It’s not me, it’s you: 13 of the most shocking things we’ve heard in exit interviews

17 October 2023

People leave jobs for a bunch of reasons… the role wasn’t challenging enough, they feel undervalued, or they’re looking for better work-life balance. At least that’s what they tell you.

The exit interview is where the truth bombs come out. It’s a safe place where departing employees can share the good, the bad and the ugly – and the real reasons they’re leaving the organisation.

We feel privileged to hold this space for them. But we’ve also heard some things that have made us sit up and think, “Oh damn.”

So, let’s spill some tea.

Note: these are all REAL responses from exit interviews. They’ve been generalised and anonymised to maintain privacy. AND, this is not to say these are the one and only reasons they have left their jobs – in many cases, this was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

1. My colleague specifically excluded me from meetings so that they could take the credit for a piece of work.

2. My boss didn’t actually know what my job was. They kept changing their mind about what they wanted.

3. I spent over 15 years in the organisation, and only once received a thank you for my hard work.

4. The filter drinking tap was out of order for over 12 months with numerous requests to have it fixed – with no result.

5. My boss made me take the blame for an epic stuff-up at work, taking no responsibility for the fact that it occurred under their watch.

6. I asked to be transferred to a specific location, and instead the boss sent me to another location, filling the role in the location I preferred with someone else (who didn’t want to be there!).

7. The first time I saw the big manager in our work area was at my farewell. They hadn’t ever left their corner of the building.

8. When I asked for help my boss would “empower” me by saying, “you figure it out”.

9. Managers would regularly call meetings and then fail to show up at them.

10. Management implemented a bunch of systems and processes that were completely ineffective (and without asking for input from those of us who actually use them!).

11. A special celebration was organised for the manager’s birthday. No one else’s birthday was ever recognised.

12. I was paid $30,000 less than another person in my team doing exactly the same role.

13. Our organisation prided itself on offering a heap of extra benefits – gym memberships, lunchtime yoga, etc. But we were expected to work so many hours that we never had the time to use them. I would have appreciated the time back instead of the tokenistic ‘wellbeing’ initiatives.

The antidote to these shocking stories: the stay survey

There’s sometimes no way to turn someone around that’s decided to quit, but there is a way to get on top of things before it gets to the point of no return: the stay survey.

Imagine the people who’d provided the responses above were asked about their experience six months or a year before they decided to leave. In our experience, simply asking people about how they are experiencing the workplace, in a safe and non-judgmental environment, can make a massive difference to how they feel about the workplace. And can even influence their decision to stay or go.

Employees who feel like they’re being heard are much more engaged. And if they feel like their feedback has been taken on board and acted upon, the results are infinitely more positive.

Need a bit of guidance on running stay surveys or exit interviews? Get in touch.

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