#94 Exit Interviews, Why Bother? (2004)

All Rights Reserved © 2004 Thomas W. Day

It seems like every company is doing exit interviews these days.  Supposedly, the reason is to learn why employees are leaving, to slow the turnover.  Exit interviews are about as likely to accomplish that task as Congress is to reform campaign finance.  The problem is that the people gathering the information don’t know what to do with it and the people who need the information don’t want it.

The simple fact is that ex-employees are not going to burn bridges in today’s competitive job market.  Even if the exiting employee doesn’t expect to ever return to the company, he still may want a good reference.  Telling the straight truth about ex-bosses, past projects and products isn’t going to make friends and it isn’t going to accomplish anything.  Most likely, it won’t do anything at all.

Most company’s Human Resources departments are so insular and isolated from every other department in the company, that the results of exit interviews die in the employee’s personnel folder.  HR departments are the most resented, bureaucratic, unresponsive area of many companies.  Middle managers avoid contact with their HR representatives at all costs.  Upper management has organized its HR departments to confound communication, not enhance it.  HR managers are extremely successful at this assignment.  With all these obstacles, is it any wonder that exit interviews are regarded as nothing more than a mindless hurdle on the way to the last paycheck? 

The first HR department, at Ford Motor Company, was managed by a processional goon, Harry Bennett.   The original purpose seemed to be to find the optimum methods to abuse employees.  Today, they are a lot more subtle than their predecessors, but the function is not significantly different. 

August 2004

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