It is often awkward when an employee leaves, and under these awkward circumstances many employers try to have the employee leave as quickly and effortlessly as possible. In the process, employers often overlook a valuable way to obtain potentially useful information about the organization: employee exit interviews. A well-run exit interview can allow an employer to learn about information that might be necessary to correct problems at the organization as well as learn about potential areas of liability.
During an exit interview, an employer should sit down with the employee and ask about his or her experience at the organization. Ideally such an interview would be handled by HR instead of attorneys, as this will likely make the employee feel more at ease. The interviewer should ask the employee to provide honest information about his or her experience. Because the employee is departing he or she may be more likely to provide honest feedback than otherwise.
Questions should include whether the employee received adequate training and what steps the company could take to improve its performance and make the workplace function better. The interviewer should also ask why the employee is leaving and whether other employees plan to leave for similar reasons.
Additionally, the interviewer should ask the employee if he or she witnessed any laws or company policies being violated, or whether the employee was ever asked to engage in unethical or illegal behavior. Not only will this allow the employer to address these problems, but it will alert the employer about any potential liability and possibly prevent the departing employee from being considered a whistleblower. Of course, in order to avoid whistleblower and other liability, the employer should at least investigate the employee’s claims of wrongdoing and take corrective action if necessary. This corrective action should be taken while the employee is still employed, as this may prevent the employee from taking the issues to outside entities like attorneys, government agencies, media outlets, etc.
Exit interviews should even be conducted with employees who are fired. Obviously, it might be difficult to conduct a face-to-face interview with such an employee, but the employee may be willing to answer a questionnaire about his or her experience.
Records should be kept of the exit interviews, and the employee’s responses should be shared with his or her supervisor. Feel free to contact me if you have questions about how to properly conduct an exit interview.