Author Topic: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?  (Read 12422 times)

Stachetastic

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Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« on: September 10, 2014, 05:47:09 AM »
Hello all, I have been lurking for months and am finally coming out of the woodwork. A proper introduction is due, but a quick question first. I have resigned from my job of 12 years mostly due to stagnation and some issues with management. I have taken a position with higher pay and better benefits in a neighboring town. My director (with whom I've worked alongside for 7 years and worked under for the past 5) proceeded to ignore my resignation for days until finally sending a cold email last Friday. This is indicative of some of the issues in this workplace. First, we are a small agency of less than 35 employees, and have all spent time together outside the office. We all used to be very close friends, but have grown apart in recent years. This aside, it feels as if the director is completely disinterested in my entire building, and rarely sets foot in it. She walks through halls without acknowledging people, etc. I should mention that we're all social workers, so this is much more touchy-feely than the corporate world. In fact, my director just gave me a huge bag of hand-me-downs last month for my son.

So, my question: How honest should one be in completing an exit interview/survey? Should I just say I'm leaving for more money and leave it at that, even though I had gotten to the point that I was considering a huge pay cut just to get out of here? (no face punches, please!)

G-dog

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2014, 06:28:52 AM »
If this is a canned survey instead of a face-to-face interview, I would err on the side of non- disclosure.
Face-to-face, it would depend on how it is going. Ideally these are all confidential, but you never know the impact. Your director sees the results or is in the interview - she has network connections in your profession and then later you think you are getting treated differently at events .....
But, i may be paranoid about these sorts of things.

Fuzzy Buttons

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2014, 06:34:26 AM »
I agree with G-dog.  I think it's a delicate line between giving them some constructive feedback and burning bridges.  Your first responsiblity is to yourself and your family.  If your new employer and your old employer are in the same business in the same area, then you have to expect some crossover.  The person receiving your exit interview today may follow you and end up being your boss tomorrow.  Or might pass along opinions to a friend of theirs who already works for your new employer.  So be professional, no matter what you decide to say.

Within that bounds, if you really want to help them improve (as it sounds like you do), give some vague and respectful criticisms.  But be very careful.  This type of small group of friends and coworkers can be more of an emotional and personal situation than a business one.  There's no way to tread too lightly.  I'd honestly just go with "I've enjoyed working here and it's been a wonderful experience, but this new opportunity came up that I just couldn't resist."  Nobody ever got in trouble by being too nice.  :)

Oh, and congrats on the new job!
« Last Edit: September 10, 2014, 06:36:57 AM by FuzzyButtons »

MandyM

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2014, 06:35:29 AM »
I hate to say it, but: It depends on so many things. Only be honest if you truly think they willing to listen and take it to heart. Or if you think you will get some sort of satisfaction from it (although you probably won't).

One thing to consider - is this the last time you will see your director? Aside from the whole "burning bridges" issue, remember that an exit interview is not the only time you can be honest. Given time, your director's coldness will probably subside and a more meaningful conversation could happen then. My immediate manager at my last job was (and is) one of my best friends. If I had been completely honest with her about why I left, it would have really hampered our friendship. She was only a small part of the problem, but she would have felt a loyalty to the manager that was the impetus to my departure. There is no way she could have listened to me openly at that time.

On the other hand, I've witnessed the effects of an honest exit interview where the hardass manager actually did lighten up a bit. The departing coworker was able to gently point out things he could be doing a little different that would help morale. It wasn't life changing at the office, but definitely noticeable. He was trying and that meant a lot.

Phil_Moore

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2014, 06:40:50 AM »
Personally I have never been particularly forthcoming in exit interviews, the industry I work in is incredibly small. At my current place there are probably 10 people within my eye-line who I have worked with before at other companies.  Also, frankly, they have always been conducted by HR managers who I wouldn’t trust to organise a piss-up in a brewery.

I just go with the “looking for new challenges”, “it’s me not you” and blah-blah etc.

If you are close to FI though, ring and run mate, burn it down.

Garath

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2014, 06:41:40 AM »
I'd be completely honest but I might not disclose everything depending on how the interview goes.  Since you're getting paid more in the new job you can honestly say it's about the money.  I wouldn't say it's ONLY about the money unless it really is but I wouldn't feel the need to disclose all of my reasons if I wasn't comfortable.  In other words, don't lie but feel free to leave things out. 

The other question is, if you disclose all of your reasons do you think there's any reasonable chance that it would actually change things?  If you think your director might suddenly realize the problem and actually correct it, there's a stronger argument for going full disclosure as it may positively impact the other employees still working there.  At the end of the day, I try to avoid burning bridges whenever I can do so in good conscience.  You never know who you'll end up working with in the future - your director may end up coming to work at your new employer.

