How Honest Should You Be During Your Exit Interview? | Kanebridge News
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How Honest Should You Be During Your Exit Interview?

As more employees head out the door, their talks with HR are heating up.

Mon, Aug 9, 2021 2:29pmGrey Clock 4 min

Millions of people have quit their jobs this year, and many more are expected to join them.

The wave of resignations has presented a quandary for workers headed for the exits—namely, how honest to be with their soon-to-be-former employers about why they are leaving, where they are going and what is happening inside the organization.

In interviews with more than a dozen workers who recently quit their jobs, some said their former employers seemed acutely aware of burnout issues and wanted to know how to be better bosses. A few said their exit interviews seemed perfunctory, as though human-resources personnel were going through the motions.

While it might feel satisfying to air job-related grievances, exit interviews aren’t intended to be venting sessions, says Jane Oates, president of WorkingNation, a nonprofit focused on the challenges facing U.S. workers.

“A company that really wants to learn and grow and be a better employer is going to make that interview as comfortable as possible for you so that you are fully aware that there’s not going to be any retaliatory efforts,” she says. An employer is also documenting what is said, so it is important to carefully consider what you want in your file and be as constructive with criticism as possible, she adds.

“You can be as honest as you care to be, but you have to be professional,” Ms. Oates says.

Several recent quitters said they typed out bullet points about their experiences to consult during their exit conversations because they were determined to raise an alarm with their soon-to-be-former bosses about what they perceived to be a toxic work culture.

One sales associate for an internet marketing company in Chicago says she talked about everything from a lack of paid time off to how the company’s internal memos about Black Lives Matter seemed to lack feeling. That employee says she doesn’t expect anything to change, but appreciated the opportunity to get everything off her chest.

A financial-compliance professional in New York City says she spoke candidly about the poor communication during the pandemic around her employer’s return-to-the-office plan, as well as policies for staffers who tested positive for Covid-19. She says she felt compelled to speak honestly because she had co-workers who were hospitalized with Covid-19, and when they returned home they had to figure out whether they still had jobs waiting for them.

One sales manager at a retail store in Nashville says he loved his job, but was dismayed that his co-workers didn’t consistently wear masks in the store and that his company forbade employees to ask each other about their vaccination status. On an exit survey, he said he wanted to work for a company that stood by its values. So far, he says, he hasn’t received a response to what he wrote.

HR experts say workers aren’t obligated to answer questions—such as where they are going to work or how much they will earn at a new job—during an exit interview. No matter what is implied or even threatened, paychecks and benefits are governed by federal and state laws and an employer can’t withhold your final pay if you don’t participate in an exit interview, says Barbara Holland, an adviser at the Society for Human Resource Management.

Employees aren’t obligated to answer questions during an exit interview, according to human resources experts. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES/EYEEM

A survey conducted last month of more than 1,100 SHRM members found that 43% of HR professionals said their organizations have seen higher or much higher turnover during the past six months, while a further 43% said turnover has been about the same.

Sharing insights about a bad boss or abusive work culture might seem fruitless to an employee who is walking out the door, but those observations can prove critical to building a case for change, Ms. Holland says. If multiple employees leave for the same reason—or because of the same person—but only one speaks up about it, that can make it harder for an HR department to advocate for change, she adds.

Trier Bryant, the chief executive of Just Work LLC, says it is possible to be both respectful and direct when it is necessary to speak up about a negative situation or culture. You might frame your feedback to show you care about the place you are leaving, says Ms. Bryant, who worked for Twitter Inc. TWTR -2.76% and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. GS 3.54% before co-founding Just Work, which helps organizations and individuals create more equitable workplaces.

In her own career, Ms. Bryant says, she has given direct feedback during exit interviews by saying: “I’m sharing this because not only do I care about the company, I care about my colleagues who I’m leaving.”

Most people switch jobs several times during their careers. Even when an employee has complicated feelings about leaving a role or colleagues, Ms. Bryant says, they might focus their exit interview on how their experience prepared them for their next role and emphasize the positive so as to not burn a bridge.

“It is OK for you to be in a company, do great work and then, when you’ve contributed and done your part, go on,” she says.


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Capri Coffer socks away $600 a month to help fund her travels. The Atlanta health-insurance account executive and her husband couldn’t justify a family vacation to the Dominican Republic this summer, though, given what she calls “astronomical” plane ticket prices of $800 each.

