Many of us have been there before. The line in the sand has been drawn. Your current working arrangement has become untenable; there are fundamental faults within the organisation that you can no longer bear. So you’re shopping for jobs, and are offering your head up to be hunted. Eventually you find a position that appears to be a far more comfortable fit. You hand your notice into your employer.
‘We’re so sad to see you go’, they inevitably sigh, ‘let’s organise an exit interview’.
Exit interviews are so often dressed up as a golden opportunity to spill your guts on all wrongs that you feel you’ve been subjected to throughout your time with a company. Like that unamicable break-up with your ex, you feel compelled to tell them exactly why they’re horrible, perhaps in an effort to fix them, perhaps to lighten the weighty load you have so pluckily shouldered.
Don’t do it.
If you’d like reasons why, I’ll happily give you reasons why.
1) A Good HR Department Is Approachable
The exit interview will generally be conducted by a company’s HR department. Ask yourself: if they weren’t approachable enough for you to air your grievances to them while you were working there, why should go out of your way to give them guidance now? If you as an employee didn’t trust HR then there is something seriously wrong with the company, and an exit interview will do little to rectify it.
2) A Risk of Reputation
The fact that you couldn’t bring up these grievances during your time at the organisation is often a sign that your superiors weren’t people who took criticism well. If you decide to throw some truth bombs on your way out, these same superiors could decide to blacklist your name within their networks. Not a great career move.
3) A Burning of Bridges
Similarly, otherwise healthy intra-organisation relationships could be tarnished if you decide to leave with all guns blazing. Networking is the most important aspect of modern-day career advancement – is it worth throwing years of relationship building away for a fleeting feeling of satisfaction?
4) Dismissing Constructive Feedback as Personal Grievances
If you do decide to ‘make a difference’ and outline exactly what the organisation could do to improve itself, these constructive criticisms are so often ignored, and are instead marked down as the personal grievances of an unsatisfied employee. You’re no longer seen as having a vested interest in what happens to the organisation, so your comments will be taken with a grain of salt (i.e. ignored).
5) Ulterior Motives
So if they’re going to ignore your feedback, why do companies even bother with exit interviews? More often than not, they’re looking for dirt on your manager or your department. That’s why HR so often conduct these interviews; to encourage a departing employee to snitch on their colleagues.
6) The Confidentiality Illusion
While confidentiality is an assumed aspect of most exit interviews, don’t be fooled. Any information that you offer up will likely be traded freely within the HR and management departments. The same goes for many ‘anonymous’ outgoing employee surveys. Just as they might do with your feedback, take their promise of confidentiality with a grain of salt.
7) It’s No Longer Your Concern
You’re moving on to bigger and better things. The problems of your former employer are no longer yours. You’re not going to be paid to fix up their corporate culture, so why waste your time on something that is no longer going to directly affect you?
It’s important to acknowledge that nowhere is there a law or statute that requires an exit interview to take place. The only way you’ll be obligated to participate is if there was a clause in your employee contract (and if this is the case, ask to see it).
Otherwise, it’s best to politely decline. When the potential good is weighed up against the potential bad, it’s obvious which way an exit interview is more likely to head.
Be smart, play safe, and exit quietly.