Noodle

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #6 on: September 10, 2014, 06:47:45 AM »
Since you are continuing to work in the same field, I would keep it tactful and focus on structural issues over personalities. You never know when someone may resurface.

happy

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #7 on: September 10, 2014, 06:54:21 AM »
Nothing to gain, everything to lose. You've left now. Their problems are not your problems.

ioseftavi

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #8 on: September 10, 2014, 07:08:03 AM »
Regrettably, I would say that honesty is not a virtue in this case.  Even if your boss is begging you to hear why you're leaving, you simply say, "I just think it's a great long-term opportunity, and a better fit.  I'm incredibly grateful for what I learned and achieved here, but I think that this is a really exciting next step for me."

"Great long-term opportunity and better fit" is pretty much code for "They are offering me a lot more money, and/or the quality of life is so much better there that this is an open and shut case.  Please get on board with the fact that I am leaving and stop trying to determine what will get me to stay."


Stachetastic

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #9 on: September 10, 2014, 07:19:05 AM »
Thank you all. I am working on my exit interview (which is just a written survey to be submitted and reviewed with the HR person), and have deleted and revised a hundred times. I just had a great convo with my direct supervisor, who was very sympathetic and stated she would feel the same way I do if she was treated this way upon her departure. She asked if I would like her to mention this to the director on my behalf, but I declined. She stated she would not speak of it unless I wanted her to. I guess I just feel a bit better knowing it's not all in my head.

MandyM, I will be seeing my director on a regular basis, as we use the same sitter and see each other at pick up/drop off. That's another reason the letter stating "I wish you and your family nothing but the best on your future endeavors" feels a bit cold. Like we're a bunch of strangers. Perhaps there will come a  time to discuss this with her in the future.

parisparis

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2014, 08:15:32 AM »
My advice is to say as little as possible.  Think about it this way: if you weren't able to improve things while working there, how could a few comments in an exit interview change anything?  These comments only expose you to trouble and won't help your soon to be former boss or any coworkers.  Just be kind and polite and move on.

Hugerat

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #11 on: September 10, 2014, 08:32:38 AM »
So, my question: How honest should one be in completing an exit interview/survey?

Absolutely not. As others have said, offer them only canned, meaningless responses to questions. Better yet, you should decline an exit interview entirely. Your obligation to this employer ended the day you announced your resignation. There is no possible way you could benefit from offering constructive criticism but you could damage relationships with people who you may encounter later in life. And if this employer were truly interested in improving the workplace they should have solicited your opinion while you were still a committed employee.

TreeTired

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #12 on: September 10, 2014, 08:42:20 AM »
Dilbert weighed in on this just last week.   



frugaliknowit

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #13 on: September 10, 2014, 09:08:28 AM »
Echo ParisParis. 

Don't spend time laboring on it!!

ender

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #14 on: September 10, 2014, 09:20:08 AM »
I wouldn't burn or even light fire near the bridges since you want to stay in touch with and be friends with your soon to be previous coworkers outside work.

If it comes up in conversation in personal settings, i'd be more willing to give thoughts, but at this point it's more than just professional bridges you might burn - you might actually affect your friendships too.

rujancified

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #15 on: September 10, 2014, 09:45:21 AM »
I'll switch it up a little. I don't think you should mention personality or personal issues with other workers, but stagnation is a BIG DEAL. As a manager/director, I'd want to know if people felt like there was no growth opportunity or if things were getting routine/boring.

Don't get me wrong, jobs aren't always super fun and exciting. But I think that's different from stagnation.

beltim

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #16 on: September 10, 2014, 10:03:02 AM »
I think it's interesting that the OP wanted to know if it was virtuous to be honest in this scenario, and everyone responded by evaluating the positive or negative outcomes to the OP.  The prima facie response is: of course it's better to be honest.  You can make the honesty tactful and productive instead of complainy-pants, but is there really an argument that honesty isn't better from a virtue point of view?

ender

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #17 on: September 10, 2014, 10:17:34 AM »
I think it's interesting that the OP wanted to know if it was virtuous to be honest in this scenario, and everyone responded by evaluating the positive or negative outcomes to the OP.  The prima facie response is: of course it's better to be honest.  You can make the honesty tactful and productive instead of complainy-pants, but is there really an argument that honesty isn't better from a virtue point of view?

When I am 100% convinced my company is being 100% honest with me about all the information I need to objectively evaluate whether I should continue working for them, I will reciprocate by being 100% honest with them in such settings.

