, you can forget to do that. If she asks you more directly, you can say you will check your calendar and propose a time and then just … not.

That might work! She might not be committed enough to doing it that she bothers chasing you down for it. But if she does push it, the path of least resistance is usually to just do the meeting and keep things vague. You don’t have to be candid; you can decline to give specific feedback, and give bland/neutral answers to her questions: you’ve enjoyed your time there, are leaving because you got an offer you couldn’t refuse, have no complaints and can’t think of any suggestions, blah blah blah. She’s not going to give you truth serum, after all — you can give answers that are devoid of real substance and call it done.

That’s not to say that people should always approach it that way! In some cases there can be value to giving honest feedback in exit interviews — to a point, at least — but it’s completely legitimate to decide you don’t want to spend energy on it and just spiritually opt out of the process, even if you have to sit through the meeting itself.

{ 145 comments… read them below }

  1. Trout 'Waver*

    Just go do it and be as bland as possible. I know it can be anxiety-inducing to think about, but the boss is going to forget about it by the next day.

    1. Godbert*

      Facts. Particularly if the boss is so unbothered normally that they don’t even know who you are.

      1. sacados*

        I do wonder if that might be one thing that LW could raise …
        Just something like “It’s so unfortunate that our first time getting to chat like this is when I’m moving on … You know, I really would have appreciated getting to have some sort of annual 1:1 with you– if that’s something you’d have the time to implement in the future I’m sure everyone, especially the junior employees, would benefit from it.”

        Has the benefit of being true, and maybe gives enough of a (light, nonthreatening) topic to take up the majority of the time and make it go by a bit quicker.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I did that in my exit interview (“yeah, I think the only thing I’d mention is that I haven’t found the monthly meeting schedule quite as useful as it could have been— it’s great for XYZ conversations, but I feel like we’re still lacking a place for talking about ABC”) and got ten minutes of justification for the meeting, so after that I just said, “well, OK, do you have any particular questions for me?” and since she didn’t we left it there.

          It made me feel very vindicated in not having prepared any more substantive feedback, at least.

            1. Sunflower*

              But also, if you’re not dependent on a reference, you could give real critiques and when they start making excuses, just call it out for what it is. Might be more stressful than OP is up for, but it might be refreshing.

        2. Anne of Green Gables*

          I was coming here to say exactly this. If you end up not being able to get out of it, bringing up your point about annual one-on-ones with everyone since it’s a small staff is a good way to have one specific thing to point to that you feel could actually do some good, but it’s also low stakes enough that if boss doesn’t like it, well, that’s fine.

        3. HonorBox*

          I think this is a great idea. I mentioned at the end of an internship years ago, at a lunch with the grandboss, that I wished I’d have had more opportunity to do ‘x’ while I was there. I was in the first pool of interns this company had, and it wasn’t something they’d even considered, though the grandboss definitely welcomed the idea. While it isn’t the exact same situation, saying something did open the eyes of the person who could affect change going forward.

        4. Bruce*

          Yes, one of the things I like about my new VP and my new boss is that they both do level-skipping 1-1 meetings, and they listen. I just hope they don’t burn out before I retire…

      2. CommanderBanana*

        LOL, I will never forget the CEO of an association where I worked “welcoming me to the organization” in the elevator…I had been there five years and we had fewer than 100 employees.

        1. sometimeswhy*

          This happened to me with my own grandboss at ten years. She stuck out her hand and introduced herself and I gave myself a split second to decide if I was going to make it weird. Reader, I made it weird.

        1. Throwaway Account*

          This! Ask who the CEO is and why you are meeting.

          Honestly, it is just not worth saying anything (unless you want to have fun and ask who they are). You already know your org and it can only hurt you, not help you (or anyone else).

      3. Mmm.*

        I love that they demand an exit interview when you leave but give you a hard time about asking for one when they tell you to leave without telling you why!

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Agreed. Check out mentally 15 minutes before the meeting, go through the motions and let her hear what she wants to hear, and pick back up preparing for the new job as soon as the time is up.

    3. OrdinaryJoe*

      This … bland, boring, nothing to gas light you on. She doesn’t care either, everyone is just checking boxes and keeping those above them happy.

    4. OMG, Bees!*

      I see an exit interview as a chance to be as brutally honest as you want, especially since OP states she doesn’t need them as a reference.

      At the very least, mention the lack of meetings with the boss’s boss for 5 year and how that could help, since that seemed to be an issue.

      1. ferrina*

        Maybe, but it sounds like LW doesn’t want to put the emotional energy into it. Especially since she’d be talking to someone who has been known to be “gaslighty”. That takes emotional energy. Being boring and uninvested often helps minimize the emotional energy that these people sap from you.

        1. Smithy*

          This 100% – I used to have a very shouty boss who openly would say that she wished I’d shout back at her. Essentially, she was looking for that kind of “sparing” dynamic.

