BY NOW, managers and small business owners are coming to better know their new summer 2019 employees, both those who are in the seasonal help category, as well as those recent graduates who have begun their careers with the company.


This is an excellent time to take stock of how your firm is doing in creating a motivational work environment. Just as it is a good idea to assess your employees with respect to their work performance, it also stands to reason that it is constructive to have them give you feedback as to how you are doing in providing an environment that has them motivated while working for your organization. Implementing a system of exit interviews is one way of obtaining this information.

Applied research in the psychology of organizational behavior provides useful tools in revealing how well motivational needs are being met. When an employee’s psychological needs for engagement in his or her work are satisfied, self-motivation flourishes. Summer workers offer a unique opportunity for a manager to take an objective look at how a firm is doing in providing the nutrients for healthy motivation. With all these “fresh eyes” experiencing your workplace, managers are in a great position to do some things differently (i.e., to ensure a motivational environment is being presented) and also to obtain some honest feedback from those who might be leaving in August.

It is sometimes difficult to get candid input from current employees on these topics as many workers are concerned that negative feedback will affect them adversely with their management team. Even employees who are leaving a company may be reluctant to discuss their experience openly for fear of “burning bridges.” Therefore, it is important for managers who genuinely want to know how others are perceiving their work environment to enter into these conversations with humility and grace — and the spirit of really wanting to improve the motivational atmosphere in their firms.

After all, managers cannot motivate employees, but they can set up an environment that allows employees to become self-motivated. This is a win-win: Managers will gain the chance to have workers who perform better, with increased vitality, and employees will be happier and have greater potential to be on a better path to a successful career due to their energized work performance.

The following are some exit interview questions that might help managers discern where their employees’ motivational needs are being met or frustrated. The idea is for each question to start a brief discussion and not just elicit a yes or no response.

1. Did you feel this workplace was really open to suggestions from employees?

2. Were you often overwhelmed by pressure at work?

3. Did you sense that you could candidly express your ideas and opinions here?

4. Was there a feeling that there were a lot of rules about how to do your job?

5. Were you encouraged about your development by the people you worked with?

6. Did you enjoy the challenges, and the opportunities to contribute, at your job?

7. Were you able to learn interesting new things?

8. Did you like the people at work?

9. Did you feel that you got along with the people here?

10. Were the people here friendly toward you?

The responses you receive from these discussions, combined with the actions you take on them, present great opportunities to spark motivation in your workplace. Best wishes in this endeavor!

Dr. Paul P. Baard is an organizational psychologist, specializing in motivation, with Fordham University, a former senior line executive in the television industry, and the lead author of a book on leadership and motivation. He and Veronica Baard, a former managing director responsible for HR at a major international investment banking firm, head up Baard Consulting LLC, a firm in the greater Boston area, focusing on motivation, conflict reduction, and team building. Questions are welcomed at