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I Should Never Have Responded To The 'Confidential' Employee Survey

I Should Never Have Responded To The 'Confidential' Employee Survey

We recently came across an article on forbes.com titled, "I Should Never Have Responded To The 'Confidential' Employee Survey".  In this article Ernesto shares his concern that his 'confidential' survey results were shared with his manager. Hear what Evolve Performance Group CEO Jeff Tobaben says about employee survey confidentiality and the importance of a well designed and deployed employee engagement program.

Dear Liz & Ernesto,

Let’s start here – According to the Gallup Organization, roughly 70% of people that hold managerial positions are not good at their job. To assume that “Paula” can handle the conversation suggested by Liz is statistically not likely. We know through our research, that an employee's direct supervisor is the person most responsible for their level of engagement. Employee Engagement (when measured correctly) is a report card of manager effectiveness of sorts. A strong set of engagement survey items can also double as the “steps to great management” and could thereby provide Paula with a roadmap to resolve workplace issues and get on the road to greater productivity.

Any organization that is spending the time, resources and budget to prove that workers are “content,” doesn’t really understand the power of engagement and its impact on business performance. This indicates a larger leadership problem when the engagement survey is treated as a box checking activity. Properly conducted engagement initiatives tie into areas such as Performance Management, Succession Planning, Change Management and Business Performance Improvement. Well designed and well executed initiatives are part of the organizational culture making engagement part of the business strategy, not simply an annual event. 

I’m guessing that Ernesto’s “confidential” response was a response to an open-ended question. Our team generally frowns on these types of questions. Open-ended responses typically call to mind a situation known to the work team and others can make an educated guess as to who made the comments. Yes, it lessens the “confidentiality” factor.  So much can be taken out of context based upon writing style, etc. Here’s the fix – don’t ask open-ended questions on your survey. Gather quantitative data, then share a scorecard with the team and have dialogue around things that your team does relatively well and things that could be improved. This approach will provide Paula and Ernesto with a roadmap for the conversation that Liz suggested.

We need to understand that not all engagement programs are created equally. How your program is deployed – design, intent, proposed business outcomes, education, leadership buy-in, and accountability for post survey activities, are all things that should be addressed up front. 

Ernesto and Paula need a roadmap. A well-designed Employee Engagement program would provide the managerial tools that most of us naturally lack and would help with creating positive action around the survey results.


Jeff Tobaben is president and CEO of Evolve Performance Group. Evolve uses employee engagement and client engagement surveys to align an organization’s leadership development and manager training to achieve high levels of engagement leading to improved business performance and organic growth. Contact Evolve Performance Group.





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