The delicate art of the exit interview

When departing workers are face to face with HR, should they be honest? Should they lie? Maybe it’s not that simple.

A worker and an HR professional are sitting down in a small meeting room, staring at each other. Why are you leaving? HR asks. I got a better pay packet, the worker might say, or I’ll have a more senior title. The HR person nods. Is there anything else we should know? they ask. The worker pauses. Yes, they think. This place is a nightmare. 

Yet, they smile, shake their head and say, Thanks for the opportunity. 

As the number of workers quitting continues to tick up amid the Great Resignation, soon-to-be-former employees are finding themselves in exit interviews. The process is straightforward for many – provide HR with your reason for leaving in vague, palatable terms, and shake some hands on the way out. 

Going the neutral route, even if it involves a little fibbing, can work for many employees, and experts say being cagey is not necessarily a bad thing. But what about those who want to give negative feedback, or even bring down the ship? Is there a way to do it – and a reason to? 

Maybe. Although there’s no universal solution to how to handle an exit interview, there’s one thing all workers may want to consider: decide what they want out of the sit-down, then use the interaction to get it. It’s a “selfish” approach – but one that may just deliver the most dividends for a worker moving on.