Why burning bridges during an exit interview is always the wrong thing to do

Don’t leave on a bad note.

Harper's Bazaar India

You’ve made up your mind, put in your papers, and entered that mind space where you’ve mentally quit the organisation that you’re working for. The only thing that’s next is the exit interview. While you might think that it’s a complete waste of time, there’s a lot that your employer wants to know about you and it’s your feedback (hopefully constructive) that means a lot to them. 

While we’ll spend some time explaining the dos and don’ts, what’s most important is to not say anything that’ll see you burn bridges. 

Always choose honesty in an exit interview

If you were honest and sincere during your entire tenure at the workplace, why should your exit interview be anything different? Honest feedback can include information where you didn’t feel good. The right thing to do is communicate it clearly and in a manner that’s respectful and constructive. Remember, at the end of the day, all that the person on the other side wants to know are the reasons behind you leaving and what can they do and fix to enable more retention at the workspace. So yes, this isn’t the time where you vent and rant and unload all those pent-up feelings. Furthermore, don’t make up stories that didn’t happen as you’ll just look unprofessional if someone cross-checks. The optics in an exit interview is something to consider so do take some time out to realise how this information will be received. 

What you should do during an exit interview 

First and foremost, address the why and tell them why you’re leaving. You don’t have to get into every single detail, but ensure that they know what you need to tell them before you leave. It’ll only improve things from their side for the person who’s going to replace you. If you’re parting, do so on a good note and tell them how satisfied you were in the job (if you had to leave, you’d have done so earlier. So, there must have been some reason for sticking around so far) and what were the things you enjoyed—the highs and the accomplishments as well as leaving some time for recommendation on areas where they can improve. 

Here’s the important part—the don’ts  

As mentioned earlier, an exit interview isn’t the place to say anything mature. Nor is it one where you get into a monologue of your time at the company that sounds like a rant and you venting. Stay professional and choose not to badmouth your colleagues or superiors. You can be honest without sounding offensive. 

With emotions running high and you already having one foot in the new company, choose not to speak about how awesome it feels to quit and boast about your new job and the position there. If things are better, keep those feelings to yourself. There’s absolutely no need to bring someone up by putting the other place down. 

With this being the last time you speak to your former boss, an exit interview is the best and the right time to remind them how valuable and hard-working an employee you were. By being professional, you will continue to stay in their mind and have a positive reference. 

Your exit interview is a chance to remind your soon-to-be former boss that you were a valuable, hard-working employee. Being gracious, even if you’re not leaving the company on the best terms, is critical. Remain professional at all times during the interview, and you’ll solidify a positive reference for the future. Long story short, it’s a very small world and you really don’t know if and when your paths will cross again.