Why It's Time to Trash Your Suggestions Box

Soliciting random feedback won't stamp out distrust. Instead, tackle problems head-on.

Anonymous surveys seem like a good idea at first, but can lead to the very results you're trying to avoid.

"Enabling respondents to comment without being linked to their responses actually catalyzes the situation the survey is designed to overcome: It seeks to create increased accountability using a process that lacks transparency and precludes accountability," writes Roger Schwarz in The Harvard Business Review.

Plus, anonymous answers don't show much.

"Ratings may be inaccurate, biased, or even self-serving--but without survey-taker identification it's impossible to determine how each member responded and why," says Schwarz. "Identifying specific behaviors that need to change requires that members talk directly with each other about what they might do differently."

The biggest problem with these surveys presents itself when results are discussed. The point of a meeting is to clarify them, but that runs contrary to the idea of an anonymous survey. Those asked to elaborate on their responses might feel threatened, while others might get frustrated--not a good way to nurture trust in the office.

Instead, Schwarz recommends tackling trust issues head on. Ask to solicit feedback with names, and make it clear it's OK to do so.

If need be, you can reach out to a consultant, especially if a team leader's causing the problem. After all, the source of distrust might not be the best person to diffuse it.

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