Exit interview etiquette

I have an exit interview at a company where I have worked for 5.5 years. I got along well with previous 2 managers but my current manager is abrasive and we did not get along. It was pretty bad between us and was always blatantly clear that he wanted me gone and wanted to pick on me for no reason. I honestly feel like he is the worst but I am unsure how much our personalities clashing contributed to the situation.

Because I had good relationships with others are the company, I might want to come back some day on a different team after I get my fellowship. I have two exams left before fellowship.

I am asked to rate him on a scale of 1-4 and say what he was good at and what he was bad at. Should I just be nice in an effort to not burn the bridge or tell my side of the story? Will me rating him good-3 vs fair-2 affect my ability to come back to the company? Do managers fill out an exit interview for their employee as well? What if I just don’t fill out the form

1 Like

Probably best not to burn bridges but I don’t think giving a fair-2 will burn the bridge. Otherwise, how will they ever know that this manager is abrasive.

If you want to go all out on burning bridges, you can draw an extra box titled “0” and tick it.


be fair and honest. Don’t rant, don’t bury issues

My daughter had a problem with a manager, when she formally complained about him, it was a prior employees exit interview that helped get him removed.


They may also be aware of the situation through other sources (e.g. others observing your interactions) but cannot deal with it until something occurs in the formal channels.


HR is there to protect the company. If there have been a lot of people with issues they may do something, but assume they won’t and that your boss will know the feedback you gave.

I think we have all been there (that one bad manager who makes your life hell). There are many reasons for this but because of the power dynamic there is little you can do but leave.

You don’t “burn bridges” by being factual.

If he truly was a bad manager, then write that down in corporate speak (you know the drill).

If HR gets enough of these complaints, it may have an impact.

Also, if you want to come back to the company, you can use your previous managers as contact points. If the company is not dysfunctional, having had a personality clash with one manager should not be a problem.

1 Like

I have only worked at two companies but despite having about a dozen direct managers, this has never been the case for me. I suppose i am lucky.

1 Like

I had a situation years ago where I was leaving specifically due to a toxic manager. They’d poisoned my chances of leaving their department and enjoyed shitting on some employees (not only myself) while constantly elevating others (who, on occasion, were deserving of it.)

About 25% of the department spoke with me individually and asked me to raise X, Y, and Z to HR.

I had to exit interview directly with that manager, I never got to talk to HR. I sent HR an email that I would prefer to exit interview either only with HR or separately with HR, never happened.

In my interview the manager had to ask on a scale of 1-5 how much this or that influenced my decision to leave.

In my answers, salary was a 5. Everything else, 1.

If I’d been able to meet with HR I would have given constructive feedback that could have made the company better, but since they had no interest in meeting with me, I had no interest in going beyond to assist. I heard that since then, the manager continued to throw the department into turmoil for a few years but soon after retired.


You can be honest and direct without being unkind or burning any bridges, but an exit interview should not be the first time any of this is being said formally. At this point, it’s too late and probably nothing will be done about any of your feedback unless there is a pattern.

I do encourage you in your next role to set a precedent of providing direct feedback to your managers. It’s hard.


At least you’re getting an exit interview. I was at a company for 5 years and left to go work with a direct competitor. At first they were going to let me work my 2 weeks (which I had planned on not working), but then some VP said I had to go right away and that they should go through my emails for the last 3 months to make sure I didn’t send the competitor any sensitive info. Fortunately my boss was great and trusted me and told them no, he wouldn’t do that. He had me finish my day out brain dumping all the info that others would need, then walked me out. He tried to get me to stay by telling me what raise for me was in the works and trying to find different positions for me in the company, but everyone else seemed to instantly hate me as soon as I announced that I was leaving for a competitor.


Not my job, I’m leaving and I don’t care, they have the resources to fix stuff without me and choose not to, and any negative comments can only hurt me. And nobody in HR’s ever likely to fix any problems based on exit interviews. It’s HR hitting their checkboxes, for their benefit and no other constructive reason. No thanks. I’ll either take a pass on an exit interview, or provide pablum answers only.


That’s all well and good when the reason you’re leaving is “I’m tired of this place and my boss kinda isn’t great,” but if you’re leaving because of a toxic work environment where there is a legitimate fear of retaliation, or you’ve been making the same comments about sexism in the department for years and the offenders have only been promoted while the complainants have been stifled in their careers, exit interviews can be the last effort to document a bad situation. And in the case of retaliation, it can be the only time HR hears about it.

And, if your situation escalates to a lawsuit, having documentation will help.


Does the manager have an exit form for me as well?

What if I just don’t fill out the form?

I was Thinkkng about mostly just saying positive things about the company in general and then on the question about improvement for the manager I was going to say that he basically either provided no feedback or negative feedback and that he wasn’t constructive overall.

I didn’t get an exit interview at my last job after putting in 14 years there. I’m not sure if HR just doesn’t do them anymore or if my manager knew she was the reason I was leaving and didn’t want to hear it.

The first job I quit, I was done with the company, I was done with the city, I was done with the industry. Decided to air my grievances. My exit interview lasted about three hours and I’m almost certain it was the proximate cause of why the Chief Marketing Officer was demoted a month after I left. He might have been fired but for his longstanding relationship to the CEO.



When I left Mercer for Foster Higgins in 1994 I asked for exit interviews, not with my immediate boss but with two of the senior executives in the Canadian company. I explained to them my reasons for leaving and emphasized I would welcome working again for Mercer in the right situation.

About two years later Marsh bought J&H and Mercer took over Foster Higgins. One of the executives I had an exit interview with phoned me as soon as the deal was announced and his first words were “welcome back”. In contrast, almost all my ex-Mercer Foster Higgins Canadian colleagues were fired after the takeover.

Just want to make the point that it may be beneficial, if possible, to talk to people more senior than your immediate supervisor when you leave a company.


Is it common for people to just pass on this

I don’t know, and I don’t really care what others do.
I’ve been in plenty of exit interviews to know:

  1. Why should I try to help the company I’m trying to leave?
  2. Why should I provide any information that might get used against me some time in the future?

Given that you liked working at the company but not with this one manager, it’s likely that you would only come back to this company if this particular manager is no longer there or at least not in a position to affect your reentry. This is your one last chance to have some input on the removal/demoting of this manager by mentioning it in the exit interview. Additionally, you can stress that you liked working for the company.

The only bridge that you would then burn is working again for him, which is bridge not worth keeping.

1 Like