Corporate Culture: Why Anonymized Feedback Works

Ben Renner

Ben Renner

corporate culture

corporate cultureCorporate culture has always been affected negatively and positively by how empowered the voice of the employee is in any organization. Recently, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, we’ve seen harrowing examples of management gone wrong, and power running amok.

Many organizations believe they’ve solved the problem with anonymous feedback programs, but HR departments that truly want to end management and workplace culture problems once and for all might have to go one step further.

Overall, employee evaluation systems have changed in many organizations, much to the delight of most workers. Instead of the boilerplate, once-a-year employee evaluation checklist, which has great power over employees; their salaries, advancement, and reputation are greatly affected, more organizations than ever are relying on continuous improvement and constant peer feedback in an increasingly collaborative environment.

The Difference Between Anonymous and Anonymized

Companies turning away from the traditional model of employee feedback and evaluation have utilized anonymous feedback systems for problems employees have with each other or with management. Many of these companies have seen improvements in their corporate culture overall, but problems exist within the anonymous feedback model. The first involves trolling. I don’t mean Internet trolling in the traditional sense, but the emotions and reasons behind needlessly harsh online criticism and unhelpful employee feedback are essentially the same. When people know they’re anonymous, they tend to vent all their feelings about others online without a filter. Commenters on websites and employees do this. However, in a corporate setting, when it comes time to stand by ones’ hateful feedback, there’s no accountability for the person complaining. As a result, the real reasons behind the review are never addressed.

Of course, you can’t swing the feedback process entirely the other way. Video communications features make it possible for employees to offer criticism to each other from across the country or across continents, but there are plenty of scenarios in which discretion is needed, and knowing who made which comment about whom isn’t always productive. Anonymized feedback provides all the benefits of fully anonymous feedback, while removing all the drawbacks. The idea is to mask the identity of the reviewer or criticizer to everyone but themselves. The identity of the reporter cannot be seen by the human resources reviewer.

Results

HR teams communications strategy puzzle

The result of this system of secrecy is when someone has a problem, they can get solutions from the HR department or another manager without everyone else knowing they’re complaining. Managers can monitor the situation and offer solutions. The best-anonymized systems don’t allow anyone to access the identities of reviewers at any permission level. Reporters can see who’s responding to their complaints, and the recipients of feedback can converse privately with reporters. Everyone wins.

How This Affects Corporate Culture

Today’s corporate culture emphasizes teamwork and the ability to get along with everyone in the office enough to complete work together seamlessly. This can’t happen without honest feedback between peers, even if it’s small issues. In any work environment, there has to be a lifeline for when problems arise, especially personal problems. Employees need to know they can turn to their HR representatives or other managers for help when they need it. By keeping these conversations private, they retain their power and real solutions can be worked out. The beginning of this system, of course, is open dialogue between workers and management. The better able you are to reach all of your workers with a consistent messaging system, the easier any kind of feedback will get.

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