Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Exit Interview

In Rabbi Horowitz's latest article he writes about the concept of the "Exit Interview". Overall, I think it's a worthwhile read. After going over it, I found myself thinking more and more about this concept of the Exit Interview, and after some time, it made me figure out something that's been bothering me for a really long time.

The analogy of the exit interview is a truly excellent one. Because an institution that truly cared about improving itself would eagerly want to do such a thing, and they'd want to be brutally honest about it. And it wouldn't be afraid to face the flaws that such an inquiry might reveal about itself. Frum society likes to think that it does these sort of exercises. When a problem finally becomes big enough that the public starts grumbling about it and the leadership can no longer ignore (or deny) it, that's when we usually start to see some sort of activity. Articles start being printed. The issue gets talked about at conventions. Organizations start. Studies are done. Reports are published. Experts are trotted out. Panels are held. Tehillim starts being said for it. And you know that it really has their full attention when it's pronounced "a crisis".

It's all crap, in my opinion. It's a farce. It's all just empty gestures. Ok, not totally empty, but not anything worth applauding. Because no one really is seriously responding to, admitting to, and most definitely not addressing any real issues. If we pictured some actual "Exit Interviews" at a real company that were conducted similarly to how the frum world responds, I imagine they would look something like the following exchanges:

Company Representative: Please tell us what we're doing wrong.
Former Customer: I think your service sucks.
CR: What are you talking about?! Our service is the best. If you don't like it, you're obviously the one with the problem, not us! Can't you see how many satisfied customers we have!

CR: Why are you leaving our company?
FC: Your service doesn't provide anything of value to me.
CR: What do you mean no value? How can you say that? You're just not using it properly!
FC: Maybe not. But I tried it for 10 years and it didn't do squat. I think that's enough time to try something.
CR: No, you're just not doing it right! Stick around and we'll show you how to really do it. You just need to try harder!

CR: Why are you going to our competitor?
FC: They offer me much more of what I'm looking for.
CR: No, you're mistaken. They're lying to you. We're really the best. We're the only ones that matter! If you go to them, you're going to regret it terribly.
FC: Are you kidding me? Look how many successful people are with them!
No, it's all a lie. They're not really successful! Our people are the only ones who have real success! Really!

Tell us why you're leaving our company.
FC: I found your representatives insulting, abusive, manipulative, obnoxious, and all around offensive.
CR: No, that can't be. You're just leaving because you're angry.

CR: Tell us why you're leaving our company.
FC: I'm leaving because I'm angry with you! You people don't respect me, you ignore my needs, and you make my life miserable!
CR: Oh, please! You sound like you have some emotional problems you need to deal with. Stop blaming us for your problems.

CR: Tell us why you're leaving our company.
FC: I find that you're not meeting my emotional needs.
CR: It doesn't matter how you feel! We're the only ones who are based on truth! And we've been around the longest! You have to stick with what's proven, and not go with what the latest popular fad is.

CR: Why are you leaving us?
FC: I think you're business model is a crock of sh*t and founded on a pack of lies. Totally unsustainable.
CR: No, you're really just angry. You were probably abused. You know, it's just dishonest to try to rationalize your emotional reactions with intellectual justifications. What's really going on is that you're not prepared to make a commitment.

CR: Why are you leaving us?
FC: Your company abused its customers, lied to the public, and covered it up for years!
CR: Impossible! You're making that up!
FC: It's not impossible. And it's true.
CR: You're always looking to bad-mouth us! Don't you know how much good we do?!

CR: Why are you leaving us?
FC: I find your company out of touch with its customers. You don't know what the hell is going on in today's market. And your executives are totally misinformed about how things are running in the company.
CR: What?! How can you say that!? Do you know who our CEO is?! Do you know how many degrees he has?! Do you know how many billions of dollars he's amassed?! He'll make more money in one minute than you'll ever make in your lifetime. Who do you think you are to question our executives? Misinformed?! Our board knows more about the market than anyone else out there! You have no idea how many connections they have and how much they do behind the scenes! It only looks like they're not doing much because they try to stay out of the public eye. But really, they're the ones holding it all together! You have no idea!

