Advice column: how frank should I be at my exit interview?

Dear Ash

I handed in my notice earlier this month after much difficult deliberation. I endured a number of months of intimidation at the hands of my line manager and was set unrealistic targets which put further pressure on me. I did not raise any issues with the company and decided that it was better just to move to another job. I am now not sure whether I should reveal the true reasons for my departure at the exit interview. Although the exit interview is supposed to allow me to air any issues, I fear that it may be used against me in the future in terms of references, etc.

Ash replies:

I am sorry you experienced such disharmony at work. It is never easy trying to deal with difficult people in the workplace, especially when the colleagues are at senior level. I am glad that you managed to find a new post: not everyone feels comfortable in confronting problematic colleagues in the workplace, and moving jobs is sometimes seen as the better option.

The exit interview allows you the opportunity to get things off your chest before you leave. Its purpose is normally to allow the employer to learn from any feedback provided by the employee; however, I think it is also important for the employee in allowing them to air their views before drawing a line in the matter.

I can understand your concerns about references, but an employer is unable to just badmouth an employee. Most references are in any case standard and merely confirm attendance and performance levels. If you have any concerns then I would suggest that you perhaps ensure that the exit interview takes place after references have been provided.

However, do ensure that you maintain a certain degree of professionalism and decorum during the interview. Do not be tempted to use derogatory terms or generally badmouth people. Use the opportunity to voice your concerns in a considered manner. In essence, prepare for the exit interview as you would for any other interview and be prepared for difficult questions. Consider the opportunity as a positive step and try to learn from this difficult period. It is sometimes perceived a cliché, but the philosopher Nietzsche was, in my opinion, correct in saying: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and trainees, which can be put to her via the editor:, or mail to Studio 2001, Mile End, Paisley PA1 1JS. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.
  • Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Registrar’s Department. For one-to-one advice contact Katie Wood, Manager in the Registrar’s Department on 0131 476 8105/8200, or
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