I have found that many companies that offer or require internal training activities (e.g. "corporate training" "in-services", etc.) request that employees fill out forms rating and/or otherwise providing feedback on the quality, relevance, utility, etc. of the training.

Several years ago, I had the "opportunity" to attend an internal training activity that was more or less a comedy of errors with malfunctioning equipment and an instructor that not only failed to prepare/set up for the class but lacked the competence and/or the motivation to actually deal with the problems. When this training ended, I duly gave a poor review on the official "anonymous" feedback form. Several days later, the instructor somehow found out and confronted me, telling me that I had violated an unwritten social rule that negative reviews were not allowed.

To what extent is it acceptable to give poor reviews to internal corporate training? For example, are there different rules for when the problem is the instructor's fault (e.g. did nothing but read slides verbatim, sexually harassed students, showed up drunk, bad body odor, did not understand material, illiterate, etc.) versus when the problem is related to systemic issues in the company (e.g. lack of management buy-in, training budget too low to adequately teach material, lack of relevance of curriculum to job functions, broken air conditioner, etc.)?

Edit: If it was not clear, I am asking about providing honest, good faith feedback to people who might not want to hear it, not about providing distorted or libelous feedback to antagonize or victimize someone. For example, this could be something like, "It's not professional to make me sit in a room with an instructor who smells like rancid butter and who thinks his job is limited to reading the slides, expecially when it is not clear how understanding how to safely store firearms will help me since employees here aren't allowed to carry them anyway. D-, Would not recommend this training to others."

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    Have you asked anyone else at the company? Maybe it is part of their corporate culture, but I've never been anywhere that had unwritten rules forbidding the acknowledgement of incompetence.
    – user8365
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 21:09
  • @JeffO yes, I asked HR, and they told me that the trainer was out of line. Not long afterward, I was placed under a new supervisor who provided vague feedback and set me up to fail. Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 21:17
  • @RobertColumbia It's a general rule that you should never leave negative reviews for something unless you want to burn all bridges with that thing. You should learn, sooner rather than later, that it's a social rule to NEVER leave negative feedback of anyone besides your direct subordinates. it's much easier to remove the source of negative scores than it is to improve them--so consider that next time you're tempted to "be honest" on a "anonymous" survey. Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 22:10
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    "Negative reviews are not allowed" - but did you really write a negative review? If you identified areas to improve, that's positive! If you instead used phrases like "wasted my time" "embarrassment to our company" or "Hitler in a bikini would have been better" on the other hand...
    – corsiKa
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 22:14
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    One thing to know is that on a 0-9 scale, 7 and below is considered a FAIL review and to go below that to 0, 1, or 2, is not just "I want my hours back" but "please fire not only this vendor but whoever chose them" level of negative. 8 means "pretty bad" and 9 means "ok, whatever, it wasn't my idea but it wasn't awful." This is how the bosses are reading what you wrote. If you think 5 means "ok, whatever" and numbers above 5 are for life-changing weeks, you will indeed have broken the unwritten rule the instructor refers to. But if it sucks and you said so, that's cool. Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 23:39

2 Answers 2


You were right to give negative feedback as long as that is honestly what you observed. I cannot imagine there is an unwritten rule that negative feedback should not be given. If there is such a rule, it should be violated whenever negative feedback is earned. To me, there is an even bigger unwritten rule - when responses are stated to be anonymous, then disclosing who wrote a particular response is unethical.

Having said that, I would trust attributed feedback more than anonymous feedback.


It is not only proper to give honest feedback, it is expected and professional to do so.

I have been a professional instructor to both internal and external audiences. I have always left it to the student whether or not to identify themselves - they could evaluate my performance anonymously or leave their name if they wished a follow-up.

Most students remained anonymous and I never tried to guess who someone was. The straight numeric evaluations that gave me high marks were appreciated but generally carried little value. The worst evaluations are those that give a negative numeric rating with no explanation.

The absolute best evaluations were written comments that contained information that I could use to improve my classes. No matter how negative a comment, if it was a comment that I could use to deliver a better experience then it was deeply appreciated. My fellow instructors all felt the same way.

An instructor who doesn't seek honest feedback should seek another profession.

While I appreciated feedback that could help me improve the class, I did find feedback that was misdirected or abusive to be very disappointing and unhelpful. I'm still a human and would prefer someone give me something constructive so the next set of students can benefit from previous students' experience.

In my evaluation forms I always included sections for the student to comment on items that were outside the context of the class itself; i.e., not related to content or instructor performance. This allowed class and facilities coordinators to read about things like poor facilities, stale doughnuts (yep, got this one once), hours or the stupidity of a particular mandatory training session.

A reasonable question to a student is how they feel about the feedback they provided. Was the feedback a rant about how incompetent the instructor was with the equipment or did it offer advice about how the instructor might find it helpful to practice with the equipment and better prepare before class? Was the feedback provided to the instructor worded in such a way that the author would feel comfortable reading those same words about themselves?

  • They don't ask for feedback that they don't want as a general rule. Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 15:22

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