CR: Why are you leaving us?
FC: Why am I leaving you? I've been trying to tell you for years why I want to get out. I just never had the opportunity or the guts! You've never listened to a word I've said!
CR: You're acting impulsively! Come, have some kugel and we'll talk about it. Can't you see how concerned we are for you?
FC: Oh, now you're concerned?! That's really convincing! If you were really concerned, how could you have let things gotten to where they are now!? Don't you see how screwed up everything is!?
CR: Oh, please, stop exaggerating. It's not that bad!

CR: Why are you leaving us?
FC: You obviously don't value your customers. You treat us like children. You try to control every aspect of our relationship!
CR: You misunderstand. We truly do value you. But we know that our way is really the best way for you. Trust us. We know what's best for you. We're just trying to look out for your best interests.

CR: Why are you leaving us?
FC: How can I possibly stay with you? Your clearly do not have my best interests at heart.
CR: No, we truly do care about you. We care about every customer. You wouldn't believe it, but our executives cry themselves to sleep trying to figure out the best way to serve you! We promise!
FC: Really? Then how come I lost all my money when I followed their advice?

CR: Why are you leaving us?
FC: To be honest, I just can't keep up. You're standards are just too demanding for me. I'd like something a bit easier to handle.
CR: Well, our standards are absolute. We don't bend just because someone can't handle it. Either you keep up, or maybe you really should be finding someplace else.

CR: Why are you switching to a different group in the company?
FC: Well, I found a different group where I feel much more comfortable. In fact, I'm glad I didn't have to leave the company entirely, I want to stay with your company, but your department's style and standards weren't a good match for me. Now, I'm still in the company, but without the discomfort I had prior.
CR: No way! You're not serious, are you?! That division sucks! They don't know what they're doing! They're just pretending! Believe us, its not worth investing in that group. Those guys are idiots! And you've got to be an idiot to join up with them!

Yes, they're parodies, and exaggerated (but only slightly). But they all illustrate how the frum world just doesn't really understand what this process is supposed to be about. They say they want to know, but then they just defend themselves. This isn't what listening is supposed to be about. They're mouthing the words, "We care", but their body language and tone very clearly says, "Go screw yourself." And when faced with real issues, they just keep on denying it in some way.

Yeah, the frum world likes to think they go through lots of "soul searching." And to their credit they actually have finally come to grips with some of the serious problems in their society. But they never really want to admit the real problems. They won't admit how it was some of their society's values and the insistence that their lifestyle is the ultimate, the perfect, the God-ordained lifestyle and society, that caused those problems to become so pervasive.

You can't pat yourself on the back for saying "Oy! There's sexual abuse in the community!" when you were the ones preventing anything from being done about sexual abuse for decades! Your act of "coming clean" about that abuse might be admirable, but it just deflects from the much more deeply rooted problem that you were a society that allowed child molesters to get away with their shit for decades! (And still do!)

I remember ten years ago when they first raised the issue of how kids were dropping out of yeshiva. And all the articles, and all the experts, and of course all the Gedolim (well, some of them), concluded then that there needs to be more remedial learning, and people shouldn't be held to such high standards, and that they need to give everyone a chance to become a successful learner, not just the smarter guys. So they started new programs. And they adjusted curriculums. They were so proud of themselves for all they were doing, their Jewish Observer Special Editions, and their panels, and their "tackling the issues", and I was just disgusted by it all, because never at any point did someone say, "Hey, instead of all that crap, maybe we should just stop teaching our children that they have to be learners to have value in our society?" The real problem was never addressed, never raised, never even mentioned. And from what I can tell they still haven't seriously said that. (But there are more people realizing it, thankfully.) But of course they won't look at the real, underlying issue, because that would mean they'd have to reexamine one of their core values and see if it really is working for them like a Torah True(TM) value is supposed to.

