Many years ago, a good mate of mine worked in a role that ended up being the shortest one of her HR career.
Looking back, the warning signs were there from before she even started. Exhibit A: her new manager cancelled their scheduled pre-start-employment meeting half an hour before she was due to arrive.
Just after she had dropped the kids off at childcare, solely so she could attend the meeting.
My friend (let’s call her *Helen in honour of the heroine on my current Netflix binge) was told by his PA that he was cancelling the meeting because “something more important” had come up.
Way to make your new employee feel valued huh!
Over the coming months, the situation went progressively downhill, until Helen eventually resigned a few short months later.
The primary reason I hear you ask? In a nutshell, bullying. By the head of the organisation’s People & Culture Department. Helen’s direct manager.
Now the reason for this blog is not to tell stories about this particular boss, or share more about why you should constantly be on Jerk Alert.
No, the reason is because this week over on Workology Co’s socials, we’ve been exploring the value of exit interviews as a tool in creating exceptional workplace culture.
What are the benefits of conducting exit interviews?
For more detail about each benefit click here.
Yeah, OK, I get why exit interviews are important. But what’s this got to do with Helen’s story?
Now that you understand the WHY of Exit Interviews, let me tell you how that ties in with Helen’s story.
Well, you see thing is, that when it came to Helen’s last day at work, she was asked if she was going to complete an on-line exit interview by the People & Culture Business Partner in charge of the process.
Helen initially answered HARD NO, but after a couple of wines at her farewell lunch, the HR Business Partner convinced Helen it was her ‘duty’ to complete the form, whilst also reminding Helen the survey was anonymous.
‘Duty’ because whilst Helen hadn’t been willing to make a formal complaint against her manager, the exit interview could act as an informal complaint that would be brought to the Executive’s attention. Make them aware of the issue and hopefully compelled to act, especially when coupled with several similar complaints from other recently resigned employees.
Imagine Helen’s surprise when a week or two after she had left the organisation, she received a threatening email from this ex-manager.
Yes, you guessed it, he had read Helen’s ‘confidential, anonymous’ exit interview and was reaching out to ensure her silence.
To make matters worse, Helen never heard from anyone higher up in the organisation in response to her exit survey; and she certainly was not a fan of exit interviews for many years following this experience.
Helen’s bad experience has stayed with me over the years, and it an example of one of the reasons I was inspired to move from working in the reactive space of inappropriate workplace behaviours to the shiny, bright and pro-active space of co-creating exceptional culture.
Because I not only understand the value of Exit Interviews but, as this week’s socials attest too, I wholeheartedly endorse them as a useful tool in moving towards exceptional workplace culture.
Great point Moira. That statement comes with a BIG CAVEAT.
Exit Interviews are a fantastic tool in your toolbox of exceptional workplace culture. But if, and only if, they are used appropriately. The example of Helen’s ex-manager having access to her confidential answers? Bah-Bong. Not appropriate.
Ideally, the information received from exit interviews will not be the sole domain of one person. As was the case with Helen’s manager, it is possible that this person maybe one of the main contributors towards an underlying inappropriate or toxic culture.
Rather, the information should be available to a panel of people. Three members of the Executive team, or a sub-committee of the Board for example.
Once the panel is aware of the reasons why the employee has left the organisation, they can work towards addressing any issues the exit survey uncovered.
In a deliberate effort to avoid examples like Helen’s sad tale of woe, organisations may engage an external consultant such as yours truly to conduct the exit interviews.
This can be a double win (not just for said external consultant!). A win because it avoids any perceived/actual bias or conflict of interest as per Helen’s story; but also, because employees are often more willing to be completely honest about their reasons for leaving with someone who is not connected to the organisation.
The good news? Workology Co has developed a package to do just this. Click here to learn more.
Now go forth and start conducting those exit interviews; and start using the insights they provide to help you create the kind of exceptional culture you crave.
And as the other Helen says: