It’s Time To Do Away With The Exit Interview And Two Weeks’ Notice Period

Jack Kelly

I write actionable interview, career and salary advice.

For decades, Corporate America maintained rigid office standards. Executives demanded that everyone work from the office. There were no mental health days off or flexible options, like remote or hybrid. The expectation was that an employee would remain with the company for, at the very least, five to 10 years. Now, the pandemic has changed most of the formal, restrictive protocols. However, some customs still need to be revisited and, perhaps, discarded. It’s time to stop exit interviews and the two weeks’ notice period.


Why Do You Have To Provide Two Weeks’ Notice?

Most job offers contain the clause that the individual is “at will.” This means they could be laid off at any time. Whether it’s a corporate reorganization to cut costs or the boss just doesn’t think you are living up to expectations, the worker can be let go immediately. There’s a trip to the human resources department, some paperwork to fill out, then a burly security guard glares at you while you’re packing your plant and items in a cardboard box and you’re escorted out of the building like a criminal. Meanwhile, a two-week or more notice is considered mandatory if you want to leave of your own volition.

If you think about this concept, it doesn’t make sense. You tender your resignation, but you must sit around for a few weeks, as management usually pushes you to stay longer to help out.

It’s reasonable for the company to want you to facilitate the transition in passing the workload off to others. A worker holds a wealth of knowledge that can be offered to people so it won’t be lost when you’re gone. You’ll likely want to say your goodbyes to your work-husband or wife and the friends you made while working together.

However, now there’s a perceived “traitor” in the midst—you. A person who literally said, “I don’t want to work here anymore. I found a better job, higher pay and a boss who appreciates me,” is made to hang around. You, the lame-duck employee, are now in an awkward spot. You don’t want to just sit around doing nothing, as time will drag. There is no sense in starting a new project, as you won’t be around to finish it.

Companies are taking a big risk keeping the person who quit around. While there are good and decent folks, there are also malcontented people who seek vengeance for the bad treatment they received while working at the organization. This person could share insider information to competitors, steal client lists, destroy property or cause other mischief. It would be safer for leadership just to let the person leave after a day or two of clearing their desks, saying goodbye and handing off work assignments to the remaining team.

What Is Garden Leave?

A bigger issue is when a person is placed on “garden leave” for three to six or more months. This happens when a senior-level executive or salesperson tends their resignation. The term derives from England, where gardening is a lifestyle and people will tend to their garden for the next few months before starting their new job. The premise for this is basically to thwart the departee. For instance, if a rockstar salesperson, stock broker or trader leaves an investment bank, the other bankers will scramble to steal the person’s clients or at least keep the customers from closing their accounts. Clearly, this is very one-sided and unfair to the worker.

The Exit Interview Is A Waste Of Time

Another standard practice that hasn’t changed since the 1950s is the exit interview. When a person tends their resignation, the worker is called into the human resources department for a conversation. The HR representative—and sometimes the hiring manager or other executive—will politely inquire why you are leaving.

This sounds nonthreatening, yet it’s fraught with peril. The departing employee is in a bind. If the person who resigned cites instances of discrimination, unfair treatment, a toxic work environment or inappropriate activities, it could open the door for an investigation into these allegations. Telling the truth about the reasons for quitting will possibly subject their manager, senior-level executives, co-workers and the company to scrutiny, audits and internal reviews of their behaviors.

The backlash would cause the people at the company to never offer a reference or letter of recommendation to the person because of what they said upon leaving. Sadly, it’s a no-win situation for the person. The employee feels forced to say nice things about everyone and the company, so as not to burn bridges. For the most part, the exit interview is performative and doesn’t lend itself to an honest discussion that adds value. Rather, it could cause a lot of future challenges for the worker who naively answered the questions.