Exit Interviews: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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Here’s a situation: one beautiful morning, an employee hands over their resignation letter. Maybe you saw it coming, and maybe you didn’t.

It’s perfectly normal to start questioning why – we always want to know what’s wrong, what we did or didn’t do. As for the employee who decided to quit – maybe it wasn’t the easiest thing to do. Sometimes these are indeed the hardest decisions we have to make – whether to leave or stay and try to make a change.

But no matter the reasons for leaving, one thing’s for sure – gathering information will benefit companies the most. And here’s when exit interviews come in handy. Or do they? 

Let’s find out!

What is the essence of exit interviews? 

Many businesses lose out on a valuable strategic opportunity by failing to investigate the reasons behind staff turnover. 

Exit interviews can get valuable insight into an organisation’s performance and dissatisfaction among its workforce, as those leaving can speak freely about their experiences and impressions. They may also provide critical input into how the organisation compares to others if another company has already interviewed them.

So it’s safe to say the primary purpose of an exit interview is to provide feedback on the company’s performance goals and to ensure that departing workers are satisfied with the time they have spent in the organisation.

Now that we know why this is important, let’s see what other benefits or setbacks exit interviews have to offer.

The Good

Some of the most significant gains from doing exit interviews are:

Valuable insights

Exit interviews, as we mentioned above, might reveal hidden issues inside an organisation. They may draw attention to problematic supervisors, procedures, or ways of doing things. Alternatively, they might provide HR with a chance to learn more about the causes of employee turnover, which could lead to future reductions if this knowledge is used adequately.

Chance of getting an honest feedback

People leaving their current employment may feel more comfortable discussing avoided issues. Since the employee is less likely to be afraid of retaliation, this might be an excellent opportunity to hear from them on matters that have been bothering them. This might even help discover serious issues that need further investigation, such as discrimination or harassment if there is such.

Improvement opportunity

The former workplace could learn more about the employee’s new position and the perks that ultimately persuaded them to quit. Employers can get further information about what other companies offer that might help them determine what they need to do to improve their offerings and retain their top workers, preventing them from leaving.

Leaves no bad feelings

In some instances, an exit interview may be a time to honestly discuss what the company can do to keep the person on board or perhaps entice them to return later. Even if it’s only a chance to talk it through and let go of any negative feelings, it might brighten up the departing worker’s last days at the company.

The Bad & The Ugly

Of course, everything has pros and cons. Now let’s explore the drawbacks:

It could be awkward or uncomfortable

Exit interviews may be awkward and uncomfortable for everyone involved if a departing employee leaves under tense or emotional circumstances. As a result, he may be hesitant to speak openly for fear of alienating co-workers and may instead choose to provide a more positive picture. Therefore, they may be reluctant to provide constructive criticism and honest evaluations. 

Respectively, it’s possible that nothing useful will be learned from the exercise. The exit interview might be stressful if there is tension around the employee’s leaving. It may make things worse instead of better and provide no clear benefit. 

Employees think their opinions will be disregarded after they leave

There can be personal or professional issues that can make an employee want to leave. Whatever the reasons, they may feel that providing arguments or feedback in this situation is futile if they previously thought their opinions weren’t valued or ignored.

Leaders might have prejudgments toward any feedback

Sometimes employees prefer to keep their opinions and thoughts to themselves as they feel managers aren’t listening or are resistant to feedback. Therefore, they strongly believe nothing will change with or without their advice, so they choose not to raise their voice. Which, again, makes the exit interview biassed or even just a formality.

Employees might think it’s too little, too late

If they were made to feel unappreciated or ignored at work, they have no reason to expect things to improve after they leave. For a departing worker, it may seem like “too little, too late” to be asked for feedback in the form of an exit interview. This whole thing may even lead to or exacerbate frustration and leave a bad aftertaste.

Exit interviews might be more of a formality than they are worth at times

Finding helpful information is worthless if there is no system in place to act on it. A systematic structure and procedure must be followed for changes to be made as a result of exit interviews. Furthermore, if any disclosures need to be followed up on, like harassment claims, then resources will need to be assigned swiftly to do so.


Keeping current employees is a major concern for every business. People are switching jobs at a rate that has never been seen before. Given the current global circumstances, it’s essential to maintain communication with your staff while they’re still a part of your organisation. 

An excellent method for increasing engagement, building trust, and improving work conditions to retain workers is to ask for their opinions and make them count while they’re still working within the company. 

And even though employee departures are sometimes unavoidable, exit interviews and surveys may help you better understand why people are leaving. Also, it’s crucial to solicit both positive and negative responses from workers to gain insight into how to retain employees and make their perspectives and opinions count.