          Over time, I learned that I actually was far far happier the less I engaged. She had made it very clear she wasn’t apparently mad or upset at me enough to fire me, this was just her style of communication – so I wasn’t going to take the time or energy to get upset back at her. The basics of thinking of a smart, snarky or even thoughtful comeback to someone trying to be mean, is a lot more work than going along with it.

          As a 5 days a week work dynamic, of course this is terrible and not recommended. However, for a 15-30 min exit interview done once, it might surprise you how much easier that approach can be.

      2. Throwaway Account*

        It is only a chance to leave a bad impression (especially if you are as brutally honest as you want). You never know when someone will be in a position to hire or fire you down the road.

    5. Goldenrod*

      “Just go do it and be as bland as possible.”

      Exactly! They can force you to go through the motions, but no one can force you to be authentic.

      Also works for team building exercises and “sharing” at work. There’s no law against “sharing” in the most bland way possible!

    6. Momma Bear*

      If you know how they tend to be, then just plan to refute anything worth doing and if not, just gray rock your way through it. You’re on your way out.

      “The sky is purple.”

      “It’s blue, but I don’t intend to argue the color of the sky today. Thank you, I think we are done here.”

    7. NicaB*

      This – my company went through a time they wanted to do exit interviews to figure out why people were leaving in droves (the reasons were obvious -they didn’t want to see it). People had NO interest in doing them – basically they didn’t want to talk to these employees while they were employees so why would these people put any time or effort into an exit interview when they’re leaving anyway?

      So, they’d either “forget” to schedule the meeting, “forget” or “be too busy tying things up” if the meeting was scheduled or just ignore the entire thing. Eventually HR got the message and stopped all this exit interview nonsense.

  2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    ABET’s first law: When somebody asks you a rude, personal, or otherwise inappropriate question, you’re under no obligation to respond truthfully.

    So go, answer noncommittally or blandly, dissemble and conceal where necessary.

      1. Goldenrod*

        Me too, but mine is in the form of a resolution: “Be inauthentic at work.”

        Learned that one the hard way.

    1. Sunflower*

      You’re also not bound by the parameters of the question. You can respond with a non-sequiteur, tangent, or other question.

    2. No Longer Working*

      I googled this acronym and am only coming up with engineering accreditation. What is ABET’s meaning here please?

  3. Sparkles McFadden*

    Someone who has never bothered to meet with you in the last five years probably isn’t very invested in doing so now. That means if it’s up to you to schedule it just don’t do that. If she talks to you about scheduling this, say “Are you sure you have the time?” and she’ll probably take the out. If you do get roped into it, be bland, boring, and brief.

    1. Antilles*

      I agree.
      Ever have those conversations with a friend-of-a-friend where it ends with a vague politeness of “let’s catch up sometime”…then it never happens because neither of you is motivated enough to actually schedule it?
      I’m guessing that’s exactly what will happen here if OP leaves the scheduling/planning up to the woman who hasn’t cared enough to spend 15 minutes on a one-on-one at any point in the past half decade.

    2. Malarkey01*

      I don’t know if I agree with that. She said they haven’t had any one on ones in 5 years. I have never had one on one skip level meetings with those 2 levels down from me unless there was a major issue with the manager, but I do think a skip level as an exit interview would be helpful.

      I’m a little surprised with the idea of skip level one on ones annually with a team of 20. I’m used to doing quarterly team check ins and then more regular working meetings or annual check ins (again we’re talking about a grand boss here)

    3. Addison DeWitt*

      Exactly, Sparkles. If they didn’t listen to you when they were paying for your insight, they sure won’t now.

    4. So they all cheap-ass rolled over and one fell out*

      When I left my last job our terrible HR director said she wanted an exit interview, I just said sure thing, send me a meeting request. I was pretty sure she would never follow up (not sticking with her promises being one of her faults), and she didn’t. If she had I would have answered with platitudes and vagaries (since one of the exceptions to the previous fault is if she could find a way to throw someone under a bus).

  4. Zach*

    Your mileage may vary, so if your company is vindictive you might want to go through the exit interview to cover your butt, but I know of tons of people who have simply declined or totally skipped their exit interview and nothing bad happened.

    1. Zach*

      I don’t know why I said “tons”- that’s probably not accurate- but I know multiple people that have done that.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      YES! It’s just the right phrase, and I’ve been doing it for years. I don’t need to care about this? I will not care about it.

  5. Beth*

    If it’s just an awkward conversation, I’d personally suck it up and spend half an hour giving bland answers. That’s a low lift use of 30 minutes, and if the higher-ups consider that more important than you spending those 30 minutes on wrap-up/transition activities, that’s their choice. I’d say something different if you thought this was likely to be an intensely miserable or abusive interaction, but a little awkwardness is low-stakes enough that getting out of it is likely to be a bigger deal than just playing along.

