Do exiting employee’s opinions matter?

Many managers, and colleagues, visibly draw a sigh of relief as an unpopular employee leaves the building for the last time. In some cases, even popular employees leaving have shown the same response as they are actually difficult to work with.

We’ve promoted the use of exit interviews, like so many others, for years. However, whilst we’ve seen the reluctance to use them fall to almost diminishment, why is it that so many don’t act upon the results they uncover?

I completely understand that when some employees leave, managers feel as if that person has made the right decision, but their comments, thoughts and opinions should be valued. I’ve heard managers admit that appalling exit interviews are ‘not unexpected’ or ‘typical’, but remove the results from memory almost immediately.

In reality their thoughts and opinions may actually be the thoughts and opinions of other employees and in these cases, small changes could reduce remaining employees ‘going bad’ and reduce the volume of good employees leaving. In very rare cases, it may result in some big changes, such as management moves, but this remains rare.

Not everyone is truthful in an exit interview, so it is down to managers to convince exiting employees to be honest and promise not to read the comments until after they have physically left the company. It does go further than that though; if you create a culture where these results are actioned positively, employees won’t feel like they are ‘burning their bridges’ by their honesty. Adopting this attitude may result in managers having to become ‘thicker skinned’, but will also, in time, result in comments becoming more tangible, less of a whinge and make the whole process worthwhile.