What's your problem?

I'm leaving my job in three months' time and will be given an exit interview with my boss' boss and a member of HR. It's a tricky one because I get on really well with my boss, and we see each other socially, but I have serious issues about the way he has been managing the department, and feel a responsibility to my colleagues to raise these problem areas during the interview.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Yet I don't want to sour the relationship with my boss as, no doubt, my comments will be fed back to him. How should I handle this?

A: You may not find him the perfect manager, but you get on with him really well and you see him socially. Presumably, therefore, you'd be pleased for everyone concerned if he corrected some of those imperfections that you find in his management style.

So I wonder why you haven't already found an opportunity to discuss things with him. He sounds approachable enough - and your relationship seems secure enough - for a helpful hint or two to be offered without his taking terminal umbrage.

He may be your boss, but he clearly sees you as a bit of a mate as well. So he'd certainly be entitled to take umbrage if he discovered, after your departure, that you'd registered formal disapproval of his management methods without having had the decency to talk it through with him openly beforehand.

So it seems to me that you have a clear choice. You can open up a conversation with him as soon as possible - and as delicately as possible. Warn him that if quizzed, you may have to express similar concerns during the course of your forthcoming exit interview. Be constructive. If he recognises the need to change his ways, help him understand what those new ways might be.

It will certainly be a tricky conversation - at least to start with - but you won't be going behind his back. And when the comments you make in your exit interview are fed back to him, he'll be able to say quite truthfully that, yes, no surprise, you and he have already talked.

Or you can shut up and say nothing. But it would be a kind of betrayal to leave him with fond words and nothing said, and then go and grass to his boss and the HR director.

- Jeremy Bullmore has been creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London and a non-executive director of both the Guardian Media Group and WPP. Address your problems to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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