    1. Aquamarine*

      This was my thought. Just going through with the meeting sounds like it would require less energy than trying to avoid it. “A little gaslighty” doesn’t sound great to be sure, but it doesn’t sound like she’s truly horrible to deal with, so I think I would just do it.

      And even if she’s never going to be a formal reference, you never know when your name might come up. Might as well try to leave things on a fairly positive note, even if you haven’t had many interactions with her before this.

  6. KHB*

    I don’t have any experience having exit interviews with gaslighty managers, so there may be an obvious answer that I’m missing, but: It sounds from your first paragraph that you have specific, actionable feedback for this person, so I’m not sure I understand why you’d want to go out of your way to avoid giving it to her. She can act on it, or not, as she chooses, but that part isn’t your problem anymore.

    1. Snow Globe*

      If this person is truly “gaslighty” then if the LW brings up the lack of 1 on 1 meetings, the response could be something like “what do you mean? You and I had a lunch meeting together this past June.” That kind of response can be so frustrating, I can understand why someone would want to avoid the conversation altogether.

    2. bamcheeks*

      Speaking from experience of having done that recently: it’s VERY tedious when you give a super mild, constructively-framed feedback, and get ten minutes of Why You’re Wrong And What You Don’t Understand in response.

      1. Ashley*

        On the upside when I sat through that it reminded me exactly why I was leaving. I didn’t expect actual change to come, but I did say my piece professionally. Plus on one topic where I think they opened themselves to huge liability (and generally encouraging unsafe behavior) I will happily seek out and testify for the defense and reference even pointing out X behavior was bound to happen if change didn’t happen.

      2. KHB*

        Speaking from (lots of!) experience getting replies like that in other contexts (I’m an editor), my standard response is “You asked me what I think (or ‘my job here is to tell you what I think’). So I’ve told you what I think.” Then be silent.

        From there, if they want to take up the rest of their valuable time with me arguing that I’m wrong rather than listening to what I have to say, that’s on them, I guess.

      3. Nel*

        Oof, yes. This was my experience at my most recent exit interview (which was not what grand-boss called it on the invite). “Our workload has increased significantly without additional compensation.” “Oh, my numbers show that isn’t right; actually you’ve been *less* busy.” “In nine years with the company, I’ve only had a raise twice.” “… and?” I was honest, and there were no repercussions, but it was definitely pointless.

      4. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        I’m fond of this reply to crap like that: “That has not been my experience.” You can argue with my opinion all you want, but you can’t argue with my lived experience.

    3. Generic Name*

      People who are gaslighty also tend to not take feedback all that well, in my experience.

  7. Sara without an H*

    The ability to make bland, content-free conversation is a useful skill in many, many situations, both professional and social.

    Your grandboss may be willing to skip the meeting if you tell her you don’t have any specific comments. If she wants to go through with it, just make general conversation for 15-20 minutes, then say you want to be respectful of her time and wrap it up.

    Good luck in your new position.

    1. BRR*

      Exactly. Unless there’s more to it than what’s in the letter, I think the lw should just fake their way through. It doesn’t sound that bad and sometimes you just have to do things you don’t want to do.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      “The ability to make bland, content-free conversation is a useful skill in many, many situations, both professional and social.”

      “How about those Orioles? Looking pretty good this year! What do you think the Ravens will do this year?”

      This works for nearly any setting, from the bus stop to the board room.

      1. Generic Name*

        Exactly. There’s a reason why “the weather” is a perennial topic of conversation. I know people who take pride in hating small talk and claim to be above it, but I really don’t want to know about your gross medical conditions or your trauma if I just met you.

        1. Sunflower*

          ^^Yes. People who think they’re above small talk are worse at conversation, not better. And you’re not deeper than other people just because you force deeper topics in inappropriate contexts.

          1. Sebastian*

            Eh, I don’t disagree that the ability to make small talk is a useful skill, but not having it doesn’t equate to enforced intimacy. There are plenty of topics more interesting than the weather or sports that you don’t follow that aren’t inappropriately personal.

            As I understand it, the main purpose of small talk is to give strangers the opportunity to indicate what they’re actually interested in in a roundabout manner, but no-one has ever explained what benefit it provides over asking ‘Are you interested in any of theatre/cooking/running/theology/choral or folk music/science fiction/linguistics’ at which point you can either have a conversation on a subject which interests you both, or acknowledge that you have literally nothing in common and depending on the situation pull out a book or go and talk to someone else rather than being bored.

            1. amoeba*

              I’d absolutely consider those topics small talk though! Books you read, good hikes in the area, hobbies, as well as holiday plans, your garden, whatever… and yes, occasionally the weather, too, especially if it’s very hot or cold, it does come up organically!

