My Executive


    Aug 12, 2013

    Blush! What to do when colleagues misbehave

    Journalist Rob Walker has started a column for The New York Times. Called The Workologist, the column aims to address reader queries about modern workplace matters.

    Mr Walker addressed exit interviews, and what to do when colleagues do embarrassing things on camera.

    How does one handle an exit interview? Is it best to be honest about why you're leaving?

    The exit interview is a strange ritual. While it seems to be about giving the former employee one final forum to tell it like it is, it (actually) isn't. Nor is it some sort of last chance to impress the people you no longer work for.

    The exit interview exists to benefit the organisation, not you. It's a company's closing opportunity to extract potentially useful information from someone who has quit or has been dismissed.

    Imagine that you just gave notice after confronting your incompetent manager about mistreatment of you and your colleagues.

    You can "be honest" by rehashing this dispute. At best, that might help the company you no longer work for resolve a problem. But what's in it for you? Nothing.

    The bottom line is, if you think this is a good time for venting, settling scores and such, you are wasting your time.

    If you happen to care deeply about the future of the company then by all means say everything that you believe will be useful to it.

    If you're really bitter, you could offer a wild pack of wilfully misleading lies. Otherwise, stick with platitudes and focus your energy on whatever comes next in your professional life.

    What is the best approach to tell a colleague you've witnessed doing something embarrassing - nose-picking, for instance - in a Skype conference call?

    There are two courses of action here.

    First, the short-term practical: the very second when your less-Skype-savvy colleagues are visible to you, tell them. Use whatever awkward and naive "Isn't technology nutty?" language you may need to convey: "Hey, Todd, I am getting a video image of you now - can you see me, too?" If that leads to tedious banter wherein you effectively clue your colleague in on how videoconferencing works, just endure it. It's good karma.

    Second, the long term: suggest to your tech department or relevant manager that you've encountered compelling evidence that Skype training sessions are in order. The training shouldn't be limited to specific offenders; make it global.

    Your company doesn't want its clients or partners to witness the informal moments you've encountered. And sooner or later, somebody on one of these Skype calls could make a GIF and spread it. Bad scene.