Monday, August 1, 2016

A Quick Word on Confidentiality and Exit Interviews

I have had two friends in recent weeks who left their jobs and were required to complete exit interviews prior to leaving.  Both were extremely uncomfortable and felt coerced into provided information about their boss, immediate managers and co-workers.  In one case, it was strongly implied that if the person was not willing to help them with meet the requirements of their exit interview, the company would not be willing to help them with good references in the future.  Both stated they did not give honest answers, gave only positive answers despite both stating there were numerous management problems that had caused each to leave and on open ended questions asking for any additional information they though could be relevant gave no reply.
Exit interviews are intended to be useful for the company.  They are designed to provide feedback about what aspect of the job and the organization may need to be altered, fixed or improved.  Unfortunately, many companies fail to exercise the proper discipline when dealing with exit interviews leaving employees with the impression that stating anything that might be viewed as criticism will result in negative consequences. In order for the answers provided during exit interviews to be useful to the company and provide the information that they are intended to elicit, employees must feel certain their answers will remain confidential and that none of their answers can be associated with them.  This may mean a simple adjustment that can be accomplished through educating all employees or it may mean a change in company culture.  Whatever the degree of change required, the only way to make exit interviews worth the time and effort needed to conduct them is to make them useful.  This means making the answers given reliable and accurate.
The treatment of confidential information is one of the most important ethical issue for staffing specialists, and specifically for human resources employees. When an employer promises employees that information will be remain confidential, they are obligated to keep this promise. However, it could be argued that it is obvious that the results of exit interviews will be shared with supervisors and higher ups in the organization as this is the only way such information will have a positive impact in terms of organizational change.  It could also be argued that since HR works for the organization and not the employee, they have a duty to disclose any information that could impact the business.
However, given the negative repercussions in which negative feedback provided by the employee during an exit interview could result, it is imperative that this information be disclosed in an anonymous manner.  If Supervisors are aware that certain former employees were critical of them, the supervisor may give negative references.  There may also be negative repercussions for the employee’s former co-workers if certain information involves others.  Failure to adhere to confidentiality related to exit interviews is also likely to become common knowledge at the organization.  When this occurs, other employees who leave in the future will likely fail to provide accurate feedback if the information is negative to avoid potential consequences.  Thus, an important source of information that provides the organization with the capacity for quality improvement will be lost.  In such a scenario only positive feedback which may or may not be accurate, is likely to be shared which does not help an organization learn about weaknesses or problems that need correcting. 
It is also possible that when employees learn that exit interview responses are not kept confidential they will become generally distrustful of the organization.  This could result in their failure to provide useful feedback to address problem situations while they are still employed with the company.  In the situation presented the best option is for HR find a way to aggregate the information from all the interviews conducted.  This would allow a single report to be created summarizing the feedback of all interviews together without identifying any individual employee.  However, it is the responsibility of businesses to find a way to ensure that all data and information from exit interviews remains confidential and when presented it is in a way that prevents any individual’s data from being identified.   All known and potential uses of the data must be disclosed to the employee prior to having them complete the interview and should they decide not to complete the interview, no negative consequences should be imposed.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Use Challenges to Stimulate Your Writing - New Flash Fiction Piece - The Butterfly Effect

I am sure I am not the only one who has difficulty with writers block and finding interesting ideas to write about for both my non-fiction articles and my fiction.  I have cut back on working on a novel to focus on short stories in the hopes that if I could finish something, anything it would serve as a catlyst for me to be able to write more and more often in terms of my fiction.  I managed to have one story bought outright which will be published any day now in Weirdbook Magazine 32.  Not a bad start but instead of lighting a fire under me I seemed to become more hesitant than ever. So then I thought maybe flash fiction would work for me. Still I could not seem to get motivated.

That's not to say that stress hasn't played a large part.  With a major move coming up in two weeks with next to no notice stress is not a stranger.  When the world seems to be coming down on your head it can be exceptionally difficult to think of good ideas for writing.  (Although I do have a mold story germinating - no pun intended -  in my mind where all those involved in this mess who are working so hard to hide what is going on end up locked in the apartment and are overrun and consumed by mold!  See previous article on catharsis).  Aside from using the catharsis method of getting revenge, try looking online for writing challenges, prompts and contests.

Here are a few challenges that might provide some inspiration:

Monkeybicycle See if you can craft a story in just one sentence.  That's what they challenge you to at Monkeybicycle.  Check the link for examples and give it a try.  You can even submit yours for publication on their site if you choose.

Haunted Waters Press sponsors two flash fiction contests a year with three rounds each providing plenty of time to submit.  I won the earlier one this year which had a theme of "a slice of life of rural America" (scroll down to Oct. 28th 2015) and hope to submit for the 16 word challenge in June. The number of words and themes change each contest so take a look.

The Scottish Book Trust sponsors a 50 word flash fiction contest every month using a picture prompt. I entered this one several times and haven't yet won but have gotten some great story ideas out of it. The prompt for May is up so check it out.

[100 Word Story] sponsors a monthly contest using a photo prompt.  The May prompt is available and active.

Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner  provides a photo prompt every Friday and first sentence both of which you use to write a 200 word story.  The link will take you to the prompt posted today and the previous prompt is still open until 11:00pm for those of you who are inspired.  See my submission below.

For those with the desire to get invovled in writing challenges that are longer try these out.  They are bound to keep you motivated.

Nanowrimo/Camp Nanowrimo - This one is tons of fun.  In Novemeber every year people from around the world join together and pledge to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of Novemenber.  There are meetups, write-ins, prizes, wordsprints and lots of comraderie.  Smaller versions called Camp Nanowrimo in July, and April  -  just finished April successfully - and for those you get to set your own wordcount.

Blogging A to Z Challenge (April) - This one you'll have to hold onto for next year.  In March, a theme is revealed for the challenge. You sign up in time for April 1 and start blogging. You write a blog for every letter of the alphabet starting on April 1st and writing one blog every day except Sundays.  More information can be found here.

For those writing reviews check out this link.  It is a challenge where you set a certain number of reviews to write during the year.  You sign up and they keep track of all your reviews until Dec. 31. You can still join for 2016.




The Butterfly Effect

I had waited years for this day, when I’d be hooded a Ph.D., and no giant ash cloud from an erupting Icelandic volcano would stop me.  Few pilots were flying. One ran by yelling, “Let’s go people, we’re skirting the cloud!” 

A young woman buckled in an old man across the aisle despite his obvious objections in a foreign language. Attendants dropped into seats grabbing for seatbelts even as the wheels lifted.
The old man held up a picture of a middle aged woman.  “My. . . wife.” 

I smiled and nodded my understanding.
 “We . . . dance. “You. . . have . . ?“ He touched his picture, looked back up.

“Dancing partner? No.  Maybe someday,”  I said.

 “Yes.  Someday you dance too.”

 I smiled doubtfully.

A wisp of grey, the first turbulent bump.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your pilot speaking, we have lost our engines but when we drop below we’ll be able to start them right up again.”

The old man looked at the picture, mixed feelings showing.  Putting the picture away, he removed his oxygen mask and seatbelt, palm held out, a question.  I took his hand and we stood.  Then we danced.


There you have it.  Two hundred words plus title. 30 minutes writing and editing it down from a whopping 1000.  For other visual writing prompts please visit my Pinterest page which I add to regularly.