British and American workers are more likely to lie to their employers when presented with “anonymous” employee surveys, according to research from a management consultant.

Michael Coates, managing director of Protostar Leadership Development Ltd., questioned almost 300 employees from one global organization about their experiences with anonymous employee surveys. His research found that many respondents questioned the anonymity of these surveys. In fact, more than 50 percent of British and American employees said they would be less than truthful when completing a survey for their employer.

Coates presented his findings in May at the Global Advances in Business Communication conference in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

Among the survey highlights:

  • 94 percent of Indian respondents said they would tell the whole truth if asked to fill out an employee survey. In contrast, only 66 percent of Chinese respondents said they were truthful in anonymous surveys.
  • Women in countries like Romania, China and India said they are reluctant to speak out in front of a manager, preferring to communicate their concerns through anonymous surveys and polls.

In light of his research results, Coates advises organizations to be cautious when using data from anonymous employee surveys, adding that “greater care needs to be taken to ensure that feedback forms and surveys remain truly anonymous—only then can employers make any kind of assumption about the data they’ve collected.”

Coates said he intends to replicate the study in another global organization to confirm the results.

Topics Trends