The Case For Lying In Your Exit Interview

exit interview lyingBy Alexis Grant

When you leave a job that makes you unhappy, it's easy to want to tell your employer why you're leaving. Whether you're frustrated by mismanagement, not-so-challenging assignments or maddening co-workers, you want to get it off your chest. Because the Big Boss can use that information to improve the company, right?


Fast-forward six months. Think your company will really implement any of the changes you suggested? Probably not.

Think a few people at that company might be mad at you for airing your grievances? Probably. No matter how professionally you presented them.

We like to think our superiors are mature enough to take criticism in stride, but the truth is, some aren't. And you need even those immature bosses on your side as a reference down the road, especially if you're hoping to move up the ladder in that industry.

Which is why even if you're leaving your job because it sucks, you should keep that truth to yourself - particularly if you've worked hard to build relationships at that workplace. Telling the truth seems like the right thing to do, but it's not the best move for you or your career.

I like the analogy Andrew Rosen makes in his piece about how to break up with your job, that it's similar to a romantic breakup. When we leave a person, we often have the urge to talk it out, explaining where the relationship went wrong. But the truth is, while that gut-spilling or over-explaining may make you feel better, your ex isn't going to change because of it. In many cases, being truly honest will hurt and offend.

Now picture your employer as your soon-to-be ex. No matter how you hedge your complaints, no matter how constructive you frame your criticism, chances are someone at that organization will be mad at you for doing it. And that's bad for your career.

(This is kind of like how Penelope Trunk says women shouldn't report sexual harassment because it will likely hurt your career. Not exactly what we want to hear, but she has a point.)

Instead, hold your tongue, even if it's against your nature. Put the focus on what's ahead, and use that as your reason for leaving, telling your employer you've been offered an opportunity you simply can't pass up. That saves you from having to say anything at all about the job you're leaving, and it helps you stay honest, too.

And what if you're asked specific questions about what it was like to work for that company?

Respond like you would if your mom asked you how you liked her meatloaf, and you didn't want to hurt her feelings. Couch your answers. Offer positive feedback on what did work. Change the subject.

Because once you make a smooth exit, your frustration over your organization's inefficiencies will fade into the distance, just like your ex when you've got a new crush. Then you can put all of that energy where it belongs - into your new job.

Do you agree or disagree? Why?

Alexis Grant is managing editor of Brazen Life. She blogs at The Traveling Writer.

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Disagree. I don't care if it hurts my career. I am not lying for anyone.

I did an exit interview and detailed the weaknesses I saw in the company I was leaving. My boss (at the time) was gone in a few months. So was the HR manager. I know why my boss was gone, but don't know why the HR manager was gone, except that the new boss did not get along with her.

My exit interview may or may not have played a part in those job changes. I will never know. I hope it did not effect the HR manager because I thought she did a great job.

I would do the same thing all over again and let the chips fall where they may.
Life is too short to compromise your character for a job. Be honest.

February 27 2012 at 9:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Agree. Once you decide to leave an employer, if the issue appears to be a corporate culture issue, focus on the benefits of the employer you're going to. As quickly as upper management seems to move around these days, the old adage is more applicable than ever: "Be careful what you say, the butt you kick today may be the butt you have to kiss tomorrow!"

February 27 2012 at 9:04 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
ishnah kokoro

I disagree because I think it depends on how you intend to spread the word about your ex-job- if they are guilty of some serious mismanagement at a big corporation I think it's great to expose them to the world (albeit in a mature way). If you're going to blow your mouth off to your own boss that seems silly.
And the piece of advice that leans against telling people why you want to break up with them is a terrible notion! I would hate it if I didn't have a discussion about why a person a person wanted to break up ,staying in the dark would leave me more frustrated than ever

February 27 2012 at 8:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Absolutely disagree with this. An exit interview SHOULD be a place for honest and constructive dialogue. If the company offers an exit interview, it's a good indication that they have policies in place to accept feedback. Of course, an exit interview is NOT the place to rant and rave or attack a former boss. Stick to the facts and keep it constructive.

February 27 2012 at 7:54 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

i worked at a job for three months where an employee would yell at me everytime i asked for help or advice. and i mean yelled !!! top of his voice and everything. but never when management was in the area. we sat within a couple feet of each other. i told the supervisor about this. silly me. why did i think the employee would change ??? he'd been there for a couple years and all the other employees (women) knew he was like this. he finally left the job about a year later, after his wife left him. maybe he got a clue ?

February 27 2012 at 6:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Flicka DiMare'

I must disagree because there are many companies now that are required to perform exit interviews and show that they have identified problems and work to correct them. Certainly not all corporations do this I do realize, but many healthcare companies do now and many have ethics boards that are expected to perform to a higher level of care.

February 27 2012 at 6:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Absolutely- never burn your bridges

February 27 2012 at 6:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hard as it might be, don't trash your ex-employer or lie about your work history. In this day and age of computerized background checks, it's not as easy as just leaving it off of the work history, so whatever you do, don't lie. In order to avoid any liability, many employers limit the information they provide to start and end dates of employment and your last salary. If you know you'll get a bad recommendation no matter how well you performed, suggest to your ex-employer that it do the same and (nicely) warn that if a bad, unfounded recommendation costs you a job, the ex-employer could be liable for damages.

The best way to cover a bad recommendation or lack of one is to get a letter of recommendation from someone else in the company who will give you a good recommendation. If you're leaving a company that has a policy of only giving "name, rank and serial number," sometimes this is the only way to get a recommendation.

However, if it's happened only once, you know you'll get a bad recommendation and you hadn't worked there very long, you might want to say something innocuous, such as "It just wasn't a good fit." I was once hired by a law office to work for an attorney who knew (but didn't want to spill the beans to the firm) that she was leaving and taking her clients with her. When she left a scant three weeks after I started work, the job disappeared, too. I told the truth and no one held it against me.

February 27 2012 at 5:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This article was written by a worthless boss. What a society we live in.

February 27 2012 at 5:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"The One Time You Should Lie in Interviews"

When you're speaking.

February 27 2012 at 5:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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