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For exit interview, employ tact

A tirade is tempting, but constructive feedback better for all, experts say

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It's tempting when leaving a job to chew out the employer with a litany of reasons for the departure.

These days, workers have an opportunity to do just that. Many companies conduct exit interviews to find out why employees are leaving.

For workers, it's a chance to talk about their experiences and even help the company improve its inner workings.

Even though you're leaving, workplace experts caution against ranting. Though a tricky line, there's a difference between constructive criticism and petty complaints or emotional outbursts.

"Never burn bridges when you leave an employer," says Linda Barkdoll, coordinator of the human resources development graduate program at McDaniel College. "It doesn't matter why you're leaving. First of all, you might go back some time, 10 years from now, and people will not remember your work performance as much as the attitude or behavior you asserted when you left."

That's not to say you should sugarcoat your experience. Be honest and give examples. Leave your emotions at the door.

Instead of calling your boss a name, for instance, Barkdoll suggests giving an example that showcases poor management.

Your feedback could leave your former colleagues in a better situation. And that's good news for them and the employer.

"If there is a problem with a supervisor or the salary doesn't seem competitive or a benefit people are looking for isn't offered, it may be something a company wants to address for employee retention," Barkdoll says.
Here's a new reader question:

Karen from Baltimore asks how she should deal with bosses who aren't satisfied with anything she does. "In this environment, I have no motivation to achieve," she writes. "I have no incentive to give '200 percent' any more. I just come to work and do JUST enough to squeak by and get paid until retirement. My heart is not in it anymore."

Workplace experts say there is little you can do to change a boss. You only have control over your own actions.

"We don't have the authority or the power to change others into people that we would like for them to be, nor can we always control our circumstances," says Tracy McCullom, president and chief executive of the Nolan Group, a workplace consulting firm in Joppa.

McCullom suggests focusing on any positive aspects of the job because negative thoughts feed on each other. For instance, remember what skills you bring and why the company hired you in the first place.

Mel Rosche, a Towson-based career coach, encourages clients in similar situations to consider whether other possibilities such as personal issues or burnout may be influencing work dissatisfaction.

Either way, Rosche suggests having a meeting with the boss. Solicit feedback and clear job expectations.

That way, "she could make a choice of whether or not it's worth staying," Rosche said.

What's happening in your workplace? Send your stories, comments and questions to Please include your first name and your city.
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