Anonymised Feedback: Empowering employees to use their voice safely by withholding identity

When employees are anxious about speaking up

Recent revelations about poor leadership behaviour powered by the #metoo movement are highlighting that despite policies, procedures and culture, employees still do not feel totally safe to share their observations, concerns and stories of unacceptable or downright abusive treatment without fear of reprisal.

That is not acceptable, and we want to play our part in empowering employee voice so that we can truly live our mission to turn everyday observations into better performance.

"... but we have an anonymous reporting/ whistle blowing approach to that" I hear you say!

The problem with anonymous feedback

Since the very start of the Pay Compliment business we’ve always considered anonymous feedback to be the poor cousin of attributed feedback. It just makes such a difference when someone is willing to stand behind their words and to put their name against their contributions (for the life-long record).

This philosophy has served us well and has kept hateful and ill-considered reviews to a minuscule proportion of all feedback submitted.  In almost 4 years, the feedback that we’ve moderated and removed is far less than 1% of all feedback received, and we have not had one single review flagged as abuse by a recipient.

In our feedback data there is a correlation between anonymity and negativity (ie when people vent negative unhelpful opinions they are seldom brave enough to stand behind them) but beyond that there’s much more to the higher value of attributable feedback than removing blatant abuse and criticism. Anonymous feedback is weak for a number of key reasons

  1. Its lowers accountability
  2. It reduces the empathy for the recipient of the review
  3. It removes the opportunity for dialogue
  4. It does not allow for gratitude or appreciation of the review
  5. People bonds are not strengthened
  6. It limits analytics and segmentation

However there are times when the only way to get candid feedback is through explicit protection of the contributor.

Depending on culture and at a lower level also personal bias, feeding up to executives,  company surveys,  manager assessments, whistleblowing, exit interviews, abusive situations, safety compromises, security breaches and even 360 feedback in some organisations can require the protection of the contributor to remove any prospect that they may become targets and be punished.

This is sad, but it is true and acknowledging this. despite of all of its issues we have offered anonymous feedback because we had to, but we were never really happy with it as the only way to protect identity.

Why Anonymised feedback is better than Anonymous feedback

By offering anonymised feedback as the 9th modality of feedback on the platform, we believe we now provide the protection of anonymous feedback without all of the drawbacks.

Anonymised feedback works by masking the identity of the reviewer to everyone else but themselves.



The identity of the reporter is withheld from the recipient

The reviewers appear as “Identity withheld” where otherwise their attributed reviewer name would appear.

For the recipient, they get to see candid feedback and can dialogue with whoever provided it without identity ever being disclosed.

As the reporter I can progress my issue and yet still remain anonymous to everyone else

For the reviewer this means that they continue to see the feedback they’ve sent, their survey responses, poll responses and so on, just as they would with any attributed feedback.  They can dialogue to expand their review without fear of reprisal. For the avoidance of doubt there's a indicator to show that from everyone else's eyes the reviewer identity is withheld.

Executives can analyse patterns across the workforce without compromising individuals

For the organisation as a whole, they still get powerful analytics down to business unit level, and the same drill down ability of our standard dashboards to allow for insights to be harvested from employees.

The usual people filters are suppressed so that employees do not need to fear where their observations might lead.

There's a lot to gain from anonymised feedback as a step up from anonymous feedback in any situation where fully attributed feedback isn't a viable option.

Even so, the need to instill trust still can't be downplayed.

Is your current anonymous approach really anonymous?

People know that other people can be sneaky and determined. 

For any system or process promising to protect the identity of contributors there is usually an amount of cynicism that must be overcome.  The natural question on people's minds is whether they are truly and fully protected.

This stems from some inconvenient truths about the extent to which identity is or is not disclosed in supposedly anonymous systems.

Internally managed systems are seldom fully anonymous:

  • Systems Administrators might have access to emails and email log files, or
  • Database Administrators might have access to identifiable data, or
  • Reports might include sufficient detail to discover someones identity even if it is not explicitly revealed.

Externally managed systems might remove those risks but

  • company administrators and Managers or HR might be super users with privileges that reveal identity,
  • data exports or APIs might give access to identity, or
  • devious tech savvy workers might exploit application flaws to find it out.

We have you covered.

Identity Withheld means what it says.  Identity is not revealed explicitly or implicitly or in a discoverable way because

  • We do not include identity in dashboards for anonymised feedback,
  • We do not add anonymised reviewers to feedback networks so you won’t just pop up on someone's feedback page
  • We do not add anonymised reviewers to feedback filters so you won't just pop up in a filter either
  • We do not include anonymised reviews in filtered results, so you can't filter your way to the identity of a reviewer through a process of elimination
  • We do not include anonymised reviewer information in any exports
  • We do not include anonymised reviewer visibility to any permission level

Literally no one in your organisation can see the true identity behind an anonymised review.

In short, we believe we've blocked off every covert and overt method of breaching identity protection of feedback contributors.

Our aim is to be the most trusted platform for the private exchange of performance enablement advice and person to person reviews.

We anticipate that the new ability to withhold identity, combined with the existing privacy model allows any organisation in any given situation to strike the right balance between identity protection and personal accountability for self-expression.

If you'd like to learn more about the way we foster trust and openness among your employees then please contact us for a chat.

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