During town halls, we always provide an option for posting anonymous questions. Generally, that means e-mailing them to me -- I pass them on without providing the name of the employee. That's imperfect, obviously. Many employees don't know me, and I daresay even some who do don't trust me. (I would never, ever compromise a request for anonymity. They can't know that.)
Now we’ve launched a blog for my team leader. I’d love to see employees comment on her posts, and get a little back-and-forth going. My boss feels the same. But I was surprised when I heard additional requests for anonymity.
First, it was from the team I’ve been working with to raise engagement scores. We need an anonymous way to comment, they said. I pushed back, at least a little. I hated the idea that anonymity was going to be a first option. First options should be that you sign your name. Second, that you send a private e-mail to the boss. And finally, grudgingly on my part, an anonymous option.
Then, after a recent blog post, a co-worker of sterling reputation and performance asked me the same thing – could he post a comment anonymously?
Well, it was clear. I am soooo out of touch. When did I get so trusting of leadership? When did I stop being afraid? Anyway, I am not representative of employees. People are afraid that they will get in trouble. Period. I don't have to feel the same way, but I have to remember it.
So, I provided the anonymous channel. Posted it on the blog and on our team’s intranet site. The boss even sent out a nice blog post letting employees know it was there. “Listening to her customers” she called it, and she’s right.
Some of you may want to know how to create an anonymous feedback channel. Here’s what I did:
- Set up a surveymonkey.com survey and called it “Private Feedback.”The opening copy explains what it’s for – private, safe feedback. SurveyMonkey even has an option (under Collect Responses>Change Settings) so the survey won’t even collect IP addresses from respondents. (Not sure if this option is available for free surveys.)
- The first question is just an essay box for feedback.
- The second question asks if the respondent would like their feedback posted on the boss’ blog as an anonymous comment. Choices are no, yes, I don’t care - it's up to you, and an “In your own words…” text box option for more explanation.
- The final question asks if the boss can quote all or part of the feedback on the blog or in other communications. Same options.
Now I monitor the site for responses. I’ll let you know what kind of traffic we see. Maybe we can come up with some kind of "fear ratio" by comparing the volume of public and private feedback.
(photo: Whisper, 2005 / Dr. John)