Who Said That?

Disrupt HR is an event made up of short form Ignite talks, and while the talk format is very popular and increasingly common, yesterday’s session was the first time a series of talks like this were offered under the Disrupt HR banner in London. I couldn’t make it to the event, and when time permitted, I was keeping an eye on the Twitter feed. One of the talks was titled HappyOrNot and the constant pulse of employee satisfaction. During the talk, the speaker stated that real time continuous measurement and feedback of your employees pulse is essential in our changing world, and for this feedback to be effective it needs to be:

  • Easy
  • Effortless
  • Anonymous

Putting aside a nagging concern I have about the somewhat Orwellian nature of continuous measurement and feedback, it feels right that the process of gathering data should be easy. I’m less convinced about the idea that feedback should be effortless. I may have misunderstood where the speaker is coming from here, and I’d like to think that some effort has gone into the feedback I exchange with you, colleagues, and customers.

Next on the list is anonymity – and my feedback alarm bells are ringing off the hook. I do not understand why our default option is to insist on hiding our feedback behind a veil of anonymity. I accept that this is the way we’ve always done it, and I believe this needs to change. I wrote about enforced anonymity in a little more detail back at the beginning of 2015, and in essence my point at that time was:

If I have ideas about how we might work differently and you really want my opinion, then you need to know who I am so we can act together. In these circumstances, anonymity is completely disempowering. What your enforced anonymity says to me is that you don’t really want to work coactively with me and with others; you are just using the opportunity to survey our feelings and attitudes as a means of satisfying yourself.

Throughout my work – two things people frequently ask for in their working relationships are openness, and honesty. Look around and you will find these two qualities among many sets of company values too. Often – when I dig deeper, people tell me that in reality – they feel a need to be anonymous in order to be honest. There’s not a lack of feedback issue here, this is about a lack of trust. Anonymity should be an option, not the norm, not enforced.

At last week’s PPMA seminar, one of the conversations which arose in the Reflect and Connect session Meg Peppin and I facilitated was around how HR can loosen off control, in pursuit of more adult, human relationships. The feeling was that currently, we manage and control to mitigate the rogue element, the spanner in the works, when it would be more satisfying, if we could trust more, control less, and accept that anomalies will occur (just like they do already) and work with them as they arise. Challenging? Sure. Worth pursuing? I think so, to do otherwise simply risks reinforcing the perception of HR as the employer’s police/enforcement, and here we are back to Orwell again.

One last observation – this discussion percolated on Twitter, a place where trolling is rife. What facilitates that trolling? What makes it easy, effortless? Anonymity.

When I challenge the view that enforced anonymity is a good thing, and ask for any data or research to support this assertion – I don’t receive any. It may be out there, and I cannot find it. Please help if you can, I’d love to understand more about why we cling so tightly to this belief.


Trish McFarlane got in touch to share this article written by Ben Eubanks on why confidential is better than anonymous.



Good days and Bad Days

Good Days

Yesterday I was on a roll. Don’t believe me, then check my Facebook status.

Employee Engagement Survey

See – it must be true 🙂

Yesterday would have been a fantastic day for me to fill out my annual (or quarterly – whatever floats your boat) employee engagement survey. Today might be a pretty good day to do it too, after all I’m still feeling the excitement from the day before.

Bad Days

But how about if we leave it to next week? Next week contains a date with destiny – I have to pull together a bunch of stuff for my accountant for our company year end. That day, though necessary, will suck. Maybe I will go for a walk on that day to lift my spirits. It might start to rain half way through the walk. I will probably spot a dead badger lying twisted by the roadside where it was flung by a high speed nocturnal vehicle. I will surely tread in poo. On my return to the office as I hop around on my poo free shoe I will fall and bang my head. In my groggy state I will then make a cup of coffee and drop the cup onto the stone floor. The culmination of all these mishaps means that day will suck. That day would be a bad day for me to fill out….you get the point.

Can’t we just accept that often, work is just that. Good days and bad days. Maybe if we spent a little more time acknowledging and celebrating the good days, and exercised a little more empathy and understanding on the bad ones, just maybe, together we might build a foundation for better work. I feel a good day/bad day survey coming on, yeah right!