              Maybe it’s a question of definition? To be honest, I don’t really distinguish between “small” and “big” talk so much, it’s more a matter of which topics (how personal) might be appropriate in a given context, but the general shape is the same…

  8. Going Against The Flow*

    I once had a glorious exit interview. I knew it would not change things. I knew it could come back to haunt me , but it felt wonderful.
    I used straightforward, clear language and shown a light on all the issues and broken stairs that no one would talk about (or if they did were ignored). As petty it sounds taking away plausible deniability from management brought me much joy.
    Will I regret it someday, perhaps but not today.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      See, I think this is fine! If you go into it with your eyes open about what is/isn’t likely to result from it and any potential consequences to you, and you still feel it’s worth doing it, by all means do.

      1. Rainbow*

        I did this at my last job, and I was by no means alone in that. I didn’t expect it to make a difference for any of my friends still there, but it was yet another piece of evidence that they may one day choose to stop ignoring. The affable but useless dept head told me in a friendly way not to burn any bridges, because you never know, maybe you’ll be back some day. I tried very hard not to make my face say “not if you were the one company keeping me from death itself”, and I’m not convinced I succeeded.

        The one before that, I just gave an extremely nondescript exit interview despite being miserable there. Like, “nope, no reason I’m leaving – just time to move on!” “But you’ve been here less than a year?” “As I say, time to move on!” Lucky I’ve only had those two jobs that were not enjoyable.

        1. Sleeping Sun*

          Just did that. I entered the meeting prepared to just give bland noncommittal responses but 10 minutes before the actual interview while I was signing paperwork the HR person told me that the company only verifies dates of employment, and since I am not using my manager as a reference in the future I decided to be completely honest (less than a year as a Director for my team and it was enough time for him to completely change how the rest of the company see us, and not in a good way).

          Will it change things? I doubt it, but they can’t say that nobody told them.

    2. DramaQ*

      I did that with my last job too. You’re making me do this, you want honest answers you got it! I made sure to have my husband and a couple other trusted people read my answers to ensure I didn’t sound like a crazy person but I was brutally honest. I said everything everyone else wanted to say and some people did say it on Glassdoor already. I know people who still work there, I changed nothing but apparently I really put a bee in my bully’s bonnet with my exit interview. They made her have a conference with her boss, the owner and HR over some stuff I said about her. So that alone made it worth it. It is unlikely to come back to haunt me because I didn’t say anything defamatory about anyone I stuck 100% to the facts and I wouldn’t work there again if it was the last company on Earth.

    3. bamcheeks*

      I had a glorious one with HR once. They had a bunch of standard questions that the guy asked in a fairly bored tone of voice, (“Have you had regular one to one meetings with your manager?”), obviously expecting really straightforward, tickbox answers, and when I said, “No, I had one when I came back from maternity leave. That was eight months ago. I came to the London office especially, on the day my boss told me to, but my boss hadn’t actually scheduled it in calendar so he spoke to me for fifteen minutes to tell me how busy he is and that’s the last time I spoke to him.” HR dude looked horrified, and ended up writing so much in response to all his standard questions he filled all his boxes and had to start writing sideways in the margins.

      My boss moved on a couple of months later, and I whilst I wasn’t the only person who had an exit interview in that time (4/8 staff left in the same 3 months), I like to think I made a substantial contribution.

    4. Saturday night fever*

      Just hope that someday doesn’t come too soon! I had two different people just last year decide very shortly after leaving that the grass isn’t always greener and wanted to come back. Problem is, they both literally burned the bridge down on their way out the door. Which they were perfectly within their rights to do. But if there is any possibility that you might ever want to return, be very careful in how you word the answers in your exit interview! You can be construtive and diplomatic without blowing it all up. In fact, employers are usually looking for general constructive feedback and not so much needing to know every little policy you disagreed with or every time your boss pissed you off. Or like others have stated here, they are just trying to check a box and not that interested in what you have to say (unfortunately).

  9. Goldie*

    I’ve never had an annual one on one with a grand boss as a protocol. As a grand boss myself I don’t mind meeting with people getting their input, etc. but meeting with them annually seems like micromanagy. Having a one on one with extra 20 people a year is a lot.

    1. Rainbow*

      Once a year isn’t micromanaging. It’s keeping your finger on the pulse and being friendly to your colleagues. Micromanaging is telling people what to do, not asking them what they want.

      Idk, it’s very normal in my industry. At my last job, the big boss didn’t do that and everyone was really very salty about it. I actually knew the guy previously and was super excited to be working with him – until I realized he wasn’t into cooperation at all.

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        I’ve been encouraging my boss to meet with my reports quarterly. We don’t necessarily manage that often, but it’s a good time for him to get feedback about me/the job overall that people wouldn’t necessarily say to my face, and also hopefully makes him more of a person than just Big Boss Who Is Intimidating When You Broke A Thing.

        That said, he doesn’t have 20 grand-reports — 80 extra 1:1s a year would be A LOT.

