Managers’ Greatest Fear About Stay Interviews

Stay Interview

Managers’ Greatest Fear About Stay Interviews

Let’s share a moment of truth regarding employee surveys. Their greatest benefits include we can respond to what we choose and not to everything they say. That’s the wonderful thing about exit interviews, right, that these employees are already dead to us so we don’t have to do what they tell us?

So imagine being one of your managers who has heard too many times from employees that they work too hard, are paid too little, and their world would be better if only you gave them vision care…and more days off of course. Some managers feel like police officers in the sense that they see more of the dark side of work than the bright, optimistic side.

So, they might think, if I really have to look my employees in the eye, ask them specific questions, and have to deal with their answers, I’ll bring a friend to help: BLAME. I can tell them they deserve more money but HR won’t let me, and then blame everything else on our top team. And when in doubt I’ll invoke the name of our headquarters town like most people do so I’m not fingering a specific executive who might get wind of my words so I’ll say, “You know how they think in Cleveland…”.

There’s good news here. When I wrote The Stay Interview, I surveyed managers who had done many Stay Interviews. While I asked about 12 questions I was particularly interested in the answers to one, “What do employees ask for the most?” I remember typing that question with a bit of trepidation myself as I knew they might say pay.

The overwhelming answer was this: Better work processes. It was said in many ways and with many examples but the clear take-away was in the given quotes:

“Stop asking me to do this report when no one reads it”

“Why do I have to input all of this data each time? Nobody cares”

“Fix this equipment or get better equipment”

And most often, “Get this other department to hold up their end of the deal so I can get my work done on time”.

This is good news, eh? What employees want most is to do more work, and they want their managers to remove the obstacles. This is not to say that pay will never surface because sometimes it will, but our survey group said pay hardly ever was the main event.

So maybe we should re-name Stay Interviews and call them Productivity Interviews. And I would share this information with my managers ASAP.


Dick Finnegan is HRsoft’s STAYview partner, and is a leading speaker, author, and CEO of C-Suite Analytics. One of his books is The Power of Stay Interviews which is the top-selling SHRM-published book in history.