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We've all done the exit interview at some point, but have you ever had a "stay interview?"

Kristen Roth Atlassian Team Jun 30, 2021

Is there anything more tragic than an exit interview that ends with a manager saying "I'd wish I known this earlier?" or "Is there any way we can keep you?" By the time an exit interview rolls around, it’s probably too late to stop a good employee from quitting. So why don't more managers have "stay interviews" instead? Stay interviews are discussions to head off potential problems early, before anyone feels compelled to write up a resignation letter. Have you ever participated in one?

Read on for five key questions we think should be asked during a stay interview, and let us know what else you'd include!

4 comments

I haven't had one myself, but I wish I had. In one situation, I found out during my exit interview that my boss's boss wasn't aware of some of the issues that were troubling me – even though I'd raised them to my immediate supervisor. 

With that said, I wonder if it would be useful for department heads to drill down a level or two once a year, so they're touching people beyond their direct reports as well? In a healthy workplace culture, things are likely to get passed up the chain of command. In less congenial atmospheres, they may not. 

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Alex Koxaras Community Leader Jul 08, 2021

Hi @Kristen Roth

You've started an exciting discussion, to which I wish I'll find the time to discuss it further on in the future. I'll begin by replying to you in your initial question:

Is there anything more tragic than an exit interview that ends with a manager saying "I'd wish I known this earlier?" or "Is there any way we can keep you?"

The answer is yes, there is something more tragic than this: A manager/employer who clearly even during your exit interview due to his pride and being the "boss" and stuff, avoids at any cost the to take the blame for you leaving the company.

In my experience, I've raised to my bosses many time things that were troubling me, but every.single.time my requests were either denied, or simply "forgotten". I'm not talking only about salary, but as well suggestions that would improve our team's everyday job and relations. Instead of looking up to me, they were looking down on me. After I left the company, I heard from former colleagues that all the things I suggested and told them about, they've now become clear to them. But it's too late now, isn't it? 

I believe in the constant evaluation of an employee, which will eventually lead to his/her evolution as a person, as a professional, as an individual. Managers and bosses should have the guts to talk more often with their employees and try to comprehend what they really say. They should not take this lightly, since employees are as important as any customer. Your questions were spot on! Rather than adding extra questions, I would only say that whoever makes these questions, should do it because he wants to, and not because he is obliged to.  

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Kristen Roth Atlassian Team Jul 08, 2021

Thank you for sharing your insights and experience with us, @Alex Koxaras. You make great points. Sorry to hear about your requests to your manager being denied or forgotten but kudos to you for speaking up! I'm sure your feedback ended up helping your former colleagues.   

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As the saying goes: only ask questions you want answers to. If the company/department is trying to improve in earnest, then it is an invaluable tool as you get a feel for departments and teams that you might not normally have a lot of interactions or work closely with. 

A prerequisite is that the employee can speak freely and does not have to fear repercussions for addressing problems.  It can lead to employees feeling even less valued if these interviews are done wrong than if they're not done at all. 

I am aware of stay interviews which were called "valuable feedback", only to be completely ignored in the aftermath. If not done right, these interviews can exacerbate a situation even more, only speeding up the departure of the disgruntled employee or leading to employee satisfaction plummeting even more. The worst thing that can happen is for them to be seen as a waste of time. This was one of the reasons for a job switch for me. I was done wasting my time and being frustrated.

It's a powerful tool but it has to be used correctly to be of worth and it requires willingness of those in charge to identify and admit mistakes and to improve them. 

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Fun Man Andy Community Leader Dec 20, 2021

IMHO I think neither are actually required, when the manager(s) and employee embrace a more Radical Candor approach to their relationships.

In my most recent departure I just had simple social 1on1 chats with my boss after my resignation was handed in.
We both knew why I was leaving, all the various reasons, so there was no shock or a need for formal follow-up discussions.

As a matter of fact, my manager was integral to me leaving!
So open and honest were we with each other in our professional engagement that he not only knew I had started looking elsewhere 18mth before I finally found something, but helped coach me through it all!

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