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Exit interviews as a tool for examining turnover.

Losing good employees can be devastating to both production and morale. Losing even marginal employees disrupts the department and means hours spent searching for and training a replacement--who may or may not work out. One tool that many companies use to monitor and examine turnover is the exit interview. Whether an employee is leaving voluntarily or involuntarily, the exit interview is a good way to determine what may need to be changed.

The exit interview serves two functions: to process the terminated employee in an orderly way and, in the case of a voluntary termination, to collect information on the employee's reasons for leaving. The first function is handled by a personnel professional, but during that interview the second function may be neglected. Even if personnel handles the exit interview effectively, the immediate manager of the terminated employee should still schedule an interview with the employee, since he or she may discover pertinent information.

A manager should conduct an exit interview even if he or she terminated the employee. The interview will reveal the employee's perceptions of why he or she is being terminated, which may differ radically from the manager's viewpoint. It will also help the manager determine how he or she may have unwittingly contributed to the employee's dismissal by being a poor communicator, a poor trainer, or being inaccessible.

An exit interview is also a good safeguard against wrongful discharge suits. It offers the manager the opportunity to explain the employee's rights of appeal and to head off or gauge the potential for a wrongful discharge action. The manager should take this opportunity to diffuse any strong negative feelings that the terminated employee may pass along to employees who still work for the company.

The primary steps a manager takes both with voluntary and involuntary termination exit interviews are:

* Putting the employee at ease

* Explaining the purpose of the meeting

* Questioning

* Closing

To effectively conduct an exit interview, the manager should know what information he or she wants out of the meeting, have a plan of action, be organized, ask only necessary questions, maintain control, and effectively handle sensitive issues.

After the information has been gathered, it is time to close the session. Because the exit interview is a stress-filled process, it is possible that important issues were neglected. Before ending the meeting, the manager should review his or her notes and take a few moments to recap the conversation with the employee to make sure all the pertinent concerns were covered. This is a good time for the employee to ask questions. Often the employee may provide additional information that the manager failed to solicit.

Seldom will the manager get all the material he or she needs during an exit interview. An involuntarily terminated employee will give bitter and emotional feedback, and a voluntarily terminated employee will give a glowing report to ensure a future good reference. Therefore, specific issues may be overemphasized and not a good measure of how other employees feel. Even so, the manager should listen to this information and try to discover the truth. Even an overly emotional, bitter employee can provide information that may help future employee relations.

Involuntary terminations. When firing an employee, the manager must avoid condemnation. Rather he or she should listen with an open mind and express empathy and understanding. Terminating an ineffective employee is difficult, but it can be constructive if handled properly. A manager can use five steps to structure the exit interview to make it as painless as possible.

Within the first few minutes of the interview, the manager should tell the person that the decision to terminate has been made. The news should be broken in a way that will minimize trauma. The manager should empathize, but be firm. The person should be allowed to vent his or her emotions. The facts should be presented truthfully. The real problem should not be glossed over nor should a phony excuse for termination be given.

The employee should be offered the chance to explain what he or she thinks are the reasons for the termination. The following questions can help the manager explore this subject:

* What is your perception of the termination decision?

* In what ways do you feel that the company and I have let you down?

* What do you think we could do differently in the future to avoid the problems you had?

It is possible that the employee will not want to answer any of the questions or that his or her state of mind may not be conducive to carrying on a mature discussion. For these reasons, many companies give employees a written questionnaire to take with them and return later, after they have had time to think about the decision rationally. Even then, a response may never come.

Voluntary terminations. When dealing with a voluntarily terminated employee, a manager must remember that the truth is somewhat colored. The employee who made a decision to leave may want to keep one foot in the door in case the new position does not work out. The interviewer needs to be aware of the potential for being snowed by employees. A manager must be careful not to take all the wonderful things this employee may say as the absolute truth. Chances are he or she was unhappy with some aspect of the job. The manager should try to solicit that information by putting the employee at ease.

By following the steps outlined above, a manager should be able to gather the information needed to keep the best people, help the marginal people, and make the inevitable involuntary termination as painless as possible.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a free-lance writer who specializes in business topics.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Managing
Author:Grensing-Pophal, Lin
Publication:Security Management
Date:Jun 1, 1993
Previous Article:Signing up for security 101.
Next Article:Security at the power source.

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