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Exit Interviews

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by AnotherDayTowardsRetirement, Jun 4, 2018.

  1. AnotherDayTowardsRetirement

    AnotherDayTowardsRetirement Occasional commenter

    Got a job at a new school. Can’t wait to leave. Called to an exit interview with HR and an SLT member.
    Has anyone out there in TES-land attended one ?
    Any tips ?
    How honest should I be ?
  2. amysdad

    amysdad Established commenter

    I've not had an exit interview while in teaching, but have when I worked in a previous career.

    Firstly, my understanding of these is that they work best when (a) they're voluntary, and (b) it is only with HR. If SLT are there it is going to change the tone of the meeting and make it more difficult to be effective, as you're not going to be able to say what you want!

    If there's no SLT, then be honest. It should be used not to batter you with but to improve the management of the school. One experience I had, was where in the exit interview I was pretty scathing about my manager's management abilities, although I made absolutely clear his knowledge was second to none and as a person I got on well with him. Within 6 months he had been moved to a project which more suited him and the team flourished.

    Most of these things though just end in paperwork being filled out and filed accordingly. So I guess it's up to you - if you think they would bad mouth you to your next place, either refuse the meeting or just say as little as possible in it.
    Rott Weiler and JohnJCazorla like this.
  3. drvs

    drvs Star commenter

    Process-wise, the most effective exit interview I've had was at an international school where the interview was preceded by a well focused form. My comments on the form were a springboard for discussion in the interview with the head and HR officer. It was entirely focused on the organisation, not on me. I was positive in my praise for the school's strength and focused in my criticism of its weaknesses as I perceived them as an employee - the bottom line is you're leaving which in most cases means that there is something about the place which you can't work with. They know that. The trick is to maintain integrity and not be petty, childish, bitter or whiny in your criticism.

    This seems a bit spineless.
    Rott Weiler, JohnJCazorla and nomad like this.
  4. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    You should be completely and utterly dishonest. There is no better opportunity than an exit interview to make them feel as if they are losing out. They will miss you. It's a sentiment to put in your back pocket and use in the future, because HTs talk, you know. You don't for one minute think they want your input to improve things for the school now, do you? If that were the case, you've been there long enough already to tell them. They could have been asking you, ney, all staff on a weekly basis how the school can improve. Asking you at the end is a smokescreen, either to foist a nasty task on you for July, or to prepare for your successor, who they now actually care about more than you.
    Tell them you are really sad to go, but this opening came up where you could gain experience in x,y and z and you could not pass up the chance to diversify. Tell them you are extremely grateful for all the development opportunities you have had over (x) years, and how lucky you feel to have been part of your team. And finally, tell them you know your successor will be able to benefit the kids with great skill because you believe you leave systems/resources/habits which they can easily continue.
    This sort of talk is not only to your long term good, but it might also possibly be the only time you will get these people to fall silent after your words. What a smashing end to what you imply has been a dismal occupation!

    Remember-there are still a few weeks left for them to decide they'd like you to scrub the playground clean with a toothbrush. And then write an impact statement on it.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2018
    Minafeet, bea35, Laphroig and 4 others like this.
  5. drvs

    drvs Star commenter

    ... or you could do that ^ if you don't have any integrity ;)
    nomad likes this.
  6. nomad

    nomad Star commenter

    You are under no obligation to attend an exit interview.

    However, read this first.


    Approach with caution: how to survive an exit interview

    For some reason I have always found the term "exit interview" somewhat menacing: "he's heading for the exit", "exit stage left". A bit sinister. My paranoid tendencies aside, exit interviews, like any relationship break-up, should definitely be handled with care.

    Not every organisation conducts exit interviews, but good employers or those with an aspiration to be good, usually do. The reasons why companies conduct exit interviews differ. One would hope that in most cases the motive is to learn from your departure. Are there policies, processes or behaviours within the business that should be changed or lessons to be learned? Firms may also know that corporately or individually their behaviour has been less than perfect and they are seeking to appear professional and bolster their position in anticipation of the tribunal case they suspect might come their way. Not so good.

