Staying Anonymous on Employer Surveys

Question:

I work for a medium size non-profit in healthcare. While I enjoy the work and get along with my immediate co-workers, I find management to be belittling, controlling, and manipulative.

Recently the CEO decided to take a closer look at why people are quitting. I must admit for certain positions in certain departments the turnover is high.  My employer is circulating a workplace satisfaction survey through an outside company. We are told that the survey is anonymous.

Given that my department is small, I don’t want to participate. I fear that if I share my honest feelings my supervisor will know who the comments are coming from.  On the opposite side, if I don’t answer the survey, it may also be obvious. I feel like a target either way.

What should I do?

Advice:

First, let’s start with the intention of a survey. Surveys are there to build awareness and to capture the pulse of the organization. Without understanding where the strengths and weaknesses are the employer can’t celebrate the highs or fix the lows. Therefore, feedback is not only essential but beneficial if an employer uses the information to improve and not to admonish.

Participation in surveys is generally voluntary, so it really comes down to personal choice. Now from what I can tell from your question, you want to ensure anonymity is maintained. Here are some tips for that:

  • Be general when responding to questions that require comments.
  • Don’t use people’s names, titles, or other identifiable terminology.
  • If you’re not comfortable answering, just respond with “No Comment” or “Not Applicable / NA”

When it comes to demographics, surveys gather demographic information that is used to group data by a theme to identify trends. In departments where the demographic information is very narrow; for example, you are the only gender or person of a specific ethnicity, the source of the comments is more recognizable. I recommend, reaching out to your HR department and asking that smaller departments be grouped together, to increase the sample of people and blur were the source of the response is coming from.

To sum up, you should give enough information without being too specific; aim to be general.

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