What should I say during my departure interview?
August 7, 2008 8:55 AM   Subscribe

What should I say is the reason for my resignation?

I am leaving because of my supervisor. On my resignation letter, I am keeping it very simple but I am expecting questions on why I am leaving, especially from my supervisor's boss who has no idea what's going on in our division and the issues that my supervisor has caused.

I want to leave on a good term, not burn any bridges, and with class. It may not happen but I do expect many probing questions on why I decided to leave. I don't think I can get away with 'it's time for me to move on' or anything generic. Especially during my departure interview.

Any suggestions on what I should say will be appreciated, thanks.
posted by icollectpurses to Work & Money (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you already have something lined up, explain that it was an opportunity you couldn't turn down. You can leave "to get away from YOU" unspoken.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 9:00 AM on August 7, 2008

Why give one? Write you have found a new opportunity elsewhere and are eager to try it. No muss, no fuss.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:01 AM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do you expect to be waterboarded at your exit interview? Heck, you can decline doing one if you like.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:03 AM on August 7, 2008

My personal policy is that I never give exit interviews, ever. They can't make you do them, and my experience is that there's nothing that you can really say during an exit interview that ever helps you.

If you didn't care about being classy, you could be blunt about the suckness of your old boss in an attempt at vengeance, but that never does anything. :shrug:
posted by Citrus at 9:06 AM on August 7, 2008

It depends. Do you, basically, like the company and genuinely want them to be better? Then tell the truth. The only way an organization can improve is if the weaknesses are pointed-out.

If, on the other hand, you don't really care, then stick with the "new/better opportunity" line.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:07 AM on August 7, 2008

>>I don't think I can get away with 'it's time for me to move on' or anything generic. Especially during my departure interview.<>
Sure you can. What are they gonna do ... fire you?
posted by macadamiaranch at 9:15 AM on August 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

You're leaving to "pursue other opportunities."
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:20 AM on August 7, 2008

Don't sweat it; just politely say you found another opportunity. They may pry, but in the end it's your decision to leave and you're free to do so. It's a free country (mostly?) after all.
posted by ornate insect at 9:21 AM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

You have to pick your battles.

Since you've decided to leave, you've apparently already decided that you can't "win" the battle with your supervisor. So, just leave, with as little fuss as possible. This includes giving the universally accepted "new opportunity" reason, and not stirring the pot if you do the exit interview.

Any shit you stir up as you leave will reflect negatively on you.
posted by Artful Codger at 9:23 AM on August 7, 2008

You want to leave on good terms? Draft a letter outlining the problems you had and saw and note some possible methods of remediation and present that as part of your reasoning along with the explore other opportunities.

That way you can vent, it is done professionally and you don't come off as complaining because you outline methods of correcting the problem, though don't say "fire the bastard." Suggest ways the supervisor can improve and note positives and any improvements you noted in the past (so its not all negative.) Also, in such a letter target titles not names, so it remains an impersonal attack.
posted by thebreaks at 9:28 AM on August 7, 2008

If you care about the company or the team mates you're leaving behind, diplomatically mention problems with the supervisor if you're asked directly. But don't do it in writing. If you're asked during the exit interview, maybe respond that the manager and you are a "poor fit." The supervisor has a "different communication style." (I once said that a bossy, overbearing person's "commitment and sense of urgency sometimes made her communications seem abrupt.") HR can read between the lines.

Otherwise, you're just pursuing new opportunities.

They might not ask you anything. I quit a job due to a toxic supervisor, and I expected to be asked why I was leaving, but no one asked. One reason toxic managers exist is that higher management doesn't pay attention or care.
posted by PatoPata at 9:35 AM on August 7, 2008 [4 favorites]

If you want to make "pursue other opportunities" sound less cliched try adding "that are more in line with my current career goals." After all, your career goals do include a supervisor you can get along with, right? There's no sense in mentioning anything specific. It's been my experience that most companies don't care if you or a dozen of your co-workers don't get along with your boss (unless it's a case of sexual harassment or something else that might get the company in hot water).

You don't owe them a detailed explanation.
posted by tommasz at 9:53 AM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't say anything negative in an exit interview.

Whenever I have heard of others saying something negative in an exit interview it has not been a particularly good thing. It is of no advantage to you and could make you seem angry. I think that if you REALLY WANT to you can avoid an explanation beyond, I've decided that this other opportunity came along that I couldn't turn down. I understand the temptation to let someone know about how much you do not like your supervisor, but its their problem to figure out and doesn't do you any good.
posted by Carialle at 10:05 AM on August 7, 2008

The only reason I can think of to bring anything like that up in an exit interview is if you really care about your soon-to-be-former coworkers who still have to work under this person. In that case I think you could express that you had some concerns that specific management behaviors A, B, and C were affecting your team negatively in X, Y, and Z ways. Maybe mention that the team might work better if... [whatever].

In general though, I think it's better to keep your mouth shut about the real reasons why you're leaving. Even with the best of intentions (helping the company and coworkers, etc.), it can be really hard not to start venting if you get into that conversation.
posted by vytae at 10:15 AM on August 7, 2008


I've *not* had an exit interview with my current employer, but several of my ex-co-workers have, and the latest exit interview was very helpful in that it provided even more evidence that a supervisor was not working out. This supervisor was shit-canned a few weeks later -- again, not because of the exit interview, but the exit interview helped to convince HR and management that there was a problem.

I pretty sure that my ex-co-worker didn't just vent, but was honest in his appraisal without seeming whiney or bitter.

So, there's that to consider.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:32 AM on August 7, 2008

Argh -- I *am* pretty sure...
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:33 AM on August 7, 2008

Hmmm, I am, knock on wood, going to be facing this exact situation with the next few weeks.

It is very very tempting to tell them exactly why I'm leaving- but I know it won't do any good, at least not in my case. They have already made so many poor decisions and let so many good people go that they obviously just don't care. if asked directly about something specific, I won't lie though.

If you think your situation might be different and they might genuinely care or take some action, go for it (tactfully). If your boss is one problem at an otherwise good company, who knows, maybe change is possible.

But the act of you leaving already says more than any words can. They are business people and if losing you hurts their bottom line, that is the only language they really understand.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:39 AM on August 7, 2008

I was in a similar position and told my exit interviewer that I wasn't particularly interested in helping the company due to my reasons for leaving. They took it in stride and wound up calling me for some contract work about 6 mos later after my replacement quit for similar reasons (poorly run company).

I do see a nice compromise above though, in that you might be concerned or protective of your coworkers remaining. If that's the case, then put all of the criticism in terms of THEM, not your manager. "I can't stay and watch my friends be put through the grinder on a day to day basis," or the like. Talk about management's effect on their reports, not about management.
posted by rhizome at 2:04 PM on August 7, 2008

If your boss sucks, your company already knows it. If they're not even attempting to fix the problem, what will your words do? I say never do an exit interview unless a) you're leaving on good terms and can honestly blow sunshine up their ass or b) there's some type of harassment (sexual or otherwise) where you're morally obligated to say something. I can't think of any situation where an exit interview can help you. I can think of several ways doing one can hurt you. My vote is to keep your mouth shut and just move on quietly. The fact that you're leaving makes enough of a statement.
posted by bda1972 at 8:23 PM on August 7, 2008

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