I've been told that it is never good to complain on an employee satisfaction survey--even if partly anonymous. The reasoning is that HR may attempt to rectify the situation, which means attention will be focused on my boss, who will then be suspicious and perhaps even guess correctly that the "complainer" is me.

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    I think it depends a lot on the company culture. Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 5:14
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    @RhysW - if the problem is a boss problem, then HR's attempt to fix might be some kind of training for said boss. If the boss doesn't like that, he/she/it may take it out on whichever employee he thinks complained. Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 16:13
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    @MichaelKohne - Who wants to go through all that? (harrassment reporting) And, who do you think they'll side with, the peon or the boss? Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 18:05
  • Don't complain, suggest improvements. Commented Dec 3, 2017 at 22:23

8 Answers 8


Be honest, balanced and fair. Offer constructive criticism/feedback, including offering possible solutions instead of just complaining about problems. Give praise for things that are done well in addition to pointing out areas for improvement.

If no one brings issues to the attention of people who can get them resolved, they will only get worse. Management should welcome constructive feedback and use it to make the company a better place to work.

If you truly fear retribution, file a more anonymous addendum to the survey by typing, printing & hand-delivering a statement in an unmarked envelope, after hours. But if someone is really bent on figuring out who submitted it, they could probably figure it out from your writing style if they know you well enough.


Yes it is risky to complain. Complaining is essentially a way of saying 'I don't like this, fix it' which is always risky.

What you DO want to do however, is provide feedback. Feedback says

I don't like XXX because of YYY though i think we could improve this issue by doing ZZZ

This is much more diplomatic and constructive. Remembering that this is your workplace you want it to be comfortable and you want it to help you be efficient in your job, it is in your best interests to try to improve it but Always try to provide feedback constructively, it shows that you view this as an issue and that it is impeding you to the point where you have come up with a solution.

This also opens the door right up for them to say,

Right, here is a potential solution we have been given, do we think this is right?

In my experience you should provide fair feedback, if you think they are doing something right, say so, if you think they are doing something wrong, also say so, your opinion does matter in a work environment, they are even trying to encourage your opinions out of you with these surveys so by all means give that feedback!

Remember to be positive about it, negativity leads to conflict more often than not, in my experience at least.


I build a employee survey platform. The short answer is maybe.

Our platform is completely confidential. We do technically know who you are. This is for the purposes of analytics - plus making sure you only respond once.

We don't reveal any individual answers. All data is presented in aggregate to preserve confidentiality. Comments aren't attributed.

This doesn't not protect you from: 1. Revealing your identity by making it obvious from your comments. 2. Revealing your identity by doing something outright illegal or inflammatory - e.g. a direct threat of violence.

This would be the norm at most professional survey vendors. If you have any questions over the confidentiality, the simplest approach is to ask - will I be identified? This should have been communicated (or provided). At the very least you should be provided with details on how to ask.


While some of this has to do with the corporate culture, your bosses personality and whether you believe they are simply going through the motions or not as others have discussed, some of it depends on the nature of the complaint. (Note most HR organizations do try to keep the surveys annonymous, but by the nature of identifying the demographic information some people are less annonymous that others - I am the only female over 55 in my department for instance)

In my experience it is rare for anyone to get into trouble with the numeric ratings for a department or working group(rate the HR department on a ascale of 1-5) even when they rate very low. Where you need to be careful is on the questions (or in your comments) where the items are easily personally identifiable. For instance if you say there is a lot of sexual harrasmenet in your department and you are the only woman in the department, it will be obvious who said that. In this case you need to treat the questions just as if you were reporting an issue in person. If you would go to HR with this issue (or have done so), then reporting it on the survey will work for you. If you would be afraid to report the issue in person and your answer will be readily identifiable to you, then don't bring it up on the employee survey.

If you want to make comments that are negative and specifically about a person (not just a general dislike of the current health insurance for instance), do not make them unless you would feel comfortable bringing them to your boss in person. And if you would feel comfortable talking to your boss in person, why haven't you? That is usually a better way to get issues resolved than in an annonymous survey.

I would concentrate my negative feedback to organizational entitites outside my own and to things which affect the organization as a whole such as benefits, payraises, etc. Keep specifics about a specific person or personal situation to yourself and handle through other channels in the workplace if you feel you must.