Besides for all that avoidance of looking at the deeper issues, there is still so much denial about problems even when they're being spoken about outright. People just don't listen to what is being said. The following exchange actually happens all the time:

Yeshiva Guy: I really don't believe in God, Judaism, Torah, all of it.
Rabbi: No, you don't know what you're talking about. You just want to have sex.

When you're in the frum world, you're taught how to see the world, how to see life, how to see people, how to process and understand all that you may encounter. And no matter what others tell you, about themselves, about their choices, about their experiences, about their values - if you've been properly indoctrinated, you know better than them. After all, you're frum. You have the Torah perspective. You have the Gedolim. You have Da'as Torah informing you. How could they possibly know more about life than you. You have the Shulchan Aruch guiding you. Those other people have nothing, only MTV and the Internet. How sad for them. And they don't even know it!

That's why this whole pretense of doing an exit interview, of being self-critical and truly looking at why people are leaving is just a farce. Because the frum world never really thinks there's anything wrong with their system. They believe their system is Torah True, through and through. It's the system God wants there to be. It's the system frum yidden have been living by for the past 3000 years! It's the system guided by generations of gedolim going back to Moshe Rabbeinu! There are no flaws in God's system. Yes, they acknowledge, at times things might not be working out exactly right. But that's not a problem with the system. That's only a problem in the implementation. Somewhere, at some juncture, we're just not doing something exactly right, and we'll investigate that, but the system is as sound as ever!

That's not a true self-examination. That isn't honesty. That's just an infantile way to make yourself feel like you're doing something to better yourself while allowing yourself to maintain the fantasy that everything about your life is just fine.

You're all so full of it.


PS - I invite the readers to submit their own interview exchanges.


Ezzie said...

While I'm sure that what you say applies to many of the people who moan and groan, I think you're painting with quite a broad brush here. There are actually people who do care and who do want things to change, even if they are few and far between among the leadership. [Personally, I believe R' Horowitz is one of the former.] The exit interview may be a farce to some, but to him or to the writer of Off the Derech, for example, it's not just a matter of curiousity or to then mock the person or whatever. These people truly care and want to fix the problems that pervade the frum community, however difficult that may be. Hopefully, they'll succeed in turning what should be a given into actual givens.

The Hedyot said...

Ezzie, I agree. I actually think R' Horowitz is genuine and sincere, and wanting to make some real changes. (Like I said, I thought his article was a worthwhile read.) I was referring more to the mainstream that talks a lot about it all. But I wonder just how far R' H. is willing to go.

I think the author of OTD is pretty good too, although I'm not so crazy about her book. You can see my post about that here. I even defend her against those who say she's full of it.

Ezzie said...

Okay - m'bad, then. I read it as if you were attacking him in the post, saying you thought his work in this was bogus.

As for OTD, I basically agree with all your points - but I believe the book was written in a way that the frum world would read it and take it to heart as opposed to an academic-type study or a tough analysis of what must be done. As the first book of its type in the frum world, doing so would have only gotten it ignored. As a first book on the subject, it does a very good job of identifying the different issues and gives a starting point for people to affect change in their homes and communities. I'm hoping there are more, harder-hitting books of its type in the future.

Jewish Atheist said...

Interesting post.

Mis-nagid said...

CR: Why are you leaving our company?
FC: Because I've found that I don't believe the Torah is true.
CR: Baloney, it's just because you're too lazy to follow halacha and you can't control your tayvos.
FC: But I mostly like halacha and it's the life I know and am confortable with! I just don't think any of the backstory is true.
CR: You're just fooling yourself to hide your lack of self-control.

CR: Why are you leaving our company?
FC: Because I've found that halacha is a stultifying way of life for me.
CR: Baloney, it's a beautiful, perfect way of life. You just don't have proper emunah, which is shterring your avodah.
FC: But I mostly believe in Hashem and the Torah! I just don't think this way of life is what He wants.
CR: You're just fooling yourself to hide your lack of proper emunah.

