Anonymous or Not?
How many times have you taken a survey for an organization you have or are working for? Was the survey conducted with an online database or was it standard pen and paper? What were your thoughts about your individual responses? Did you feel that your responses would be tied to you specifically?
Surveys are a major part of our lives. We take surveys for everything from our customer experience for stores we shop at to how we felt our service was for our car. Organizational surveys are also an important part of our lives as organizations seek to gather information to improve aspects of the organization.
I have been in several situations where I have learned that a survey I took for a university or a research project was not anonymous. Am I really concerned about my responses being associated with me? Not really, but it is the principle behind it. I was told my responses would be completely anonymous and to learn that they weren’t made me feel a bit betrayed.
A common feeling when taking surveys at organizations is a feeling of unease. How can we know for certain that our answers will remain anonymous and will not be used against us? Add today’s uncertain economy and employees are likely to think twice about clicking on that survey link and answering truthfully.
In a study on health care employees’ response rates, Listyowardojo, Nap, and Johnson (2011) discovered that higher-level employees were less likely to complete employee surveys. The researchers inferred that this might be because higher-level employees believe their time is better spent attending to other things rather than an organizational survey. Females also had a higher rate of response compared to men. Finally, employees who had worked at the organization less than 5 years had lower response rates.
What holds us back from honesty? It is not easy to tell whether or not our responses to surveys actually will be anonymous anymore. Unfortunately, we have learned to ignore that standard “This survey is anonymous” message and assume this is a ploy to get us to answer honestly. Technology has become so advanced that we question whether or not the organization will be able to trace our answers.
How do you feel about organizational surveys? Do you trust them?
Listyowardojo, T., Nap, R., & Johnson, A. (2011). Demographic differences between health care workers who did or did not respond to a safety and organizational culture survey. BMC Research Notes, 4, 1-6.