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Why You Should Prioritize Exit Interviews When Employees Leave

Exit interviews can be a source of some controversy in the American workplace. When administered correctly, they can be a valuable source of data detailing strife between workers and management. Someone who is leaving no longer has a real allegiance, so they may be even more frank about what they had dealt with.

We can get so wrapped up in our work and other affairs that we aren’t always thinking of employee culture and how folks feel about their workplace. Don’t be so wedded to your work that you are unwilling to zoom out and look for the patterns that those departing might be saying about where you work. Those comments are useful, and you can use their legitimacy to sour changes that might make your operations more sustainable in the months and years to come.

These interviews can many times be the only way that departing folks can let you know about roiling issues within the workplace. Hearing about how someone had a less-than-stellar experience working at your employer can sting, especially since you might at the time be having a very different experience. Think of Marlene Stollings, the former women’s basketball coach at Texas Tech University. Players made it clear in exit interviews to the NCAA what she was doing, and her abusive practices resulted in her dismissal from the university just a few short days later.

Hopefully, what you get in an exit interview isn’t quite that drastic, but you won’t know unless you start asking and talking to folks. The most disgruntled employee can provide valuable information to any employer. Resist the urge to write off their departure as an issue of fit or something else. There may well be legitimate issues going on that you are unaware of, and an exit interview can help shed light on them. People talk in backchannels, too, and even the perception of such issues can keep people from continuing to work with or for you.

If an employee is even willing to give an exit interview, you should be forthright in trying to get whatever information you can from them. Many times, people who are leaving don’t see any value in doing so either because they don’t foresee the issues changing or don’t trust that their words will be taken seriously.

Because of the dynamics that have to do with hiring and firing employees, sometimes people will try to push through a series of workplace issues. They may not say anything about issues they are having because they don’t want to alienate themselves or some of their colleagues. Instead, they will silently apply for other jobs in the meantime, with the intent of leaving at the first opportunity.

Anyone may decide not to do an exit interview, but you should ask as soon as you figure out they would like to leave. Who knows? Maybe they get to another place as see the grass isn’t as green. If you would like to leave the door open for them to return, you have to treat them right even as they exit.