Shtreimel said...

Nice work!

I believe that his first paragraph said it all “After all, if you decided to cancel your credit card due to poor customer service, excessive fees, or steep interest rates, it is safe to assume that many others will follow your lead.” Any business which wants to stay alive in this world would surly respond to the needs of its customers, but can you see Judaism respond to the grumblings against using electricity on Shabbos as legitimate?

Once upon a time, when the Pharisees rabbis roamed the world they were a more in tune with their constituents (read Pruzbul, eye for an eye, etc). After the ‘great extinction’ things changed dramatically and conservatism evolved (perhaps causing the whole specie to be extinct in a while, who knows), and change is verboten.

The only legitimate polling can be done for those who left because of emotional or recreational difficulties. The problem is that the pollsters truly believe that this is the ONLY reason why people leave.

Daas Hedyot, you are now officially proclaimed as a ‘kid at risk’…

Anonymous said...

CR: Why are you leaving our company?
FC: I find your product is poorly designed and just does not work properly.
CR: I'm sorry you noticed. Our engineering department is shut down. I'll have have my P.R. people update our product literature so we don't lose your siblings & children too. Have a nice life.

Baal Habos

Mis-nagid said...

CR: Why are you leaving our company?
FC: My division is full of people who say terrible things about me and shun me in response to any deviation from conformity.
CR: You say such things about our people because you're a hateful, spiteful person.
CR: Oh, and we're blackballing your entire family because you left. They'll never work in this industry again.

The Hedyot said...

Here’s one I left out:

CR: Why are you leaving?
FC: I’m just not interested anymore.
CR: Huh? What do you mean?
FC: I’m just not interested. It doesn’t have any relevance. Doesn’t do anything for me. Don’t care for it anymore.
CR: What?! How can you say that?! No relevance! You just want to have sex!
FC: Geez, it’s not about sex. I just don’t care about it.
CR: Don’t care! How could you not care?! This is the most important thing in the whole world!
FC: I just don’t. It’s kind of meaningless to me.
CR: Come learn with me. I’ll show you how wonderful it is.
FC: Didn’t you hear what I said? I’m not interested!
CR: But I’ll show you how wonderful it is!
FC: Bye.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that you give these guys no alternative. If a guy wants to leave, should you just let them leave? Do they change Judaism?

Point is, they have a system. Those who believe in Judaism follow the system for the most part, albeit with variations here and there.

I agree that they get arrogant when you confront them with these things, but what should they do?

The Hedyot said...

CR: Why are you leaving?
FC: It’s meaningless to me.
CR: No it’s not.
FC: I’m telling you. I don’t care about it.
RC: Would you go over right now and spit on a sefer torah?
FC: No, I don’t think so.
RC: You see! It’s not meaningless to you!


CR: Why are you leaving?
FC: I don’t believe that halacha is right and true.
CR: Really? Do you believe in God?
FC: Maybe. I don’t really think about it much. Could be.
RC: Well, obviously, if there’s a God, then God told us how to live our lives, and that’s clearly the Torah, so how can you say you don’t believe halacha is true!? It so obviously is!

The Hedyot said...

Anon - "but what should they do?"

You're right. They don't have an alternative. But it's disingenuous to claim that you're honestly looking to discuss problems and talk about change when it really isn't.

The Hedyot said...

[Anon]> If a guy wants to leave, should you just let them leave?

Yes, you should. Isn't that what you've been saying to them the whole time? You've been setting boundaries, and telling them that "violators will be prosecuted", so if they decide that they don't want to stay in the boundaries, you say, "then get out of here."

Ok, I'm just kidding. Of course, no one really wants to do that. I know that. And I don't want people to actually be kicked out. I'm just saying, this is the inconsistency that they're living with. On the one hand, they say, "we don't want you if you violate our rules". And then they say, "Don't leave! We want you to stay!"

