What To Do With Anonymous Employee Feedback

August 10, 2016 - 5 minute read - Posted by

One frequently asked question regarding feedback is what we can do when receiving anonymous feedback. If we don’t know which employee gave the feedback can we still act on it?

Whether the feedback is anonymous or not, shouldn’t determine whether actions should be taken to improve.

Think about the intent of giving and receiving feedback in the first place. Is it the specific individual that gave the feedback that truly matters, or the great feedback that was given?

One of the biggest reasons employees are given the option to remain anonymous is to allow for more honesty and openness in their feedback.

Alternatively, it is believed anonymous feedback will encourage unnecessary complaints from employees without providing the real value of a good feedback process.

Regardless of which one of the above statements you agree with—we can all agree we want good employee feedback. And understanding the importance of obtaining employee feedback is the first step to adding value to your team.

Companies that have a strong internal feedback process have seen much lower turnover rates over the years.

Perhaps the root of the question doesn’t lie in whether or not employee feedback should be anonymous but whether honest feedback is accepted in your company culture in the first place.

We hear over and over about how employees will think twice before they give feedback when anonymity is removed—thus, losing the raw and transparent feedback.

But if your company culture is already encouraging honesty and transparency, what is the real point of anonymity?

Transparency in feedback can promote accountability in what is said and doesn’t necessary hold employees back from providing their most honest feedback.

Why Not Anonymity?

All feedback should be transparent and the giver held accountable. The one reason anonymity is common is a general fear of giving and receiving honest feedback.

An open feedback process should not be focused on whether or not it will give employees a reason to filter their feedback. It should, however, send the message that the company knows who everyone is an values their feedback.

Anonymity creates a dynamic where feedback is only heard when employees are anonymous.

That’s certainly not something your company is trying to send to employees.

A transparent employee feedback process lets everyone know that they can be honest without being punished for it.

The need for anonymity may signify an entirely different issue for your team. It may mean your company culture may not allow everyone to openly express themselves comfortably.

In one of our previous discussions on how to build a high performing and productive team, trust was one of the keys to building a successful team. And indeed, employees that feel comfortable create a culture of trust that help facilitate transparent feedback.

Anonymity in itself is not necessarily a bad thing—it’s the culture of mistrust that creates a challenge.

While as a manager you may be wondering who gave specific feedback, employees are wondering if their feedback is being heard.

According to James Detert and Ethan Burris in Harvard Business Review, anonymity creates the following:

  • A notion that you may be punished for speaking the truth
  • Discourages changes from happening from specific feedback
  • Lack of understanding that failure is acceptable

At 7Geese, we’ve found a great way to ensure consistent and transparent feedback on all levels of the organization.

How We Handle Anonymity In 7Geese

Here are two important features in 7Geese that builds trust in high-performing teams:

  • All feedback in the organization is transparent and everyone is held accountable
  • Feedback can be requested at anytime and not just the end of the quarter

We aim to provide every employee in organizations the trust and power to ask for and give feedback.

What Do You Think About Transparent Feedback?

How do you feel about moving towards open and transparent feedback? Let us know or send us a question on Twitter @7Geese to have it answer in an upcoming blog post.

Tags: , ,