A reader writes:
The corporate I work for (a really giant company) has began utilizing software program which emails surveys to workers each week requesting suggestions on numerous topics the place you select from 1 (strongly disagree) to 10 (strongly agree) in response to statements like “I’ve a great working relationship with my line supervisor” and “I really feel comfy asking for assist once I don’t know the best way to do one thing” after which present a touch upon why you’re feeling that means. Participation is non-obligatory, however you do get factors for it and your degree of participation is seen to your supervisor.
Your responses, nonetheless, are imagined to be anonymized, and if there are only some individuals in your division who reply a given survey, your supervisor doesn’t even get to learn them to allow them to’t guess who mentioned what (it’s handed as much as senior administration and even the director as a substitute, so at the least in concept there’s no probability of anybody guessing who you might be based mostly on what you say).
Whereas on the floor this looks like a great way to present suggestions to the corporate with out concern of repercussions, I’ve observed that as I’ve responded to the surveys, they’ve change into extra particular and private. Some examples:
- “If I have been supplied a better wage for a similar job by one other firm, I might take into account accepting it.”
- “If I have been offered the chance to affix a union, I might take into account it.”
- “My work schedule generally causes battle between myself and my household.”
- “I discover it tough to stability my psychological/bodily well being and my workload.”
This looks like extremely inappropriate suggestions to solicit from workers, even anonymized, when failure to take part probably places you at an obstacle from a yearly assessment/profession development standpoint. To not point out, the more and more particular and intrusive wording/nature of a few of these feels very … focused. Like they’re attempting to house in on probably undesirable traits amongst teams of workers, if not the person workers themselves.
Including to my discomfort, I lately obtained a reply on the portal (administration can reply to the survey solutions, even when they don’t know who they’re responding to) from my division director. Within the reply, she let slip, “I’d be comfortable to debate this with you. Message me on Monday earlier than you are taking off for the weekend,” exhibiting that she is aware of precisely what my odd third shift schedule is (I work in a single day wraparound from Thursday to Monday) though the surveys are very explicitly imagined to be nameless.
I’m now terrified that not solely is the corporate “knowledge mining” its workers in search of pockets of disgruntled would-be unionizers, however that each probably detrimental factor I’ve answered “agree” to and my feedback haven’t in reality been nameless. Whereas I’ve by no means left unprofessional feedback or mentioned something remotely dangerous concerning the sincerely beautiful individuals I work with, and I’ve tried to skip survey “questions” I’ve discovered notably intrusive, I’m fearful that my responses will likely be held in opposition to me (and my division, if it seems we complain an excessive amount of as a gaggle). I’m beginning to remorse collaborating in good religion.
Can the corporate legally misinform me about my supposed anonymity on these surveys? Ought to I be involved, or am I simply being paranoid?
You’re not being paranoid. Firms’ “nameless” surveys are notoriously not nameless, both as a result of administration has the flexibility to poke into who mentioned what within the again finish or as a result of it’s straightforward sufficient to determine it from context if the group is small. Your solutions is likely to be confidential, however I’d by no means belief that they’re nameless.
You’d want a lawyer to talk to the legality of claiming one thing’s nameless when it isn’t, but it surely’s extremely frequent. And off the highest of my head, I can’t consider a regulation it violates. It’s potential that somebody someplace may construct a case round it, however in sensible phrases the authorized angle isn’t prone to be helpful to you as a person particular person coping with this.
However sure, you need to be involved.
Your director’s reply about your schedule makes it clear she is aware of who you might be. And extra importantly, a few of these questions are bizarre, notably the unionizing one.
In concept, it’s potential that these questions are getting used as routine engagement checks, nothing else. Your organization genuinely is likely to be utilizing the responses to determine areas the place they should do a greater job. Even the union query could possibly be much less sinister than it appears; the traditional knowledge is that comfortable, well-treated workers don’t type unions, and they also would possibly simply wish to take the workers’s temperature there.
But it surely’s naive for an employer to assume they will put out a query like “If I have been offered the chance to affix a union, I might take into account it” with out seeming severely Massive Brother-ish, no matter how they plan to make use of the replies.
And in opposition to that backdrop, a number of the different questions begin trying awfully intrusive too.
Mix that together with your director making it clear she is aware of who you might be and … yeah.
Personally, I’d take into account performing some mixture of the next:
1. Let your coworkers know concerning the reply you obtained and that the surveys aren’t nameless.
2. Inform your supervisor immediately that you just’ve been stunned by a few of these questions, ask concerning the causes for them, and share your issues concerning the lack of anonymity.
3. Share those self same issues in a response to the subsequent survey.
4. Take your director up on that provide to satisfy and ask her this identical stuff point-blank.
5. Inform your supervisor you’re not comfy collaborating within the surveys as a result of they don’t look like actually nameless, and ask how one can be certain that determination doesn’t have an effect on your alternatives there.
6. If you happen to discover that different colleagues share your issues, take into account pushing again as a gaggle — (a) to get extra context about why these particular questions are being requested and the way the solutions will likely be used, (b) to say the questions are too intrusive, notably in the event that they’re accompanied by penalties for not collaborating, and/or (c) to push for extra transparency concerning the lack of actual anonymity concerned.