    The most common reactions from employees to exit interviews tend to be polar opposites: it's either seen as a waste of time or an ideal opportunity to tell their bosses exactly what they think of them. But have no fear. Here are my tips on surviving an exit interview:

    Decide what you want to get out of it

    Leaving a job can be an emotional time. You might be sad to leave, or perhaps ecstatic to be escaping. You may have had a lovely boss and you want to let the company know that they have a jewel on their hands. Or you may want to take the opportunity to help your soon-to-be former colleagues by telling HR that your manager is an idiot. Before you go into the room decide your goal for the meeting and do your best to stick to it.

    Approach with caution

    There is certainly a moral case, for say, informing on a bully. And one would always hope to have the moral fortitude to do the right thing. I am certainly not advising you not to say anything. I was once conducting a search for a head of department to work with a particular director, well known in their industry. I soon discovered that this director was infamous throughout the sector for being a bully. I went back to the company and told them this. To my shock, they were not surprised in the least. They were fully aware of his behaviour and were resolved to do nothing about it. Unfortunately, this can often be the case. My point being that unless you feel very strongly on the matter once you have decided to leave, just set emotion aside and depart as gracefully and painlessly as possible. The time for the battle is over. It's time to move on. Exactly like ending a relationship. The prize in this case, however, is not the Johnny Cash CD collection but your reference.

    Secure your reference and leave on a positive note

    If you have had a lovely time and worked with lovely people, go ahead and tell them, no harm there. But if you have had a less than wonderful experience my view is thoroughly pragmatic: it's not your problem any more. You have done the right thing for you – you are leaving. That option is open to your colleagues too. Your objective for the exit interview should be to get out with your dignity and reputation intact, to ensure that your reference is secure and that your bridges remain resolutely un-burned. It's a small world and you may well end up working at the company or with one of your colleagues again.

    Live in the real world

    You would be right to think what you say in an exit interview should have no bearing on your reference. However, living in the real world, the manner of someone's departure can have negative consequences for him or her in the future. People talk off the record and gossip spreads. Even HR professionals can be well, er, unprofessional.

    Resist the temptation to offload: talk facts, not opinion

    If you really do believe that you need to make the business aware of something inappropriate or detrimental just speak the facts. Rein in the tide of emotion. Do not express an opinion, just give examples. So, don't say that your boss is an idiot. Say, for example, that no one in the department has been paid correctly for six months.

    Be happy – you are leaving for pastures new

    The exit interview is but a footnote in your career history. Exciting times lie ahead and this thought should carry you through your last days with the business.

    So, exit stage left, behave yourself at your leaving do and if you remember only one thing, remember this: an exit interview is more about what you don't say than what you do.

    Nick Thompson

    Published: 25 Mar 2014
    JohnJCazorla likes this.
  7. Jessaki

    Jessaki Occasional commenter

    In my school in the UK the exit interviews were always done by SLT, when I did mine, the interviewer was my line manager with whom I had a good relationship, so I was able to be honest...but she already knew what I was going to say. I do know one of my colleagues a few years back was brutally honest in her exist interview and the principal sent her a letter disputing everything she said...which I thought was a little petty. They had to get the last word in!

    In my last school again interviews done by the Principal or Vice Principal, but we had a form to fill out beforehand and that's really where the discussion centred around.

    Do I think they are a good thing? They can be, as long as any criticism is presented constructively and SLT / HR genuinely want to use them to improve working relationships in the school.
  8. nomad

    nomad Star commenter

    Not to mention search your bags daily to make sure you are not taking the stapler, any green pens or photocopy paper, forcibly occupy your parking space with the cricket pitch roller and demand that you have to show your ID every time you come back into the building,

    ... and send you a bill for £585.50 because you had promised to attend the next staff Christmas function and who knows how much you would have ordered from the menu.
    JohnJCazorla likes this.
  9. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    Hmm, interesting psychology.
    For me, the taking of pens and copy paper has always occurred straight after observation feedback based solely on concerns, and on leaving a place, I've tended to place scores of dried up board pens in the top drawer which have otherwise inhabited the bottom of my bag for six years.
    nomad likes this.
  10. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    If told I was to attend one, I'd refuse. If invited I might attend.
  11. foxtail3

    foxtail3 Star commenter

    I don’t think that people leave jobs simply because they can’t stand where they’re working. That might be the case, but people leave to further their career, to relocate, go part time/full time and for a variety of reasons.