      2. That's 'Senior Engineer Mate' to you.*

        This. The one decent exit interview I had could possibly have been avoided if the CEO had ever spoken to me. Instead he grabbed me on my last day and we had an hour or so going over the performance of my department, his concerns about that and his plans to find out just how bad things were. He was not happy to discover that my departure had been telegraphed and that the problems he was concerned about were not as bad as the problems I told him about.

        Then a month or so later I got an email from my former manager saying he’d been fired and the department disbanded “because of what you told the CEO”, so he was no longer willing to act as a referee! I’d never used him as a referee because I feared his incompetence would come through in a phone call and I’d be tarred with the same brush.

    2. Aquamarine*

      I’ve never had them either. I don’t think I would find them micromanagy, but I also wouldn’t be expecting them.

    3. MicroManagered*

      I don’t think an annual 1:1 with your grandboss is necessarily micromanage-y but I also don’t think it would accomplish much.

      What topics would you discuss with your grandboss in that annual meeting? They probably can’t answer day-to-day questions about your job any day, but certainly not once a year. So it would be a superficial handshake-y type of meeting… about the same as that exit interview OP wants to get out of!

    4. miss_chevious*

      At my last two places of employment, we have done them quarterly, not annually. It’s a half hour, so in this instance would be 10 additional hours a year, if they did do them annually.

    5. amoeba*

      My grandboss (and thus my team’s grand-grandboss, our VP) comes by the labs every few months to make the rounds and chat to people – not everybody every time, but definitely often enough to feel approachable and for people to know him. He also tries to join our department breakfast in the break room every few months and joins and contributes to our virtual scientific meetings. I think it’s great and a bit lower key than scheduling 1:1 meetings with everybody!

      My boss does the annual salary talk with everybody (so, his direct reports but also our teams), to give him an opportunity to quickly check in with everybody. Apart from this, he’s in regular contact with people for organisational stuff, anyway – I don’t think anybody regularly goes more than a few weeks without at least a chat with him.

      Cannot really imagine working somewhere where I don’t even talk to my grandboss at least once a year!

  10. Jarissa*

    If you wind up having to attend, can you flip it into interviewing her? Who knows, she might be delighted to tell you about what she thinks about career management, where she’s worked before, what she considers to be reasonable next steps, what her earliest memory is of her time with this company, and whatever is the true story of the rumored Mashed Potato Incident.

    And then, oh gosh, look at the time. I’m so glad to have had this chance to get a retrospective with you, thank you for the opportunity! Best of luck with the Llama Reports.

  11. Something Wicked This Way Comes*

    My favorite exit interview. I had been working at a part time job and the company changed it to full time. They offered me the new full time position but I was unable to accept, so I was laid off. At my exit interview, the HR person asked “Why are you leaving” and I answered “Because you laid me off!!”

    1. Mark This Confidential and Leave It Laying Around*

      I had one of those. Bizarre. Reason for leaving: half the department was cut. My respect for HR has been none too high since.

  12. RNL*

    Ahhhh – I have performed many exit interviews, and legitimately actually used the results to create positive change! So I’m all “tell your grandboss you think she should be more connected with people at your level! That’s good feedback!” But I appreciate that it may not be a good idea in every circumstance.

    I find it wild when people doing exit interviews argue or push back on the feedback. Why are you trying to change the mind of a person who is leaving?? The point is to get candid feedback and information! So shut up, nod and hmm and ask good follow up questions! If you think they are wrong, keep that to yourself – you can roll your eyes later.

    In my former work life I was a litigator, so I guess asking questions undefensively and modulating my reactions in order to elicit further details and candor is part of my skill set, but holy moly it’s wild to me that someone would bother to do an exit interview and use it to argue with a departing employee.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Right? Active listening and unconditional positive regard are two of the key cornerstones of my professional training too, and they are SO USEFUL. My last grand-manager would talk about how she was a great listener but you could always see she was marshalling her arguments for why you were wrong and she was right. For me, it was frustrating; for some of the people in my team it was really upsetting and stressful (she would do it in mediation-type settings where people were genuinely upset and emotional) and it was a major part of why I left.

  13. Lacey*

    It will be totally fine to be vague about it. I had a lot of complaints about a previous job, but gave very generic answers in the exit interview bc I felt so on the spot.

  14. Shandra*

    I told an exit interviewer there was nothing I could say, that the two management levels immediately above me didn’t already know.

  15. Ann O'Nemity*

    Yep! If I can avoid badmouthing your employer in an interview for a new job, I can do the same in an exit interview.

  16. NotRealAnonForThis*

    Depending on your boss, definitely “not be responsive enough” while being perfectly polite is a good option. Boss at OldJob politely mentioned that “we’ll have to do a sit down before you leave”. “Great idea, let me know when would be best for you?” I mean, who am I to tell a VP level when they’re going to do an exit interview?

    Know what never happened? Yeah. He never bothered.

