Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

Mary’s Weekly Articles and Valuable Tools

Subscribe below and get Dr. Mary Kelly’s
weekly newsletter in your inbox.


The Exit Interview is Way Too Late

Unless all of your employees are seasonal workers (life guards, ski instructors, retail support during Christmas, all considered seasonal unemployment when they lose their jobs) turnover can be costly and unexpected.

When one of your employees starts sending out resumes and actively looking for employment elsewhere, it may be too late to try to convince them to stay. The workplace mirrors the dating world in this regard – when you start hanging out in bars looking to meet new people, your current relationship is probably in jeopardy.  Clearly, there are aspects of your life that are not being fulfilled in the current situation, whether at work or in your personal life, if you are shopping around.

As a manager, part of your job is to train your people to move onward and upward, to get another position of advanced responsibility, and to be competitive when they do land that better job. I always felt that if my organization could not promote people to their highest potential, then it was part of my responsibility to develop those people to assume the next higher rung on the corporate ladder.

I know companies who openly told some of their most talented, loyal, and valuable employees that those employees had progressed as far as they can go, and that even if they remained with the company another 30 years, there were no promotions options available. They are stuck where they are.  Management may have been trying to help them, in a burst of honesty, but it was demotivating to the workers.

Some workers simply become obsolete.  Sadly, few companies make typewriters anymore.  Those people who made those typewriter keys are considered structurally unemployed.  The demand for their products diminished, so they simply have no jobs. If these people don’t get retrained, they will be unemployed for a long time.

Cyclical unemployment happens in concurrence with the business cycle.  As the economy prospers, more jobs are created.  When the economy falters, jobs are lost as businesses try to reduce their costs by firing workers.

Frictional unemployment is the natural, balanced state of unemployment. Your spouse moves so you leave your job, you find another job somewhere else, you and your boss don’t get along, or you get an advanced degree and you find another job, etc. These are all examples of frictional unemployment.

As a manager this is the unemployment type that most depends on you.  People generally get into a job because they enjoy the work.  Then compensation was obviously acceptable because they accepted the job in the first place.  The working hours are probably fine, and the benefits are okay.

Nope, people don’t quit jobs; they quit bosses. People leave because they feel unappreciated, ignored, disparaged, frustrated, angered, or any combination of negative emotions.

Because this is the number one reason people quit, they are unlikely to reveal their true reasons for leaving in an exit interview.  Exit interviews generally do not yield good data on why employees are leaving.

Worse, even when senior leadership recognizes that there is a problem at the lower level, they may not feel compelled to take action.  I observed an organization that lost 80% of their senior managers in less than 6 months.  Top leadership didn’t see why this was a problem, and continued to ignore the loss of talent. The company never recovered.  The problem was exceedingly bad leadership of a new top manager, and the really talented people had other options.  Your top talented people ALWAYS have other options.

If you know that people are shopping around, either help them find new jobs because that is good for them, or find out why they are leaving, because that is good for the company.


  1. George McOuat


    You keep growing and becoming more and more awesome! I follow your teachings and agree with most (not all), and believe that simply reading your materials could help many at our previous mutual employer. One of my favorites from your above article was “Nope, people don’t quit jobs; they quit bosses. People leave because they feel unappreciated, ignored, disparaged, frustrated, angered, or any combination of negative emotions.”

    It is a real pleasure to watch your progress as you become more professional, polished, and wise. Live long and prosper!

  2. Modesto Mayorga

    Hello, Neat post. There is an issue with your web site in web explorer, could test this¡K IE nonetheless is the marketplace leader and a big section of other people will pass over your great writing because of this problem.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *