What would happen if people were as candid EVERY DAY as they are in an exit interview?

Exit Interview

The Exit Interview

Have you ever been on the giving or receiving end of an exit interview? Not every company has them but they should because it is an unparalleled opportunity to gain valuable insight.

Employees know they have nothing to lose so they speak as freely as they wish about…

  • The way they’ve been treated
  • The way others are being treated
  • How you could have invested more in their growth
  • The direction the company is headed
  • What the company should consider doing differently

Let’s go back to my opening question for a moment. I suspect that the first reaction most managers would have to the thought of employees speaking their minds like this on a daily basis is utter terror. NOOOO!

But this is actually the description of a healthy company culture.

Ideally, if someone leaves (ideally, they wouldn’t though, right?) they should find themselves without a whole lot to unload because they’ve been given ample opportunity to express themselves freely without fear of retribution.

A Quick Test

Do you value candor in the workplace? Do your employees feel safe enough to tell you what is on their mind? Are they free to share an idea, express an opinion, or push back with an alternate solution?

How can you tell? Here are 3 tests to determine if your employees feel safe. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How do you react when someone shares feedback you don’t agree with?


It doesn’t matter how much we say we value input – if we respond poorly, our team members will be far less likely to open up next time.

Hint: You probably don’t know how you come across because we think we’re better at hiding our feelings than we really are. So find someone who’s been blunt before and ask them how you respond when people disagree with you.

  • Who sets the agenda for your weekly one-on-ones?

Does the employee have a chance to share what’s important to them?

  • What percentage of the annual performance review is dedicated to the employee’s feedback on your performance as their manager or their feedback about the company’s overall direction?

The Value of Candor

Imagine the effect of a company culture where everyone is as candid as they would be in their exit interview.

For employees:

CelebrateThe employees would be happier and more engaged because we all desire to be heard – we NEED to be heard. We want a voice. We want to matter.

For employers:

Studies have proven what common sense has always known – happier employees do better work – MUCH better! Value everyone’s voice and they will perform better.

But this isn’t the only financial reason to nurture a spirit of candor in the workplace.

Image result for that's gold, jerry, goldA lot of those ideas bouncing around in the heads of your employees are “gold, Jerry, gold!” (that’s 2 for you Seinfeld fans today).

Even if an idea isn’t great, each time they share something and aren’t judged for it, they’ll feel safer about sharing future opinions and one of those ideas could be the one that helps you make your budget this fiscal year!

Expensive consultants might not be necessary if we would find ways to draw out more  from each employee.

A Few Ideas

We know its important but how can we foster a spirit of openness, safety, candor, and transparency? Here are a few tips:

  1. Ask for feedback often
  2. Make a habit of routinely reminding people that you welcome their input
  3. Assure your team that they won’t be punished for sharing their perspective
  4. Focus on being more present and “in the moment” so you give your undivided attention when a team member is speaking with you
  5. Model this behavior by giving honest feedback to your leaders (thanks, Cindy Diggs, for the suggestion to add this 5th point!)

Then there are these two additional tips taken from the previous section:

  1. Modify HR procedures (1:1’s, reviews, etc.) that are one-sided so that the Employee Experience is given equal weight
  2. Carefully guard your outward reaction to feedback that you don’t agree with

If you would like everyone to be as open as if they were in an exit interview, please share this article along with your tips for how to nurture an environment of candor.

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