  • What?! I never realized you and I both fit the female demongraphic!! Weird. I see some of the guys coming up the reputation stack, but how interesting that the first two top posters were both women on a tech-heavy site... Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 16:16
  • Giggling at the use of the term female demongraphic!
    – HLGEM
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 16:18
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    Totally agree with this, and don't want to write my own answer. I'll only add the somewhat cynical idea that if you ask for help in an organizational area, be prepared for "help" that isn't so helpful. In a perfect world, management would take good action and really make an impact in areas that are raised as issues. But in reality, management's idea of "help" and yours may make you less happy. This is a good case for being constructive - if the only alternatives you think of to the currrent situation are worse, is it really so bad? Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 16:19
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    typos gone awry!!! But clearly that is what we should be. Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 16:22

I feel compelled to answer this question (even though I realize it's old) because Googling "anonymous employee satisfaction survey" is what brought me to this site. I am VERY surprised that I haven't seen any honest answers from management anywhere on the internet.

I am employed at a company that assures us our surveys are anonymous.When I first started working at the company,we could take the survey from any computer, using a common internet link. Now we are told that we are identified, "but only to the independent consultants who perform the survey," and are repeatedly told the answers are not connected to individual employees.

HOWEVER, one of my managers SHOWED us his copy of the results, and every answer was linked to a specific employee without use of the employees name. So much information was given about each employee that the manager could easily identify which employee gave which answer. For instance, an employee would be described as "a 42 year old female in XYZ department who has been employed by the company for 17 years and has been in her job title of Unit Secretary for 3 years and works on day shift."

The company pretends to be upfront with us by reminding us that any freeform answers we write out (as opposed to multiple choice answers) may be tied to us if the subject is something we've discussed with our supervisors in the past. However, the truth is that EVERY SINGLE ANSWER on the survey is directly linked to each individual employee so that the manager can identify which employee gave what answer to every single question.

In other words, there is NO anonymity, NO confidentiality. The above answer stating that employees should complete the surveys as if their supervisors were looking over their shoulders is a correct one. So why do employers bother? In my industry, apparently accreditation is partially based on employee engagement, so the company has a vested interest in both participation rates and "nice" answers.

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    As others have already said, there is some risk of confidentiality not being honored. You need to understand your own company's culture to judge the size of that risk. And as others have noted, even in an open survey there are ways of phrasing issues that make them easier to accept and act upon rather than resent or dismiss. As it happens, I do trust my own employer in this regard, but --just as here! -- discuss how things could be made better, rather than just venting your feelings. If in doubt: write it, set it aside, reread a few days later, then decide whether to send, edit, or discard.
    – keshlam
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 4:03

It all depends on how the survey results are used by the HR/employer.

In case you have participated in earlier surveys and have seen some of the comments/suggestions from employees are indeed acted upon by the management, then you can be honest and give a fair feedback. In case you are new to this organization, you might know if this happens from offline discussions with others in your organization on how much responding to these surveys matter.

If this is just one of the things from HR, just to show that they do seek feedback from employees, but historically they have never taken any actions, then it does not matter.

But I would like to caution you, since the survey is not completely anonymous, there might be a risk involved if your inputs are some what skewed from the others and if your inputs indicate something which says that all is not well and you are unsatisfied. The results could be drilled down by HR/your manager and your manager could be able to find out what/whose inputs has made the score come down (if there is a score and your manager is being evaluated using this score).

So it is better to give constructive feedback and ensure that any feedback on issues which are personal to you is not mentioned in your responses. Please be as generic as possible.


I am sure it is different from place to place. I had one bad experience a couple of years ago when working at a company that I first considered a results driven meritocracy until they hired a manager from outside who was nearly 60 years old, old school, and forcing conformism and military-style drills on everyone. They handed out something like team effectiveness surveys with questions such as "How do you rate communication style" and "How effective is the workflow management" etc. to which I gave my objective assessments, not personal complaints. The survey was communicated via email to HR and I was under the impression it would be anonymous, as much as the small environment allows. Next team meeting, the authocratic manager brought everyone's survey sheet printed out with the names on them and laid them on the table like cards in a poker game, hinting at the correlation between the survey feedback and the person's committment to the infalliibility of the team supervision, i.e. dogmatic and unquestioned obedience. Next month, I was laid off.

YMMV -- and hopefully does from mine


It all depends on the size of the team and whether you've publicly voiced your concerns before. If your boss manages a large team and you feel there's little chance of you being singled out, you should leave the feedback. But make sure they're using a third-party tool that protects your anonymity. If they collect the feedback on their own servers, they can potentially tie it back to you.

Incogneato (a company I am involved with) is one tool many companies are using to collect anonymous feedback (you can even respond and have a conversation anonymously),


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