CAMBRIDGE — Dorchester County Council Members William Nichols (District 2), Libby Nagel (District 5) and Jay Newcomb (District 1) rejected on March 19 a motion from Lenny Pfeffer (District 4) to conduct voluntary exit interviews of workers leaving county government. Mr. Pfeffer and Ricky Travers (District 3) were in favor.
The move came after the council decided about a week before the meeting, via phone poll, not to conduct mandatory exit interviews. Members Nichols, Nagel and Newcomb were opposed to that idea, with Pfeffer and Travers in favor.
During the public comment portion of the March 19 meeting, a reporter from the Banner asked Mr. Nichols why he had opposed the original suggestion.
“In my experience of interviews, and I have them on my job,” Mr. Nichols replied, “is that they’ve pretty much gone obsolete now. Nobody wants to talk about it. If somebody is ready to go, they’re going to leave. Trying to pry something out of somebody who doesn’t want to do it, there’s no sense in it.”
Mr. Pfeffer then said, “I did reach out to the Banner. The employees that I have spoken with who have submitted resignations have requested exit interviews. They said they wish they had exit interviews. That’s why I wrote that piece, that letter to the editor [“EMS will respond,” March 20]. That’s what drove me, since the employees were requesting it. I’m still getting requests from employees, who would like to voice why they left.”
The issue came up again, in modified form, during council members’ comment period at the end of the meeting.
“I would like to make a motion,” Mr. Pfeffer said, “that exit interviews be voluntary, allowed for any county employee still employed before they leave county employment, that we offer an exit interview for any employee that wishes to have their views heard.” Mr. Travers seconded the motion.
Mr. Nichols said, “If a person wants to write a letter to this council, saying, ‘I’m leaving for X, Y and Z,’ I don’t care. If a person wants to go, he’ll go. When I left my job before, I just left it, I didn’t want to discuss it. If somebody really wants to tell you, they’ll tell you up front.”
Mr. Nichols continued, “People leave for different reasons. Some want more money, some get married and go away, some just move away period, find something else, get another job offer, whatever. I don’t want to get involved in that. If they’re going to leave, they’re going to leave.”
“And that’s why I want to make it voluntary. If we’re having an issue that is re-occurring, we’ll start to see a pattern. We can’t improve things if we have a continuous pattern of a problem,” Mr. Pfeffer said. “I’m just looking for factual date to come in, so we can make well informed decisions about why people are leaving.”
Mr. Travers said, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a problem in this county. We have a lot of employees who have left over the last three months. We don’t normally see this mass exodus. We need to find out how to fix it. So the sooner we find out what the major complaints are, the easier it’ll be to fix, and the easier it’ll be to hire new people.”
Mr. Newcomb said, “All the employees who say they are happy, are we going to sit down and have an interview with all the ones who are happy now?”
“Our employees are our county’s most valuable asset, and I want to know why they are leaving,” Mr. Pfeffer said, thumping his hand on the table.
Members then voted, with Nichols, Newcomb and Nagel opposed to the voluntary exit interviews, with Pfeffer and Travers in favor.
Mr. Pfeffer made another motion, seeking to have all council members informed before the end of the business day when an employee resigns. “I would like to have it go up through the chain of command, and then back to us,” he said.
“It’s already done,” Mr. Nichols said.
“No sir, I’ve had employees call me who have already resigned, and I have not had word in several days,” Mr. Pfeffer said. “We have to talk to our department heads to make sure that it’s done in a timely manner.”
“I don’t want any rumors, or anything anonymous, I just want facts,” Mr. Pfeffer said. The motion passed 4-1, with Ms. Nagel opposed.
During her turn to comment, Ms. Nagel said, “I don’t like change, but I would think, when you experience it, a good person will be there to see it through, no matter if they like it or not. A bad person will just go away, because that’s just a fact of life.”