Whether feedback should be anonymous or not creates a level of divisiveness up there with pineapple on pizza or how to pronounce “gif”. Those who oppose anonymity when collecting workplace feedback argue that it can lead to mean-spiritedness, lack of communication, and distrust. In our team’s experience at Karma, the opposite is true, and a growing number of businesses from startups to corporations agree.
Employees are an excellent resource for discovering ways to improve a company. However, employees have no shortage of reasons why they may hesitate to be completely honest. Often, the details people are hesitant to share are the details causing the most stress.
A way to provide anonymous feedback that can be accessed at any time is key to improving the inner workings of a business.
Continuous vs scheduled feedback
Scheduled feedback is usually in the form of widely spaced out meetings and surveys. Meetings tend to be no one’s favourite activity unless it involves free food, and surveys are only productive if used frequently enough. It can take quite a while for management to work through the feedback provided in surveys if not administered efficiently and by that point, bitterness may have grown or issues become no longer relevant.
No matter how you collect your scheduled feedback, the problems will be similar: slow responses to feedback and no accurate way to measure changes in the team.
With continuous feedback, your team can address issues as soon as they arise. Feedback is provided weekly rather than getting dumped on management’s lap once every 6 months which makes concerns easier to tackle. Surveys are quick and easy for coworkers to submit, and take no time at all for management to go through the results.
The best part? Continuous feedback is measurable. Instead of tracking employee satisfaction once a year, you can now see the changes almost instantly. It allows companies to react quickly.
How to give and receive anonymous feedback
Don’t try to work out who wrote what
The whole point of anonymous feedback is that it is anonymous. Context and writing styles will probably give you clues about the author of the feedback, but to remove someone’s anonymity is a very fast way to create complete distrust within the company.
No one likes to feel as if they are being ignored. If people are taking the time to provide you with insights and nothing ever changes, they will be made to feel like the feedback system was set up purely to pacify them. Of course, not all feedback is actionable, no matter how much Anon314 wants a 5th vending machine. But make sure if you are going to collect feedback, it is because you are ready to hear your team out and make positive changes.
While “John is really bad at everything” might be true, it is not very helpful advice. Be specific so management has something they can address. How about “John might benefit from extra training on customer service as he often offends customers”.
Don’t forget the positive
The behaviour we praise is the behaviour we reinforce. When offering feedback, anonymous or not, it is just as important to make clear what is going right. Appreciate pizza Fridays? Let management know. If you notice a specific coworker is a real team player, say so. If you like that no one notices when you sneak in late, write tha— actually, keep that to yourself. Don’t ruin a good thing.
Avoid unactionable feedback
It may be anonymous, but it is still a workplace. Keep your feedback professional and avoid comments that are purely for the sake of venting.
Encouraging honesty with anonymity
There are a lot of reasons why employees may hesitate to provide completely honest feedback with their name attached. Even though companies should be ready to hear what employees want to say, that is often not the case. Employees may hesitate to bring the real concerns forward in fear of repercussion from management. They may be timid and not comfortable speaking up, or maybe they are worried about hurting someone’s feelings.
Anonymous feedback is the way to go if you are ready to hear the truth. Why?
Anonymous feedback saves coworker relationships
Employees may hesitate to speak up to avoid coworker drama or hurt feelings. Strong interpersonal relationships are important for a team to work well together so it makes sense that people (well, most people) would want to avoid negatively impacting them.
Anonymous feedback is inclusive feedback
We often do not like to admit it to ourselves, but most of us are biased in some way or another. Whether you tend to ignore certain employees more than others or subconscious bias towards different groups, it can mean important voices are not being heard the way they should. When the feedback is anonymous, all feedback becomes of equal importance.
Anonymous feedback is truthful
It works on the internet (sometimes a little too well) so it is no surprise it will work in your company. Keeping feedback anonymous provides an opportunity for people to be completely honest without fear of repercussions. It is a chance to tell all, from the petty to the serious. During this new era of working from home, honest feedback is especially important as the way we operate goes through massive changes.
Collecting continuous anonymous feedback with Karma
No need to set up comment boxes or anonymous email accounts. It is easy to continuously collect anonymous feedback by integrating Karma with your team’s Slack channel.
Once a week, Karma Feedback will prompt employees to answer a set of questions written by your company. Responses are completely anonymous so you will know the feedback you receive is an honest reflection of how your team is feeling.
Moderators and administrators can see the responses, response rate, and how answers have changed over time. Measuring changes is the best way to know you are improving, and with weekly feedback, you will know right away if the changes you implement are having the effects you were hoping for.
If you’re looking to add instant peer-to-peer feedback for positive reinforcement, check out Karma.