The price was too high for younger family members, even with Coffer defraying some of the costs.

Instead, the family of six will pile into a rented minivan come August and drive to Hilton Head Island, S.C., where Coffer booked a beach house for $650 a night. Her budget excluding food for the two-night trip is about $1,600, compared with the $6,000 price she was quoted for a three-night trip to Punta Cana.

“That way, everyone can still be together and we can still have that family time,” she says.

With hotel prices and airfares stubbornly high as the 2023 travel rush continues—and overall inflation squeezing household budgets—this summer is shaping up as the season of travel trade-offs for many of us.

Average daily hotel rates in the top 25 U.S. markets topped $180 year-to-date through April, increasing 9.9% from a year ago and 15.6% from 2019, according to hospitality-data firm STR.

Online travel sites report more steep increases for summer ticket prices, with Kayak pegging the increase at 35% based on traveler searches. (Perhaps there is no more solid evidence of higher ticket prices than airline executives’ repeated gushing about strong demand, which gives them pricing power.)

The high prices and economic concerns don’t mean we’ll all be bunking in hostels and flying Spirit Airlines with no luggage. Travellers who aren’t going all-out are compromising in a variety of ways to keep the summer vacation tradition alive, travel agents and analysts say.

“They’re still out there and traveling despite some pretty real economic headwinds,” says Mike Daher, Deloitte’s U.S. transportation, hospitality and services leader. “They’re just being more creative in how they spend their limited dollars.”

For some, that means a cheaper hotel. says global search interest in three-star hotels is up more than 20% globally. Booking app HotelTonight says nearly one in three bookings in the first quarter were for “basic” hotels, compared with 27% in the same period in 2019.

For other travellers, the trade-offs include a shorter trip, a different destination, passing on premium seat upgrades on full-service airlines or switching to no-frills airlines. Budget-airline executives have said on earnings calls that they see evidence of travellers trading down.

Deloitte’s 2023 summer travel survey, released Tuesday, found that average spending on “marquee” trips this year is expected to decline to $2,930 from $3,320 a year ago. Tighter budgets are a factor, he says.

Too much demand

Wendy Marley is no economics teacher, but says she’s spent a lot of time this year refreshing clients on the basics of supply and demand.

The AAA travel adviser, who works in the Boston area, says the lesson comes up every time a traveler with a set budget requests help planning a dreamy summer vacation in Europe.

“They’re just having complete sticker shock,” she says.

Marley has become a pro at Plan B destinations for this summer.

For one client celebrating a 25th wedding anniversary with a budget of $10,000 to $12,000 for a five-star June trip, she switched their attention from the pricey French Riviera or Amalfi Coast to a luxury resort on the Caribbean island of St. Barts.

To Yellowstone fans dismayed at ticket prices into Jackson, Wyo., and three-star lodges going for six-star prices, she recommends other national parks within driving distance of Massachusetts, including Acadia National Park in Maine.

For clients who love the all-inclusive nature of cruising but don’t want to shell out for plane tickets to Florida, she’s been booking cruises out of New York and New Jersey.

Not all of Marley’s clients are tweaking their plans this summer.

Michael McParland, a 78-year-old consultant in Needham, Mass., and his wife are treating their family to a luxury three-week Ireland getaway. They are flying business class on Aer Lingus and touring with Adventures by Disney. They initially booked the trip for 2020, so nothing was going to stand in the way this year.

McParland is most excited to take his teen grandsons up the mountain in Northern Ireland where his father tended sheep.

“We decided a number of years ago to give our grandsons memories,” he says. “Money is money. They don’t remember you for that.”

Fare first, then destination

Chima Enwere, a 28-year old piano teacher in Fayetteville, N.C., is also headed to the U.K., but not by design.

Enwere, who fell in love with Europe on trips the past few years, let airline ticket prices dictate his destination this summer to save money.

He was having a hard time finding reasonable flights out of Raleigh-Durham, N.C., so he asked for ideas in a Facebook travel group. One traveler found a round-trip flight on Delta to Scotland for $900 in late July with reasonable connections.

He was budgeting $1,500 for the entire trip—he stays in hostels to save money—but says he will have to spend more given the pricier-than-expected plane ticket.

“I saw that it was less than four digits and I just immediately booked it without even asking questions,” he says.


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