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N.D. state government lacks policy for exit interviews

BISMARCK – For state government agencies in North Dakota, following the rules for employee exit interviews is easy – because there are no rules.

State government has no standard policy for conducting exit interviews, said Ken Purdy, a manager in Human Resource Management Services, the state’s centralized human resources division.

Purdy said exit interviews often are administered in state government as a mail-out questionnaire or other form for the employee to fill out.

“But it’s up to the agency how they want to handle them and if they want to do them,” he said.

A human resources representative isn’t required to be present during exit interviews, Purdy said.

This past week, the state Department of Agriculture changed its process for exit interviews after years of having the employee’s supervisor administer the interview, often without a human resources representative in the room.

A Department of Transportation official said it sends an exit interview form to employees who are leaving, and it’s up to the employees whether they complete the form.

Sharlyn Lauby, owner of ITM Group Inc., a human resources consulting firm based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said organizations all seem to handle exit interviews a bit differently. What they want to accomplish is the main driver in how they go about getting the information, she said.

“Everybody that I’ve ever talked to about exit interviews, you’re trying to get some sense of what the employment experience was like to see what are you doing well and what in that person’s eyes could you be doing differently,” she said.

Lauby said she has encountered companies where supervisors interview their exiting employees, but she said that’s often because the employee and supervisor have a good working relationship and feel comfortable having a conversation about why the employee is leaving.

On her blog,, she writes that having an employee’s supervisor administer the exit interview is “not a good idea.”

“If an employee had an issue with their supervisor, then chances are it will not come to the surface during the interview,” she said.

Companies may choose to have someone from their human resources department conduct the interview, but Lauby said because human resources is the keeper of employee references, employees may not open up because they don’t want to burn bridges.

She advocates using a neutral third party to administer the exit interview a couple of weeks after the employee has left, which she said gives the employee time to gain perspective and talk about their experience with less emotion.

Purdy said a standard exit interview policy across state government has been discussed in the past.

“But we’re still a balance of centralized function and a lot of decentralized autonomy in the agencies, and so it’s just never really been pursued in terms of a comprehensive policy,” he said.

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.