Exit Interviews: Speak Your Mind or Let It Go?

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GC, I'm a semi-frequent reader (hey I still have to get some work done) so I wasn't sure if this topic was covered, but I just got done reading your recent post on what not to do when asking advice. I did a quick search, and didn't find any topics on exit interviews / closing meetings.

I'm a senior 3 in audit at a top 10 (non-Big 4 firm) and was passed up for manager this year. A year before the senior 3 non-manager promotion I moved with the firm to help open a new office. Their growth strategy involves going into new markets and building what they can. I've also learned since the move that no one in my firm in audit likes to move at all. Which put me on the short list for options of opening a new office, and they snapped me up in a heartbeat. In the back of my mind I was pretty sure I was locking in this manager thing by volunteering to move for the firm, help open an office, recruit, and build with the partners. I was wrong. I've since put in my 2 weeks notice; a whopping 2 days ago.

Tomorrow, the head partner in the office, and the head of audit in my office want to have a sit down. I'm told the subject of this meeting is "keep an open mind" aka: we don't want you to leave (other phone calls support the "we don't want you to leave" subject). I'm transitioning out of audit into transactions with one of the Big 4 in another city who have offered me money, sex, and rock-and-roll at a material increase to what I have now.

Question: Should I go through each detail of what pisses me off about my current firm (too much travel, crap bonus, low pay, not enough vacation, work furlough, dumb management, last minute inventory obs to 3rd world countries, and no promotion), or just stick to my guns, and say "it's time to move on" repeating that over over again? Plus, how do I handle it if they come back with a crazy deal promising money, wealth, power, and women? Always ready for a laugh, International auditor of mystery

My Dear International Auditor of Mystery,

Let this serve as a lesson to you going forward that going out of your way to do the right thing hoping for something in return will almost always lead to disappointment.

Now, the question here is not how to handle promises of more money, power and chicks but why you even care at this point. Obviously you were fed up enough to find another firm and line up your exit (well done), why does it even matter?

Not too long ago, I found myself in a similar predicament. And while it wasn’t public accounting, business is business. I was tempted to overshare my feelings on the company in my resignation letter, and even more tempted to do so when I was invited out to lunch with the boss to “talk it over” (much like you have been invited to discuss your decision) but resisted. Long story short, I aired my grievances but I did so in a professional way, thereby assuring that bridge did not go up in flames. So yes, if you feel the need to tell your soon-to-be-former employer how much their firm sucks, please do so but don’t be malicious about it.

Instead of saying “you cheap asses don’t pay me enough,” say you have a better opportunity that fits into your goals (your goals being MORE MONEY and a little upward mobility ferChrisssake). But keep in mind before you say any of this that the pay sucks everywhere, management sucks everywhere, travel sucks everywhere, inventory counts suck everywhere… you get the point. And if you don’t, my point is that the grass is often greener on the other side, but you don’t know that until your feet are firmly planted on said other side.

If you’re still struggling, remember not to make it personal (your boss may care about you but chances are you are just a warm body in the chair) and keep it professional. Ranting and raving about how much the firm sucks accomplishes nothing, and almost certainly assures you will have burned that bridge. Chances are that won’t matter at all to you in the long run but you never know, and you don’t want to be “that guy,” especially not now while you’re likely still emotional and bitter over being passed up for the manager gig.

The likely scenario is that they will offer you more money, you’ll politely decline, identify some key points where the firm could improve but keep your true criticisms to yourself for professionalism’s sake, head to the Big 4 and hate your life only a tad less than you do now but will at least have the money to make up for it. Whether you spill your guts or not, odds are that the firm won’t change, so why do you care?

Seriously. Tell me.

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