Something's got to give.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

okay this is completely not related to this post, but remember the name of the cop that gave you a ticket on the subway?

there's a Pagan Driving School someplace in my neighborhood... :-)

The Hedyot said...

Steg, can't you see we're in the middle of a serious discussion?

Bittul Toirah!

Anonymous said...

The best argument for someone not leaving the frum community is that it will shter his shidduch.

Carol said...

Whatever. You know it's just because you want to fornicate.

This is a summary of an actual conversation that my aunt D. had with a CS rep. of a satellite TV service provider. She and my uncle had decided to sign up for a new service. The day that the serviceperson called to install their new satellite, she called to cancel their old service.

CR: Why do you want to cancel service?
Aunt D: Well we've been paying a lot of money for a bunch of channels and features that we don't use. This other company will let us pick only the channels and features that we want.
CR: What? Let me have a look at your account.... oh I see... well you know you can customize your account with us as well! We can remove this feature and this and tell me what channels you want to get rid of. We can create an package specifically designed to meet your needs.
AuntD: Wait a minute. You mean that I've been paying all along for features and channels that I didn't know that I had the option to remove? I think I've been screwed over for long enough. Please cancel my service.

Enigma_4U said...

Utopian CS: Why are you leaving our company?
FC: Because nobody addresses the inconsistencies I found in a satisfactory way.
Utopian CS: I know there are problems; Our plan is one-size-fits-all, and it's time we worked on developing a more personalized plan for valued customers like you.
FC: Why didn't you tell me this a few years ago, when I was showing signs of dissatisfaction?
Utopian CS: Because cults don't work that way. In order to survive, we need our members to conform. But we're starting to see that conformity doesn't work for everyone. We want to improve things, and keep in touch with former customers.
CF: I think it's too late for me, but I do appreciate that finally someone in your company acknowledges the problem and doesn't put the blame on me.
Utopian CS: I know you're frustrated with us, and we truly are sorry for the mistakes we made. We would like to keep in touch with you, even if you decide to go with a different company. Can we refer you to some resources which will help you adjust to your new plan? Would you be interested in getting in touch with other customers who left us? Can I give you the phone numbers to some organizations that help those who share your dissatisfaction?
We would hate for bad feelings to be between us, even if you've found a better company. Can we offer you a free 12-months trial, no obligation on your part? Here's a book which I think you might find useful in helping you do some research into what's out there" http://www.cultinfobooks.com/detail.asp?product_id=BALAHN. Good luck to you, and please don't hesitate to call us for anything.

dbs said...

CR: Why are you leaving our program?
FR: Because I’m convinced that what you are teaching here is untrue.
CR: Ridiculous. What’s the real reason?
FR: No, really, that is the real reason.
CR: (Looks at FR suspiciously.) Look, lots of people have some doubts about our program, but if you stick it out to the end, I’m sure that you’ll agree that it’s all true.
FR: Thanks, but I’ve stuck it out plenty long and I’m absolutely certain that it isn’t.
CR: You are making the mistake of trusting your mind. Your mind, frankly, is pretty limited, and is just leading you astray.
FR: Could be. But it’s the only mind I’ve got. I use it from time to time and it seems to be pretty functional.
CR: Well, won’t you be sorry if you find out in the end that we were right all along.
FR: Sure, but I’ll know that I did my best to find the truth, rather than just following along with what I felt was wrong.
CR: And will it be worth it? Just to be able to have some momentary pleasures and get out of a few obligations?
FR: No, that wouldn’t make it worthwhile. But being able to come up with something more meaningful to me – that would be very worthwhile.
CR: But you have to admit that, even if our advanced teachings are wrong, you will still live a better life by staying with the program.
FR: I don’t agree at all. No offence, but I think that what you are doing here leaves a lot to be desired. You’re bigoted, chauvinistic and intolerant, you value trivial rituals above real altruism, you teach us to feel guilty about our thoughts and emotions, you don’t let us question our leaders, and you ostracize us for thinking differently.
CR: But don’t you understand that without those rules, you would all run amok and do terrible things?
FR: No, what I see is that, without those things, we have more love and acceptance of others and treat people better, and live a more humanistic morality.
CR: (Turns to another CR and says “Here’s another one who just wants to have sex.”)