  17. Not a Real Giraffe*

    I’ve done two exit interviews. One was after the team had experienced 100% turnover and I was the last one leaving. The department director was genuinely so baffled about what had happened, so I was polite and professional, but very VERY honest. I could see the lightbulb switch on at various points of that conversation, and I’ve heard through the grapevine that large-scale, sweeping changes were made about a year after we all left.

    The second one was a little bit gaslighty. They asked why I was leaving and what my biggest challenges were and, because I had a great relationship with the team, answered honestly at first. I got a lot of “you never told us that was happening” or “you never mentioned that was a problem,” even when there are documented instances of me doing just that. About a quarter of the way through the interview, I realized what I had to say would have no effect on the future of the firm, so I switched the bland, dull responses.

    All that’s to say: YMMV. You need to know who you’re speaking with, the history of the relationship, how they’ve responded to feedback in the past, etc. You’re welcome to offer the one tangible piece of feedback (annual 1:1s) you think they should hear, and then decide to be bland after that!

  18. Anonymouse*

    AAM has recent stories of people being hired and the people showing up at work being two different people.

    You know where I am going.

    Have someone else show up for your exit interview.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        I bet we can sub it out for 25% of the going rate….

        (I’ll see myself out now)

    1. Parenthesis Guy*

      I think it’s definitely time to create a human staffing firm out of Atlanta to handle exit interviews for these situations.

    2. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      THIS!! This is the job I was born to do! Oh, thank you, Anonymouse. Imma hang my shingle tomorrow!

  19. LemonToast*

    I agree with being very bland and vague in your answers if you are unable to get out of doing the exit interview. I left a job early in my career where the director was a nightmare, and after 2 years I got another job. This organization didn’t normally do exit interviews, but they cornered me and asked why I was leaving. The honest answer would have been, “Because you are a raging narcissist, a terrible manager, and the pay here is so low it’s laughable”, but the answer I gave was I was just early in my career and looking for some different opportunities, and also a workplace closer to home. Those things were both true, but super boring. I kept repeating those lines when they asked more questions. So go Grey Rock! It’s the best method with things like this. This organization was very much “in a bubble” and I didn’t have the energy to be honest, especially knowing it would be useless.

    More background, if anyone cares:
    – When asked why we don’t have regular performance reviews, this boss told us “it’s so no one will think it’s okay to ask for a raise.”
    – I was regularly asked when I was going to quit my job and have kids (being a young feminine-presenting person).
    – We were told it hurt our boss’ feelings when we “rushed out the door at the end of the day to go home”. So they made a rule saying we couldn’t leave “in a hurry” and had to hang around a little while so they wouldn’t feel bad. Unpaid, of course.
    – We were told people would “kill” to get a job at this place, and derided for being ungrateful when we said we didn’t want to stay past business hours without getting compensated for our time.
    – if we thought we might be late due to traffic, we were required to call the boss WHILE DRIVING and talk to them personally to let them know we were stuck in traffic. We were not allowed to leave a voicemail, we had to talk to them. So it might mean calling multiple times in a row.
    – This rule also applied to calling out sick – it didn’t matter if we were violently ill, we were required to talk to the boss and not leave a voicemail (and we had to describe the illness). We were also not allowed to call any earlier than 7am, so we had to wake up to call them.

    Good times!

    1. Not Bob*

      “We were told it hurt our boss’ feelings when we “rushed out the door at the end of the day to go home”. So they made a rule saying we couldn’t leave “in a hurry” and had to hang around a little while so they wouldn’t feel bad. Unpaid, of course.”

      What the f*cking f*ck?

      1. LemonToast*

        Yep not making that up – this organization definitely had that “sacrifice your soul to us” mentality. They expected unending loyalty and enthusiasm, and many of the higher-ups had a hard time understanding that not everyone wanted to devote all their time and lives to working there.

    2. The OG Sleepless*

      I worked at a place like that. My exit interview was a sudden, ad hoc conversation the boss started with me in a common area of the office with a support staffer standing right there (who, as it happened, knew much more about how I felt about that place than the boss ever did). I mentioned a couple of things they already knew about: a medium-sized part of my job was a task I happened to detest and never plan on doing again, ever, and a piece of equipment that I consider essential to doing my job in the 21st century was never, ever going to appear. I didn’t mention the management style that treated us all like wayward children and that I was way, way too old for.

    3. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      “So, when are you going to quit and have children?”
      1. “Are you volunteering to be the father?” wink wink
      2. “Oh, I’ve been having babies since I was thirteen; I sell them to rich couples. It’s a nice side hustle.”
      3. “When are YOU going to quit and marry a nineteen year old trophy wife?”
      4. “Probably about the same time you finally realize that women aren’t baby ovens but actual people.”
      5. “In three and a half years — my brother will be eighteen by then.”

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        6. “Oh, no need to quit. I’ll just pop them out at my desk and keep on working!”

    4. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      “We were told people would “kill” to get a job at this place, and derided for being ungrateful when we said we didn’t want to stay past business hours without getting compensated for our time.”

