Your HR Guy has a great post on exit interviews, calling them “band aids on broken legs.” Well written, and we couldn’t agree more.

“Let’s not fool ourselves: the best case scenario is your exit interview actually provides new information because your company management is inept at figuring out what should already be known. That’s the best case scenario!”

He makes the case that exit interviews are more of a feel-good device than a strategy that will yield fresh insight or actionable information to curtail turnover. This is partly because because many departing employees aren’t open – they often don’t want to say anything negative that will get back to the manager and burn a bridge. Also, he sees that because management training will rarely be cited as a problem, it will rarely become part of the solution.
The real solution?

“You need real managers. Ones that know their employees well, that have open lines of communication, that have some basic investigation and analytical skills, and don’t need an exit interview to be told why people are leaving.”

We’d file exit interviews under the category of “retrospective management” and this just isn’t a management style that cuts it. We sometimes see a similar dynamic with referrals to our EAP. Astute managers who make an EAP referral early on – either when they first observe a pattern of problematic work behaviors or when they see the manager-employee relationship breaking down – can often salvage the relationship with a strategic referral. More often than not, we are able to help the employee identify the root cause of the problem and develop coping strategies or problem resolutions – sometimes the underlying problem isn’t even work-related, but simply spilling over into the workplace.
Unfortunately, all too often, the troubled employee isn’t referred to us until the problem behavior has festered unaddressed for a period of time, frustration on all sides is high, and the situation is not salvageable. The good managers that we see have open communication with their employees, they spot problems early, they address problems frankly, and they know when to look for outside help. The less-than-ideal managers are the ones who are frequently trying to close the barn door after the horse has escaped … problems aren’t addressed until they are huge, often reaching a level of toxicity that makes it difficult or impossible to resolve. Cue up the exit interview.

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