The Exit Interview, and Missteps on Skype

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Dear Workologist:

I am having a disagreement with some of my friends regarding how to handle an exit interview. Clearly there are different situations to consider, but I believe that, in general, it's best to be honest. Most of my friends counter that you should just say what the company wants to hear, in order to keep the employer as a good reference. I understand that argument, but I don't feel comfortable not disclosing what I know to be true and why I am leaving an organization. I am pretty sure I know what you will say, but what is your opinion?

T.C., Pittsburgh

It sounds as if you and your friends have very different ideas about the point of an exit interview. I think you are both wrong.

The exit interview is a strange ritual. While it seems to be about giving the ex-employee one final forum to tell it like it is -- which I think is what you're interested in -- it isn't. Nor is it some sort of last chance to impress the people you no longer work for, as your friends seem to think.

The exit interview exists to benefit the organization, not you. It's a company's closing opportunity to extract potentially useful information from someone who has quit or has been dismissed.

Imagine that you just gave notice after confronting your incompetent manager about mistreatment of you and your colleagues. You can "be honest" by rehashing this dispute. At best, that might help the company you no longer work for resolve a problem. But what's in it for you? Nothing. The bottom line is, if you think this is a good time for venting, settling scores or otherwise achieving the One Final True Justice behind whatever has prompted your departure, you are wasting your time.

Now, if you happen to care deeply about the future of the company -- the one that no longer employs you -- then by all means say everything that you believe will be useful to it. If you're really bitter, you could offer a wild pack of willfully misleading lies. (I'm not recommending that; I'm just saying.) Otherwise, stick with platitudes and focus your energy on whatever comes next in your professional life. The exit interview is about your past, and that's why in most cases your goal should be "Let's get this over with."

Dear Workologist:

I regularly use Skype with colleagues while they (or I) are traveling. On several occasions, my conversation partners' cameras have been on -- unbeknown to them, I believe -- and I have observed behaviors including nose-picking. (Just to be clear: I have never seen them do this in person.) While I am not personally offended, I am concerned that my colleagues may be doing the same thing with others on Skype, and the results could be potentially embarrassing or affect their professional standing. Should I say something, and, if so, what would be the best approach?

Catherine, New York City

Let's acknowledge the possibility of making hilarious viral videos or animated GIFs -- and, after a giddy moment of joy, soberly set that thought aside. O.K. There are two courses of action here.

First, the short-term practical: the very second when your less-Skype-savvy colleagues are visible to you, tell them. Use whatever awkward and naïve "Isn't technology nutty?" language you may need to convey: "Hey, Todd, I am getting a video image of you now -- can you see me, too?" If that leads to tedious banter wherein you effectively clue your colleague in on how videoconferencing works, just endure it and do these folks a solid. It's good karma.

Second, the long term: suggest to your tech department or relevant manager that you've encountered compelling evidence that Skype training sessions are in order. You don't have to mention unpleasant personal habits or anyone's name, but be clear that some of your colleagues don't understand when they are "on camera," and need to. The training shouldn't be limited to specific offenders; make it global. Sessions with employees who don't need help will be over in a blink; those who need more time will get it -- and appreciate it.

I'm pretty confident that your company doesn't want its clients or partners to witness the, uh, informal moments you've encountered. And sooner or later, somebody on one of these Skype calls will in fact know how to make and spread a GIF. Bad scene.

Send your workplace conundrums to workologist@nytimes.com, including your name and contact information -- even if you want it withheld for publication. The Workologist is a guy with well-intentioned opinions, not a professional career adviser. Letters may be edited.

employment

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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