      My response: Well, you must be desperate to retain us then, since the people looking to take our jobs if we leave are all apparently homicidal!

  20. Not Bob*

    Once I declined an exit interview, and gave as reason that I didn’t feel ready for said interview. The truth was that I was leaving a toxic hell of misogyny, and I absolutely didn’t want to give the HR-Person who defended my bullies another chance to be mean to me yet again.

    I guess that my response would be too much for your situation.

  21. zinzarin*

    “I haven’t had a one-on-one conversation with this person in the five years I’ve been at my job. We’re a small team of fewer than 20 people, so I am sort of of the opinion that she should just schedule annual one-on-ones with everyone….”

    If I were in your shoes, I don’t think I could resist pointing this out as my reason for declining the exit interview: “I’ve been here five years and I’ve never had a one-on-one conversation with you. I fail to see how a conversation *now* could be really do much; I’d much rather have had a more effective conversation *during* my tenure here. Instead of doing an exit interview with *me* now, why don’t you schedule a first round of annual one-on-ones with the *remaining* staff? I’m sure they’d have more interesting things to say.”

    1. Malarkey01*

      I may be out of norms here, but are annual skip level one on ones really common for people? In every job I’ve been in or managed, one on ones with grand bosses are pretty unusual (especially with a team of 20 and a functional manager between you).

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Yeah, I don’t have one on ones with my grandboss. Although, he certainly knows who I am and we have had many conversations over the years.

    2. Aquamarine*

      Or she could give that feedback (that she would have liked an occasional one-on-one) in the exit interview. I think the whole purpose is that she’s in a position to say that now when she didn’t feel like she could in the 5 years she worked there, and her current coworkers probably don’t feel like they can either.

      I don’t actually find the lack of one-on-ones with a boss’s boss that unusual in my experience – I’ve never had them.

  22. Happy*

    During an exit interview many moons ago, my boss asked why I was leaving. I answered truthfully, “Because you well and curse at people.” She was not happy! But I didn’t need her reference and it sure felt good.

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      Yeah I once told a boss that I was leaving because she told me I made too much money to be trained–that I’d need to train myself– at the same time as telling me I wasn’t meeting her expectations. Her response was to laugh and say, “I did?!”.

  23. Generic Name*

    Do the exit interview, and lie with a smile on your face. :) I recently left my last company because there was an incident that was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and I was searingly angry about it. I got another job, worked my notice period, and offered some bland feedback during the exit interview. There was A LOT I left unsaid, but I’m welcome back in the future (ha ha ha ha), and I will have a positive reference. I won’t lie. It was very difficult, but if you can’t get out of the interview, just fake it.

  24. Maple Leaf*

    Take this with a truck load of sarcasm:
    You could schedule it late in the day, say 3:30 pm, and then go home sick around 10:15 am.
    Food for thought lol

  25. Marna Nightingale*

    If it fits your style and vernacular, there’s nothing to lose by just saying “If I felt like talking about reasons I’m leaving would do any good, I wouldn’t be leaving.”

    Honestly the only reason to engage is if you think that the issues you would raise might improve things for your former co-workers and you like them enough to make the effort. If she’s gaslighty, that probably sadly doesn’t apply.

  26. el l*

    As they say in Texas, “If you can’t be kind, be vague.”

    Look, here’s all this exit interview is:

    1. 30 minutes of being as bland as possible
    2. Letting slide the odd microaggression.
    3. Ideally, if there’s feedback which can be given as to fixable items like whether you’re being paid at the market rate or any easy-to-fix items. (The ideal frequently doesn’t happen)

    That’s it. Is it possible that this meeting is being built up too much?

  27. John*

    Worst case boss’s boss gets defensive and tries to turn something around in you.

    Cut them off. “Hey, you asked and that’s been my experience and I know you wanted me to be forthcoming. What you do with it is up to you. Now, does it make sense to continue?”

  28. Sense*

    Give very banal, detail-light answers if you can’t avoid doing the exit interview altogether. Good luck!

  29. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    “Sure, I’d be happy to do the interview on my last day. Do you have any particular questions you plan to ask so I can be thinking about it?”

    Let them do the scheduling, plan to have some visible chaos on your desk that you can point to as something you’ll have to finish up, and put all of the burden of thinking about the content of the meeting on them.

  30. KatKatKatKat*

    LW: If you have an interview, say this: ” I am sort of of the opinion that she should just schedule annual one-on-ones with everyone anyway, since there are a few folks on the team who don’t get direct interaction with her on a regular basis. I think that would help both junior employees, and more senior employees like myself who are sort of stuck in the middle.”

    1. KatKatKatKat*

      It’s genuinely good and helpful feedback! You don’t have to say it, but think of it as a kindness you’re doing for the junior employees.

  31. Addison DeWitt*

    “Why are you leaving?”

    “If you don’t know by now, I don’t know what else to tell you.”