    I had a positive exit interview with my line manager some years ago.

    I wanted an exit interview when I left my last post. It was arranged, but didn’t happen. Since I was relocating and not intending to teach again, I was going to be very honest. I didn’t have the opportunity, but it’s interesting that, apart from three people, the entire staff has changed in a short time.
  12. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    The only exit interview I had was when I finished working for the local authority. It was nothing more than a cosy chat ( very representative of how the LA functioned ) and the interviewers clearly just wanted to get down on paper how much I had ‘ enjoyed ‘ the experience . I think I made the point that the two year appointment was about my being effective, professional, fulfilling / delivering / exceeding demands of the job spec ..I made the most of the opportunities that had arisen I stressed ...... but I did feel that it was more going through the motions ....
  13. mothorchid

    mothorchid Star commenter

    I had one only once and it was very pleasent, because I was moving away, so that all we needed to say was how lovely the school had been that I was leaving and how much I would be missed. I was able to give a couple of thoughts about some minor imprvements I considered they might make, which were politely received (though I don't know if they were acted upon.)
    I think they are meant to be unthreatening. I don't think they are an appropriate place to off-load.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  14. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    No experience of these but I can't see how any useful action could come from it.

    You must know the movers and shakers in the school by now so it would be better to send them an email/letter to explain your concerns. Might still end up as a ticky-box but more chance of doing something that way.

    On reflection I'd just shrug and move on anyway.

    And I will go on shining
    Shining like brand new
    I'll never look behind me
    My troubles will be few
    Supertramp - Goodbye Stranger

    Or for those who can only let me quote Kenny.
    I've had some bad times, lived through some sad times
    But this time your hurting won't heal
    You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille
    Kenny Rogers - Lucille
  15. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    It's just a tick-box exercise. Probably something they have to do to get "Investors In People" or some other BS award.

    Do not go in all guns blazing. Be as positive as you can and offer one (vaguely sensible) step they can take to improve things e.g. install a water-cooler in some outpost of the building. Nothing to make anyone feel "blamed".
    JohnJCazorla and mm71 like this.
  16. nomad

    nomad Star commenter

    JohnJCazorla likes this.
  17. nomad

    nomad Star commenter

  18. saluki

    saluki Lead commenter

    I had a sort of short interview when I handed my notice in (with immediate effect!). They asked for it in writing. Boy did I give it in writing, together with my thoughts on what a toxic place I was working in and how badly run it was. I cc'd the Principal in as well as my line manager and my line manager's line manager - the latter was the real toxic *itch.
    Result: none. Not even an acknowledgement. Unfortunately, whenever I applied for a job a reference was not forthcoming. Applications for references are simply ignored. Is this a problem? No. I am working in a better environment and making a living. I can use other referees.
    I have very few friends left at that educational establishment. I think 3 left the same week as me. About 4 left the previous Summer. Another half a dozen since September are either leaving or have left. One is in the middle of a nervous breakdown. The line manager's line manager goes from strength to strength. I do believe in Karma though - it will happen one day.
  19. CheeseMongler

    CheeseMongler Lead commenter

    As it seems to be a recurring theme on these threads, when asked why you are leaving at the exit interview, just start singing Kenny Roger's "The Gambler".
    mothorchid likes this.
  20. Jolly_Roger15

    Jolly_Roger15 Star commenter

    As an 'Investor in People', my last school 'invited' staff leaving of their own volition to 'exit interviews'. The school's attitude to these was evinced by the presentation to the interviewee of a laminated card reminding them of the laws against slander and libel.

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