Anonymous said...

What's all this stuff about sex? The rabbis I know would have talked about food.

Ichabod Chrain (formerly Another Anon)

Veganovich said...

What would be the point of engaging in an exist survey; if one’s formal ideology is based on the phrase that chodosh is assur min’hatorah? They will not change substantially, even if more people leave, simply because they believe that they are living exactly how god told them to live. While I could never believe that, it must be nice to know that one knows the exact will of an all-powerful god who rewards people who obey his will. Every change is an acknowledgement that they didn’t understand god’s will properly. A cable company can easily modify its cable pricing, packages, service, etc. because they do not believe that god told them that the correct price point for HBO is $9.95 per month.

Veganovich said...

In the first sentence, I meant to be “exit survey,” not “exist survey.” You can read your own Freudian interpretations to that if you’d like.

Anonymous said...

CR: Why are you leaving?
FC: My farfrumter wife is cold, petty and brain-washed. And our sex life sucks. At least once a month guaranteed, usually, but too often it's just that, once a month, and with kids, jobs, etc... there's not enough energy left for real intimacy, meaning or satisfaction.
CR: See! You just want to have sex!

Anonymous said...

I think you guys got it all wrong. See it's not that you just want to have sex. It's that you want to have sex without having to cut a hole in the sheet.

Ichabod Chrain

The Hedyot said...

Another one came to mind:

CR: Why are you leaving us?
FC: I think your service is terrible.
CR: What?! We're not so bad! In fact, we're no worse than everyone else! Every problem that you point out, our competitors have too! Maybe we do have some problems, but not any worse than anyone else!

Ben Sorer Moreh said...

CR: Why are you leaving us?

FC: You've treated me badly. There are other options and I've found a better one.

CR: Why didn't you tell us?

FC: I tried, but your customer service line kept me on hold for hours, then threatened me.

CR: You should really speak with Joe, he's our best salesperson.

FC: I'm happy with my new product.

CR to Sales Manager: SM, we've lost another one. Quick, put out a press release letting everyone know that FC is a promiscuous homosexual drug user and probably has AIDS. Raise our rates and lower the credit ratings for the rest of his family. Vandalize our competitor's billboards in his former neighborhood. Insist that everyone in his neighborhood attend a sales seminar where we'll insist that they must purchase our new "super" product to remain "customers in good standing". Oh, and send our reps house-to-house to take away their yellow-pages.

BTW, from my experience, when you're an EMPLOYEE who's leaving the company, "exit interview" is just where they take your ID and give you COBRA forms. They don't give a ^&($ what you have to say.

Hasid_Letz said...

CR: Why are you leaving our company?
FC: Because I want to have sex.
CR: ummm, please be serious. I never thought you were this type.
FC: Oh, you want serious? I don't believe in God.
CR: Can't you have sex while you believe in God?

onionsoupmix said...

CR: Why are you leaving our company ?
FC: Because the pat, cliched answers to my questions about your company's services don't make sense.
CR: You are not receptive to our answers because you have a negative attitude. As soon as you realize that all our answers are the ultimate truth, our answers will then make sense.
FC: Oh, okay. That seems pretty reasonable.All I have to do is accept that your pat cliched answers are true and then they will somehow make sense.
CR: Yep. And also stop attending classes with those no-goodnicks from other companies. They will fill your head with all kinds of questions about our company and you really need to be on guard against their evil influences.
FC: Oh, I get it. So I shouldn't talk to anyone who isn't part of the company and I also should not ask any questions until I first acknowledge that all rational thought on my part should be suspended. Why didn't I think of this before ?

offthederech said...

Groise shkoyach for this one.
If yiddishkeit is not a cult, I don't know what is.

Undercover Kofer said...

Awesome post!