However, most of us here would be fools to consider our company has our 100% best interest in mind. So long as it aligns with their goals they will. But if not? Tough luck.

For us to act as if this is the case generally is incredibly naive and foolish.


rocklebock

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #18 on: September 10, 2014, 10:30:16 AM »
You can be honest and effective while also being tactful. I left my previous job partly because I felt the organization was telling me I had to do X. Y, and Z, while my director was saying I had to use my own personal time and money for X, Y, and Z. What I said in the exit interview was that I was leaving for a position that paid better and offered lots of support for X, Y, and Z. I suggested the organization could do more to support X, Y, and Z if they wanted to keep talented people from leaving. I did not mention anything about our director. Surprisingly, the HR person brought it up herself, indicated that that my director was not following policy, and HR was aware of it. I'm pretty sure there were no big changes, but maybe it helped someone in a small way. I still see the director once in a while, and she always gives me a big hug.

MrsPete

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #19 on: September 10, 2014, 11:15:25 AM »
How honest to be?  I'd say anytime you leave a job you should avoid burning bridges.  Even if you were leaving the world of work forever, I'd say you should leave on a good note.  None of us know what's coming up in the future -- you might want to return to that job one day, you might need a reference, you might end up working for (or with) someone from this office again in the future.  And if you leave having "said too much", it may well be discussed around the office. 

So I vote taking your leave in a dignified, professional manner.  Don't leave a litany of complaints about the director, even if they are well deserved.  Likely nothing would happen because of your honesty anyway, and it could possibly hurt you in the future. 

Dr. Doom

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #20 on: September 10, 2014, 11:25:35 AM »
is there really an argument that honesty isn't better from a virtue point of view?

I can offer a flawed argument. Another seemingly conflicting virtue is to turn the other cheek.  Being honest might hurt the person you're badmouthing and technically -- even if you despise said person and you think you're doing some good somehow -- that is not a good thing. 

At any rate, it's not explicitly dishonest to keep these issues to yourself.

A big plus to responders who recommended not burning bridges -- and this is coming from a guy who burnt one once.   Focus on the other reasons you're leaving.

iamadummy

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #21 on: September 10, 2014, 11:30:47 AM »
I would not give them any clue in the exit interview.  Just all smiles.

Beric01

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #22 on: September 10, 2014, 11:36:42 AM »
If they valued your perspective, you wouldn't be leaving. Why should they care about your perspective in the exit interview?

If you leave on a positive note, they could be useful to you in the future (either as a reference, or as a last-resort job).

I would lay on the flattery and let them know how much you enjoyed your stay and that you're so sorry you have to leave.

beltim

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #23 on: September 10, 2014, 11:49:45 AM »
I think it's interesting that the OP wanted to know if it was virtuous to be honest in this scenario, and everyone responded by evaluating the positive or negative outcomes to the OP.  The prima facie response is: of course it's better to be honest.  You can make the honesty tactful and productive instead of complainy-pants, but is there really an argument that honesty isn't better from a virtue point of view?

When I am 100% convinced my company is being 100% honest with me about all the information I need to objectively evaluate whether I should continue working for them, I will reciprocate by being 100% honest with them in such settings.

However, most of us here would be fools to consider our company has our 100% best interest in mind. So long as it aligns with their goals they will. But if not? Tough luck.

For us to act as if this is the case generally is incredibly naive and foolish.

So if you're not 100% convinced the company is completely virtuous, it becomes acceptable to not be virtuous yourself?  That seems the very antithesis of virtue.

beltim

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #24 on: September 10, 2014, 11:52:00 AM »
is there really an argument that honesty isn't better from a virtue point of view?

I can offer a flawed argument. Another seemingly conflicting virtue is to turn the other cheek.  Being honest might hurt the person you're badmouthing and technically -- even if you despise said person and you think you're doing some good somehow -- that is not a good thing. 

At any rate, it's not explicitly dishonest to keep these issues to yourself.

A big plus to responders who recommended not burning bridges -- and this is coming from a guy who burnt one once.   Focus on the other reasons you're leaving.

Aha! A virtue based argument!  You raise some good points, notably that honesty is not the only relevant virtue here.

usmarine1975

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #25 on: September 10, 2014, 12:11:24 PM »
My take is this.  I left 2 jobs in the last 4 years both for similar reasons.  The first one I wrote a nice letter with the reasons I was leaving.  It didn't do me any good and left a bad taste in the mouth of the company about me.  The second time I just quite and told them I found a position I am more comfortable with.  I could have wrote another nasty note but decided because of the first time that it was not worth the effort and it did me no good.  What does a company care what I think especially when I am quitting. 

