How honest should you be in your exit interview?

Exit interviews serve as the final chapter in an employee’s journey with an organisation, offering a unique opportunity to glean valuable feedback and understand the factors driving departures.

Recently, we conducted a LinkedIn poll to delve into the nuances of honesty in exit interviews. The results shed light on the spectrum of approaches employees adopt when bidding farewell to their employers.

Understanding exit interviews

Exit interviews are structured conversations conducted between departing employees and representatives from their soon-to-be former employer. These discussions aim to uncover the reasons behind the departure, identify areas for improvement within the organisation and gather feedback on the employee’s overall experience.

The honesty dilemma

Our poll results revealed a diverse range of opinions regarding the level of honesty to employ during an exit interview:

Fully Transparent (48%): Nearly half of the respondents advocated for complete transparency during exit interviews. They believe in sharing candid feedback, unfiltered by concerns about repercussions or implications. For them, honesty is paramount, serving as a catalyst for organisational growth and improvement.

Selectively Honest (34%): Another significant portion of participants favored a more tempered approach, opting to be selectively honest. These individuals recognise the importance of providing feedback but exercise discretion in their delivery, perhaps to avoid burning bridges or safeguarding personal interests.

Diplomatic (16%): A smaller yet notable faction expressed a preference for diplomacy during exit interviews. They prioritise maintaining a harmonious relationship with the employer, opting for tactful communication that balances honesty with sensitivity.

Minimal (2%): A negligible minority advocated for minimal honesty, opting to provide only essential information or withholding feedback altogether. This approach may stem from a desire to avoid conflict or a lack of confidence in the efficacy of the feedback process.

Navigating the path forward

The poll results highlight the complexity of navigating exit interviews and the inherent tension between honesty and diplomacy. While some advocate for unfettered transparency as a catalyst for change, others tread cautiously, mindful of the potential ramifications of their words.

Employers must create an environment conducive to open dialogue, reassuring departing employees that their feedback will be received constructively and without reprisal. Similarly, departing employees must approach exit interviews with a sense of responsibility, recognising the opportunity to effect positive change within the organisation.

Ultimately, the success of an exit interview hinges on a delicate balance between honesty and diplomacy. By fostering a culture of transparency and receptivity to feedback, organisations can leverage departures as catalysts for growth.

*165 people from The Change Partners’ LinkedIn community took part in the poll.

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