When a romantic relationship comes to a screeching halt, you are often provided with a detailed list of everything you’ve done wrong. Forms of delivery vary; there’s the shouting match, where you can’t look your neighbours in the eye for six months following; there’s the scathing email, where your ex-partner explains in grave detail each of your scandalous failures; and finally the grapevine method, where a mutual friend recounts to you everything that’s been said behind your back.

On the contrary, when a professional relationship comes to a halt, both employee and employer are prone to using a lot of meaningless buzzwords or corporate jargon to avoid stating the real problem: “It’s a business decision,” “We’re rethinking our needs in your sector,” or “I’m looking for a more synergistic employer.” There’s simply too much at stake. The employee may need a reference, the employer may not want the news to spread that the company is downsizing.

Thus the importance of the exit interview. It’s a chance to engage, employer to employee, and learn where there may be room for improvement. It’s a chance the employer to understand what they are doing wrong, where the organisation can improve and how they might increase employee retention in the future. Most importantly, it’s a chance to clear the air, voice concerns that might not have been addressed properly, and leave the relationship without any unresolved issues or feelings of resentment.

Departing employees should do their part by resigning in person, in a direct and polite way. Unless your business is normally conducted online, make an appointment with your manager and bring an official letter with you. Keep the information to yourself until you’re ready to inform your superiors; you don’t want the news arriving via another of your colleagues. It’s embarrassing for both employer and employee.

It’s important for businesses to have a strategy in regard to the exit interview. Will it be done via a written or online questionnaire or will departing employees speak directly with a superior? Who will be in charge of these interviews? Has the organisation taken pains to assure there will be no negative repercussions for the interviewee? It’s important to establish a safe space and encourage honesty. If the departing employee believes she is being unfairly discriminated against as a new mother, it’s important that the right person and the right atmosphere are provided to help her voice her concerns. Finally, a process must be put in place so that such concerns are addressed by the organisation in an efficient and timely manner.

About the author: Amy Knapp is a business blogger based in Sydney, commenting on business and HR issues for Insidetrak. Educated in Law and the Fine Arts, her work champions the marriage of the creative and the corporate. Follow her on Twitter @JoyofWords.


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