Working Transitions

Over & Out - The lessons to be learnt from exit interviews

A cautionary tale appeared in The Telegraph this week that should serve as a warning to us all.  Michael Stuban, an employee retiring from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission after a 35 year tenure,  completed his exit questionnaire with brutal honesty  and, rather than submitting it via the correct channels, sent it round to the whole company – furnishing  all 2,000 of his colleagues with the nitty-gritty  of his dissatisfaction with both the organisation and it’s management.

Hailed as a ‘hero’ to disgruntled workers everywhere, the story serves as a stark reminder that providing employees with an appropriate medium to air grievances and express concerns without fear of retribution is essential. The fact that Mr Stuban kept his true feelings about the organisation supressed until his date of leaving, and then aired his views in such a spectatcular way, speaks volumes about his lack of confidence in his organsiation’s culture and employees ability to voice concerns and for them to be taken seriously.

Having an open and honest culture where employees are encouraged to feedback concerns to management is always a good idea.  In particular, when an employee is leaving the organisation – regardless of the reason – having a robust exit interview process can leave the employee feeling positive and result in valuable information and lessons that can shape future processes and strategies.

The following  tips for conducting exit interviews can ensure a successful exit for all involved:


  • It is best practice to utilise the services of a third party where possible.  For the employee, having an impartial interviewer may allow them to be more open than they would otherwise be.  For the employer, a ‘fresh pair of ears’ will hear the information exactly as it is being relayed – without prior knowledge of the individuals circumstances and existing prejudices
  • Timing is everything – the best time to conduct an exit interview is within two weeks prior, or within two weeks after, the date of leaving.  Too soon and the employee may not want to divulge too much information – leave it too long and they may have either forgotten some of their issues or simply be past caring!
  • Have a structure in place.  Think through the information you would like to glean from the interview and prepare some questions to help guide you.  A mix of closed and open question works best with plenty of opportunity for the employee to elaborate.  Following a structure, and ensuring all exiting employees are asked the same questions, will allow you to identify patterns and trends that can help with your future talent retention strategy.
  • Allow the employee time to prepare.  Make the employee aware that the exit interview will be taking place and provide the date and time.  This will allow the employee to prepare for the meeting and think through any points that they want to raise
  • Make the meeting as open and honest as possible.  Make the employee aware that the interview is a completely open forum where they are free to discuss any areas that they wish without fear of repercussion
  •  Take notes and ensure you share information with the appropriate channels.  For most organisations this will be HR, the Individual’s Line Manager and the Senior Leadership Team.  If you are using a third party to conduct your interviews you can expect to receive a regular report highlighting trends and patterns. 

To find out how Working Transitions can support your organisation through change and transition please call us on 01604 744100 or email [email protected]


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Working Transitions
15 December 2016
Supporting effective and successful organisational change


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