Again that is my take for whatever it is worth.  I wouldn't lie but no need to go on the crusade either.

Cassie

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #26 on: September 10, 2014, 12:30:24 PM »
I agree with the majority-never burn bridges.  Nothing will change anyways.

MrsPete

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #27 on: September 10, 2014, 12:33:56 PM »
If they valued your perspective, you wouldn't be leaving. Why should they care about your perspective in the exit interview?
Disagree.  I've left jobs I've liked.  For example, I worked at the same part-time job for years while I was in school earning my second degree.  I liked the job, liked the people, did not seek to leave for any negative reasons -- but when I finished my degree, I was ready to move on to a different type of work. 

I taught at my first school for years, but then we moved and it made sense to move to a school closer to my new house.  Also, it was evident that my children would eventually attend that school, making our lives better in a number of ways.

In both cases, I liked my employer and they liked me; thus, I have to disagree with the idea that you'd only be leaving if your thoughts weren't valued. 

RetireAbroadAt35

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #28 on: September 10, 2014, 01:50:17 PM »
The exit interview is for their benefit, not yours.  i.e. be careful.

I'd be unerringly positive in anything you say. 

  • You're not leaving because they suck but to pursue an exciting opportunity.
  • You're not glad to get the hell outta there, you're grateful for the experiences they provided you.

TurtleMarkets

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #29 on: September 10, 2014, 02:25:37 PM »
Nothing to gain, everything to lose. You've left now. Their problems are not your problems.

I totatly agree. They know why you are leaving even if you dont say anything. Anything bad you say can only be used against you. You have nothing to gain by being honest.

Elderwood17

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #30 on: September 10, 2014, 02:37:25 PM »
I have wanted to be super honest, but in the end I always took the high road, more specifically the fake high road.  " I have loved every minute here but this opportunity to be closer to family is just so special..."; " I have learned so much and will always be grateful..." etc. 

I feel good about this because (a) taking the long term view, in aggregate the jobs have always been overall good for me (b) I agreed to work for a specific salary in exchange for my services and they held up their end of the bargain (c) in my opinion most organizations can read between the lines and Nnow where they suck (d) staying above the fray when I am walking out the door just seems the most logical and emotionally fulfilling.

Agree there is little to gain by telling them all their warts.

Emilyngh

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #31 on: September 10, 2014, 05:36:38 PM »
I don't think that one is obligated to be honest if they really don't want to, but I disagree with what the majority here seem to be saying: that one should avoid answering honestly.

One of the advantages of being in the position I'm in in my life (FU money, heading to FI) is that I don't have to play games.   If I'm asked what I think about something, unless I just don't want to talk about it, I reply with what I think.   I don't worry about how saying what I think may or may not hurt me in the future, or if there's a way I can try to use my answer to manipulate things. 

 IME, the things that wind up coming back to bite someone in a serious way are things they would have never ever predicted, or a result of just plain bad luck, and/or a result of consistently behaving poorly.   Instead of living in fear of possible bad effects of just being honest (which probably really won't come to fruition anyway), I'd rather live my life with the confidence that as long as I don't have evil intentions, I can speak honestly, not play games at work, etc, and things will still work out well.

G-dog

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #32 on: September 10, 2014, 06:30:11 PM »
The headline premise is flawed - what does virtue have to do with this? This is a business transaction, no one is getting sainthood for this.

Re: your director, another thought I've had is to get in touch with her after you leave (or before if you are comfortable) and just say "you've seemed stressed out / distracted lately? Is everything OK?"  I think after you leave is better - then it doesn't open the door for her to do an impromptu exit interview.

We never really know what is going on in anyone's life, her current behavior may not have anything to do with you. You can write a nice note before you leave too.

( aka - never underestimate the power of sucking up / being nice).

Good luck at the new gig. Don't sweat this exit interview, you can be honest without being too candid.

Hugerat

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #33 on: September 11, 2014, 09:07:42 AM »
One last unmentioned point: The majority of questions in an exit interview, particularly those conducted by HR, are geared toward finding out if you are quitting for reasons that might give you grounds to sue or otherwise damage the company. HR is there to protect the company, not you. The question of virtue is a cute thought exercise, but it plays no role here. Employers are not honest during exit interviews, and you shouldn't be either.

Mega

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Re: Exit interview: Is honesty truly a virtue?
« Reply #34 on: September 11, 2014, 10:00:18 AM »
Lie through your teeth and send them thank you letters for being such a great boss and mentor. Don't burn bridges.

If they listened to you in the first place you wouldn't be leaving now.