Don’t ruin your reputation with an ugly goodbye. Employees leave. It happens. It’s annoying, frustrating, time-consuming and costly. But sending them off with a right royal roasting is not the way to go!
- They thought it was sorted
- They tried again
- They went into shock
- Timing couldn’t have been worse
- Joe’s fatal error
- And the point is?
- Exit interview tips and tricks
- What you can learn
They thought it was sorted
Adrian worked for two years in a sales role for a blue-chip company. His overall performance was never more than average. Reasonably often it was below average. Sometimes it was downright appalling. First he complained to his ultimate boss about his manager, saying she was not motivating, picked on him unfairly, her expectations were too high and she had no time to train him.
They tried again
So they moved him. Again. Not to the area he had requested as there were no immediate positions and there were plenty of high-achievers looking to get into that area anyhow. But to a good area that Adrian seemed reasonably happy with.
Loads of effort was put into retraining Adrian for this new area. Two months later – one month after he finished training – he quit. Just sauntered into his boss’s office and handed over his resignation letter.
They went into shock
His supervisors were flabbergasted. As far as they were concerned, they had done everything possible to keep Adrian happy, and had been particularly accommodating considering the fact he wasn’t even generating enough revenue to cover his own wages.
Timing couldn’t have been worse
Adrian’s manager referred him to the big boss – Joe. Joe had been having a bad day. He was running late for a meeting, had conducted a difficult staff appraisal in the morning and his daughter had been sent home from school. He knew Adrian’s track record, and, frankly, didn’t really have time for him. But he had to deal with him so he invited him in for a chat.
Right away, Adrian was rude, ungrateful and scathing about the company. Joe tried to pacify him and talk rationally. Adrian wasn’t having it. Joe snapped. He told Adrian directly what he thought of his performance, that he wasn’t sorry to see him go and he had considered him a costly waste of space. Joe stood up, thrust a pointed finger towards the doorway and shouted at Adrian to get out – with the entire office listening. He never wanted to see him again.
Joe’s fatal error
In the heat of the moment, Joe failed to ask Adrian where he would be working now. He found out soon enough. Two weeks later he was informed by one of his employees that Adrian was now working in a reasonably senior position – no-one knew how – with one of Joe’s most valuable clients.
Joe knew he had to get on with Adrian if he was to keep the key account. He had to call him up and try to settle the score. To his credit he tried. Unfortunately, he failed. Because Joe had shouted at him and humiliated him in front of his colleagues, Adrian refused to have anything to do with him. Shortly afterwards, they lost the account.
And the point is?
You knew the moral of the story was on its way. The point is this: when staff quit, whether you like them not, whether you’ll miss them or you won’t, it’s not worth ruining your reputation, and potentially jeopardising current and future business because of negative feelings towards one employee. Even when those feelings are overwhelming.
Firstly, you never know where people will turn up – like Adrian. Secondly, people talk. Disgruntled employees and grumpy former employees talk to more people more often than happy, satisfied, motivated staff. Oh, for it to be the other way around! But it isn’t. It’s not worth risking losing future potential applicants because of what an ex-worker says about the company – justified or not. Of course they may ‘trash’ the company anyway, no matter how well they are treated. Don’t give them anything juicy to use against you, because you can be sure that they will.
Do talk to them. Just don’t blow your top! What you can learn might be extremely valuable. The process – you may do it already – is called exit interviewing. Exit interviews offer an opportunity to find out information you might not otherwise get. Once the employee has resigned and is definitely going, his or her inhibitions are likely to vanish, or at least diminish significantly.
Exit interview tips and tricks
Be prepared to hear things you don’t like. You might think you have a happy, productive, motivated workforce. You might be deluded, or at least overly optimistic. Here are a few pointers to make this process run as smoothly as possible:
- Have an agenda. Know what information you want to find out
- You are likely to get more from a face-to-face interview than a written questionnaire
- It sounds obvious but ask them why they are leaving
- If appropriate, open on a friendly note by offering to act as a referee
- If you are too involved with the person, or particularly bitter about them leaving, you shouldn’t conduct the interview. Choose someone calm, detached, caring and approachable – with excellent listening skills
- Don’t act shocked or become defensive when he or she drops a bombshell – what they are telling you is probably vital
- Find out what would have made them stay – if anything
- Let them talk about their contribution to the company, what they did in their role, what type of person would be suited to that position
- Ask what they liked most and least about their role
- Determine what they thought of their salary/package and what they are getting in their new position
- Seek suggestions about improvements they would recommend
What you can learn
Exit interviews can be a great idea and a way to get something positive out of what is often otherwise a lose-lose situation. They can be used to gather information which can then play a part in preventing future employees leaving and help improve your company’s working environment. They provide a platform to pacify and win over agitated employees, not that you necessarily want to win them back. By handling their departure with care and respect, and by giving people a chance to talk openly, they will hopefully be less inclined to air their grievances to their former colleagues and every potential job seeker they come across from now on.
By keeping track of the outcomes of exit interviews over time you will begin to identify trends and patterns as to why people leave the company. Whether turnover is higher in certain positions and divisions, whether there are management issues in certain areas, and whether you are offering remuneration which is in line with the competition.
All of this is good. What is better is to avoid only finding out this vital information during exit interviews. A much better idea is to talk to your employees regularly, on both an informal and formal basis, to conduct appraisals and to offer them a forum to talk openly at frequent intervals. If you leave it until you and one of your employees are sitting across from each other in an exit interview to find out what you need to know – you shouldn’t be surprised the person is already on his or her way out.