The Overvalued Horseshit of Exit Interviews

Human resources departments the world over are responsible for some of the least human-like decisions, behaviors and practices we get to see in our day to day working lives. Don't believe me? Just ask anyone in an H.R role what percentage of their job is allocated to the task of trying to rally company morale: it's usually a shockingly high amount.

Most folks assume HR just handles payroll and benefits, and handles inter-employee spats. They're also responsible for doing things like cake for birthdays, introducing dress codes, talking to employees about how to 'foster a positive workplace', and, perhaps most foolishly, figuring out what inquiries to present during an Exit Interview.

Some of you will never have heard of such a thing, but they've become increasingly commonplace in larger employers around the United States, including in the public sector (notably in law enforcement departments). In summary, an Exit Interview is a set of questions assembled by HR in order to get a gauge on why an employee is opting to quit working for the employer, ostensibly in an effort to fix what they can and make the employer a more attractive place for workers to stay onboard with for the long haul. It doesn't hurt, either, that HR will often go out of their way to circuitously try to glean whether or not someone might try to file a suit against the company for things they allowed to happen during operational hours. Best to nip that in the bud, you know?

But let us not faff about and try to shine each other on about what needs to be said here- most Exit Interviews are bullshit. If an employer has a long-serving employee or exemplary short-to-mid-time employee abruptly decide to leave, they either A) aren't going to give notice and won't deign to look in their rearview, or B) had been letting someone know all along what their problem was, and the company's inability or unwillingness to resolve the issue was just another factor in their decision to skate.

Now, don't take me wrong here; most companies have easily reviewed policies, practices, and expectations within the workplace. If you know a lot of folks have said a place is hellish to work for, don't go work for them and act shocked when you discover that, gasp! It's hellish! Oh no! Whatever do I do?

Well, for starters, quit fanning yourself like a Southern belle who's been scandalized, you needy little dilettante. Next, remember that the labor market is a negotiation space wherein you approach an employer with your requested minimums held out up front if you have any sense of self-worth or self-protection. Employers are under no obligation to hire you on if they don't need you or you aren't qualified for the job at hand, and if they don't know what you want up front, they aren't going to like it when you try to blindside them with demands after being hired on.

Anyway, back to the point here, Exit Interviews. To begin with, there are very few instances where anyone is contractually, legally obligated to participate in one. Moreover, I have yet to come across a single instance wherein any employer has a stipulation that requires an honest or even serious response at any point in the process. If one of the questions is 'What could we do better?', employees leaving could literally respond by writing 'Kill yourselves', and there would be nothing that anybody could do or say about it one way or the other.

And let's be honest, as cynical and jaded as a lot of folks are these days, myself included, who wouldn't love to see the widening eyes of Janet from HR as she reads that response and looks aghast at them for daring to write something so inhumane? (Sniffle sniffle cringe whine)

Fuck off, Janet. You didn't seem so upset when Dale from IT got shit-canned for "dead-naming" Kylie. Fuck's sake, we were all at 'her' wedding four years ago, and it's a touch upsetting that 'she' can still dunk on us all at the company picnic basketball game, all right? So fuck off!

Anyway, where was I? The question about 'how can we do better' is pretty common in these Exit Interviews, and one I actually came across when I left my previous employer for my current one. My response was simple- "Get a better benefits package for everyone. The benefits here are the MAIN REASON I'm leaving." It's simple math- my current employer was offering only 75 cents per hour more when I started here, but the cost of benefits here is far lower than at my last job, and with broader coverage for my family/dependents.

Seriously, that's the biggest reason I left there to come 'here'.

Another common question on Exit Interviews is 'What did you enjoy about working with us?" Do you see the linguistic trickery here, by the way? When you're earning a paycheck from most of these places, the message is firmly, 'You work FOR us, to OUR corporate benefit, for OUR bottom line, so know your place'. Yet the moment you opt to leave, it morphs into 'Hey, wasn't it great working TOGETHER, as a TEAM?' Uh, no, Steve, it wasn't great. It especially wasn't great missing my son's first three games of the season because I was stuck here making sure YOUR reports were on YOUR desk before the start of MY weekend, dickwad. But I knew that was an expectation after the first of a hundred times you pulled that shit on me. When a company knows they're losing a valued employee, they'll try to leave them feeling good about the place, like there was genuine camaraderie there. Just be honest, though, and correct the record by starting with, 'What I enjoyed about working FOR [Company X] was the following:" insert commentary here.

The third most common question on these Exit Interviews, and perhaps the one most prone to getting a vicious response, is the following: "Would you recommend us as an employer to others?" If you've had a negative experience with an employer, this is your time to shine, and really let them know what sort of folks they should expect to apply for them in the days and weeks ahead- ex convicts, layabouts, your worst enemies, etcetera. When most people get to this part, if it's an online form or something to be mailed in, they'll leave this part blank, and honestly, that says everything, doesn't it? That the person leaving doesn't even want to waste the effort required to simply type, 'No'.

That HR departments have spent time and effort on these sort of initiatives, and that they continue to, tells me that some companies want to control aspects of their reputation as employers. I can respect that. However, what I cannot respect, in any way, shape or form, is any company's insistence that these interviews are in any way helpful for anyone but themselves.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go think of a good excuse to not join in the company basketball game this year.
Because, Kylie, I just don't want to. No, it isn't because I'm afraid to get beat by a girl.

Okay, you want to know why?! Because every time I try to block you from running one up for a shot, you press your crotch in on my shoulder and it feels like you're smuggling a muscle car's exhaust pipe in your shorts! You're not fooling anybody!

Shit. Well, I'm probably looking for a job again....