Let’s talk about the use of anonymous surveys

Our organization runs an anonymous survey to our entire employee base every quarter or so before a townhall. We try to gather thoughts in to themes and make sure we speak to them in the townhall. I love the idea of hearing what people think. I love the opportunity to hear what happens at the watercooler or whatever people talk over now. What do people talk over now? Is it still the watercooler? Maybe the foosball table? Espresso machine? Doggy daycare? I digress.

I love anonymous feedback tools. I, like most HR people, would prefer that we have created an environment that is so open and welcoming that people can say anything. But we’re all humans and some days we’re still trying to figure out how to tell our boss that she has a seed stuck between her teeth. So, anonymity can be helpful.


A few months ago, the survey came back saying that I was unapproachable. While this comment didn’t leave me feeling the same joy I feel eating a Starbucks oat fudge bar, it didn’t sting. I took it to heart. Someone was struggling so much and had nowhere else to turn but this anonymous survey. That had to change. More on that in some other blogpost.


I work on a team of wonderful humans. And the humans showed their wonderfulness by being worried about my feelings. In truth, the outpouring was unexpected. Emails, visits, notes, texts, IMs, even a box of doughnuts. It didn’t matter if they agreed or not with the anonymous commenter, they disagreed with the forum. With putting me on the spot like that.


It’s funny that one person’s complaint led to so much support. Life can be like that.


I still love anonymous surveys. I still think they serve a purpose. I’m still trying to create the perfect environment. Where everyone says what they thinks and we solve problems in the open. But, in the meantime, keep surveying!