5 Things You Should Never Ask During Exit Interviews
Your employee is about to leave and you’re almost heartbroken. Most employers are, especially if one of their “key employees” decides to leave –or perhaps someone who’s been around for a long time. But this is not the time to let emotions get in the way.
Since many organizations still prefer to conduct exit interviews to close the case and keep a record, there’s nothing wrong with ending the relationship with that as long as it’s within the legal limits. Speaking of which, try to involve the legal department while you are preparing questions for exit interviews. Asking the wrong questions could land you in a hot tub if a hurt if the ex-employee decides to charge. That being said, it’s always best to be as general and unemotional as possible while conducting an exit interview.
Furthermore, here are X things you should never ask during exit interviews.
- “I’ve been nice to you haven’t I?”— The biggest problem with this question is that it seems to be coming from an immediate supervisor. HR experts always recommend that exit interviews be conducted by someone other than the immediate supervisor. Any other manager in the HR department is best suited to gather information since he won’t have a direct personal or emotional connection with the departing employee. Furthermore, the main idea behind exit interviews is to gather accurate information. So, if the immediate supervisor was the problem in the first place, there’s less chance you will get the right information with his presence during the interview.
- “I know why….”—Although this is not exactly a question (which is probably what’s wrong with it), it’s a statement heading in the wrong direction. Never assume before you head to an exit interview. Always try to keep an open mind and leave assumptions aside.
- “Is it true that Martha did this and you responded…?” Asking direct questions about company gossip is a bad idea. There’s a high chance you could get emotional and offer opinions rather than facts while discussing gossip. Moreover, the departing employee could use these “opinions” to her advantage and communicate it to existing employees which could lead to a mess. For example, discussing an existing employee who you personally don’t like might make it look like you’re ready to terminate them based on personal opinions rather than facts.Remember, politics are always dirty!
- “Where are you going to work next?”—It may make sense to know where they have applied, but this could be problematic if the employee feels that you could have been a barrier between your future employer and him. For example, if the organization he recently applied to may suddenly decide against hiring him (revoke the offer) or fire him after some time, the employee might assume that you fed criticism to the new employer. It’s okay to know that they have applied “elsewhere” and simply congratulate them or wish them good luck.
- “You do know that we will file a suit if you release company information, work for a competitor or…?” – Yikes! Although, you may be 100% correct about the potential charges, it’s not a nice way to remind the employee about such clauses in any policy or agreement. The exit interview is the right time to discuss these clauses (non-disclosure, non-compete, arbitration, etc). However, you don’t want sound like you’re threatening them.
All in all, it’s always best to try and sever ties in good terms. Employees should leave with the feeling that despite a few concerns, their overall experience with the organization wasn’t bad at all– and hopefully those feelings will reflect on you as a manager and your organization positively to the outside world.