Anonymous employee surveys are NOT ideal (most of the time)

Imagine you run a team of 10 people. You decide to send an anonymous pulse survey to the team in order to find out what’s working (and what isn’t).

You receive feedback from someone – it’s pretty harsh. But you have no idea who it is, so you can’t really fix anything.

You may organize a meeting to discuss an issue addressed. The goal is to resolve this issue that was mentioned in the anonymous employee survey, but it only makes things worse. Now the entire team is aware of a particular issue. Gossip arises. “Who said that?” the team asks.

Now the manager feels dumb. You tried to resolve the issue by painting with a broad brush, but instead, made things worse.

This is the problem with anonymous feedback surveys.

There’s a time and a place for anonymous surveys. But if you’re a smaller team, they aren’t for you.

Here’s when you SHOULD NOT¬†use anonymous employee surveys:

If you manage a small team

A large pool of responses can help mask identities. If you’re a team of ten, and you ask an anonymous survey, you’re asking for trouble. It naturally raises the question of who said what. As a manager, you may be tempted to try to match feedback based on grammar,etc.

If you’re trying to resolve situations at a granular level

There’s no possible way you can resolve a seemingly small issue if you don’t know who gave the feedback. In addition, these small issues may turn into bigger issues if left unresolved.

If you want to track results over time

A important byproduct of employee surveys with a name attached to responses, is the ability to do further analysis. This is impossible with anonymous results. You can only do high-level grouping on responses…that’s it.

When it’s okay to use anonymous surveys

While we strongly dislike anonymous surveys as a general rule, there’s a time and a place for them.

If you run a large company

Sometimes it’s unreasonable to expect that any employee issue will go unresolved. For example, if you’re the CEO looking to learn more about your organization, it’s unreasonable to try to fix every employee issue that exists.

In this situation it’s okay to ask anonymous questions. P.S – you should use Friday Feedback if you’re a manager to spot all these issues before the CEO does.

Creating a decision-making framework

Let’s say you run HR at a 400 person company. A bunch of people complain about the lack of 401k benefits. You make a change based on feedback. In this scenario, you can’t fix all the issues. You need to create a framework for change. Anonymous employee surveys are fine in this instance.

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