  32. Arden Windermere*

    I had an exit interview for a company that had a lot of problems but I also knew HR probably wouldn’t handle and feedback well and my manager would be vindictive if I ever needed a reference. I knew I couldn’t get out of it, so I turned it into a kind of game for myself so I could keep a positive attitude during the meeting. My goal was to tell them as little as possible. I know they really wanted to know where I was going, so when they asked I just said “not too far.” It probably would have felt good to let loose all my thoughts but it wasn’t too bad to feel like I had won the game I had created for myself.

  33. Jade*

    You don’t have to beat around the bush or play games. You can kindly say “Thank you so much for the opportunity to work here. I prefer to skip the exit interview” if they ask.

    1. Not Me*

      Right? Lol. “How dare she skip her exit interview! She is never going to work here again! As a matter of fact, go leave her a message telling her she’s fired!”

  34. Maisonneuve*

    I really find it hard to see exit interviews as anything more than checkbox exercises managers think good managers do. Even a grandboss should have a sense of the mood snd struggles in a their team and what might drive people away. If not, they should be finding out.

    Also, what’s the motivation for the company to address issues raised in exit interviews when the complainer is leaving anyway? Ask me for my perspective when improvements could benefit me.

    Of course not everyone leaves a job because they hate it. There are good companies. But even then, what’s the point of the exit? Let the person wrap up in peace and make sure the person can properly hand over their files.

  35. Johannes Bols*

    To the LW who doesn’t wish to do the exit interview. If you can’t get out of it, consider playing really dumb. If they ask you some specific question, pause for a long time (passive aggressive is good here), and then… just you’re not really sure how to answer that. Do that a few times. They’ll conclude the interview soon enough.

  36. Millie*

    I once declined an exit interview at a place where there was rampant bullying, sexism and toxicity (my then-manager was later fired for sexual harassment) by saying that I had been going through a lot of stress and needed to protect my health from talking about things further. The people team couldn’t really push back against that.

  37. JTP*

    Not really advice for the OP, but is it normal for grand-bosses or above to schedule 1-on-1s? I have every-other-week 1-on-1s with my direct boss, but never with HIS boss, and it would never occur to me to expect this.

  38. Michelle Smith*

    Only one prior employer I’ve ever had engaged in “exit interviews.” They got so sloppy with them by the end of my time there that when it came my turn, I got a link to a survey to fill out that was hard to read because it was so riddled with typos. One of the incomprehensible questions was even repeated. I was so annoyed and disrespected by their lack of even pretending to care about collecting feedback that I just closed the browser window and never thought about it again until now.

    1. Michelle Smith*

      Oh and I still received my check for my unused vacation time. So no repercussions for my refusal.

  39. Kim*

    When I used to distribute exit questionnaires, I honesty wanted to hear what the former employee had to say about the organization (and why they were leaving). I would bring any topic they mentioned to the managers and CEO if I thought there was something we could change to improve company operations and elevate the morale of the remaining personnel. Whether or not changes were implemented, I felt it was a tool worth using.

  40. Charlie*

    Greatest exit interview I ever heard about was from one of my former co-workers.

    “This is the greatest place I’ve ever worked. I don’t know why I’m leaving.”

    Ending the conversation in 30 seconds.

  41. Jen*

    I would just say “no thank you” and outright refuse to schedule something. If you have to give back a keycard, sign paperwork, etc, I would just ask who in HR is the appropriate person.

  42. Shelly Smith*

    I think you should say exactly what you said in your question here in a polite way. I’m very busy wrapping things up and as I haven’t had a one-on-one conversation with you in the five years I’ve been at my job, I think my time is best spent focusing on the tasks that need my attention before I leave. If she pushes go to the interview and provide the info that it’s small team of fewer than 20 people, and that you are of the opinion that she should schedule annual one-on-ones with everyone, since there are a few folks on the team who don’t get direct interaction with her on a regular basis. And that you think that would help both junior employees, and more senior employees like myself who were sort of stuck in the middle. If you’re not relying on them for a referral, then there is no harm in being direct and truthful. Nothing you’ve stated is rude in any way. And sometimes upper management could use a dose of reality.

  43. rebelwithmouseyhair*

    Exit interviews are not a thing here, but if you are fired or made redundant you are legally required to have an interview where they explain the reasons and what exactly will be happening (because the process is long and involved).
    This has only ever happened once to me, and at the end the person leading the meeting asked whether I had any comments to make. I said that the whole thing had been very painful to me (they had been trying to force me to work in an office with a commute of at least an hour and a half whereas previously I had just had a 30-minute cycle ride along the river past Notre Dame) and that when the boss refused to simply make me redundant in an attempt to make me resign so he wouldn’t have to pay out any severance, he had acted purely out of spite and that it was the pettiest thing imaginable and I was glad to be leaving.
    I was going to start freelancing and I knew I would never want to work for my former boss, so going scorched earth was fine.

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