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Survey Writing Tips to Get Honest Feedback from Your Employees

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When was the last time you sent out an employee survey? How many responses did you get? If not a lot, there is a good chance that the reason was the survey itself.

The way you write the survey really matters to get honest feedback from employees and make the workplace better. Not just the survey questions, but the style of writing can also be an important factor in getting answers.

In this post, find four essential writing tips to make your surveys more engaging and give you more of the valuable employee feedback.

1. Avoid Leading Questions

A leading question is a question that encourages a specific answer, e.g., “Don’t you love our new coffee machine in the office?” It’s used mainly to confirm a piece of information, which is totally inapplicable if you want to get honest feedback.

A better option of the just-mentioned question would be:

“What do you think of our new coffee machine in the office?”

In this case, you’re not putting words in the survey taker’s mouth and encourage an honest answer.

Another “classic” type of undesirable leading question starts with “Do you…” For example, the question “Do you have any problems with your manager?” prompts the survey participant to questions their relationship with their manager.

Instead, try an open-ended option like, “Could you describe your relationship with your manager?”

Always check your surveys for leading questions before sending them out. It can be easy to forget and add a couple of them accidentally and affect employee engagement with the survey.

2. Avoid Addressing Two Subjects in One Question

Having two subjects in the same question can easily confuse your employees and cause inaccurate feedback. These questions are often called “double-barreled,” and they reduce the quality of the answer given by survey takers.

Here’s an example from a recent employee survey at an academic writing services company that employs 150+ people:

“How satisfied are you with your compensation and wellness policy?”

It’s a great and meaningful question, but there’s a small risk that the employee won’t understand what exactly the employer needs to measure. Moreover, the survey taker might focus on one part, say, compensation, and provide a detailed answer. As for the second part, they can limit their response to one short sentence.

To get honest feedback from employees, focus each question on a single subject.

Pro tip: Avoid double-barreled answers to questions in case you write multiple-choice questions. For example, if the survey asks, “What is your biggest work motivation?” an answer “Positive work environment and my colleagues” would be double-barreled.

3. Keep Each Survey to Less than Ten Questions

One major reason why people avoid taking surveys is the time it takes to complete them. Even if it’s your employees, they still can skip questions they deem too complicated (especially if there’s a bunch of them). In some cases where they experience issues like work-from-home burnout or
stress, they can even skip entire surveys.

The advice of HR experts on this also differs. The Society of Human Resource Management, for example, says that a general employee survey can contain up to 75 questions, which translates into 30 minutes of answering.

To have the best chance of getting honest and detailed feedback from your employees, limit your surveys to ten questions. This applies to all surveys, be it a weekly or an annual.

Pro tip: Display the number of questions and the time estimate at the start of the survey. It will help your employees to manage their time expectations and avoid unnecessary frustration and incomplete answers.

4. Always Include Questions About Work Environment

Almost every employee survey should collect feedback about the work environment. In order to create and maintain a productive and safe work environment, you need to get regular updates on potential issues, successes, or new ideas.

Here are some examples of questions to consider.

I. In your opinion, how safe is the current work environment at the company?
II. What do you think is the best thing about the work environment in our company?
III. How, in your opinion, can your manager be a better leader to you?
IV. Did you notice any workplace issues in the past week/month?
V. Do you feel valued?
VI. Do you feel recognized for your contributions?

Feel free to customize these if you feel there are more opportunities to learn. Just remember to limit the number of questions to ten to avoid overwhelming the participants. One good idea is to make a “work environment” section in each survey with a few related questions. The rest could be questions about other workplace matters.

Conclusion
Employee surveys are a great way to collect workforce feedback on a regular basis. It’s the duty of every employer to ensure the best possible work environment, so asking for feedback directly can be an effective tool to meet the needs of employees.

This blog post was reprinted with permission.

About the author: Daniela McVicker is a career specialist and a content editor at the AllTopReviews website. She enjoys sharing her experience with students and job seekers who want to improve their chances of getting their dream job.


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What Are the Biggest Taboos at Work?

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Image: Bob RosnerI was flipping around the channel and came across George Carlin’s last comedy special on HBO. I started thinking about his famous list of the seven things you can’t say on television. So this week I’m going to present a work variation on Carlin’s list — a list of five taboo words for today’s workplace.

The first taboo in today’s workplace is the word “felony.” Corporations don’t like prison records. However, ex-offenders don’t need to worry too much, because this will change for two reasons. First, the dramatic increase of executives who visit the big house. If these guys keep getting arrested, every head honcho is going to have a rap sheet, and they have to work somewhere.

The second taboo at work is not a word but an acronym: “TMI” — too much information. This can apply to all manner of information, but of particular note is the often uncomfortable revealing of personal medical situations. People don’t want to hear about your medical challenges, your itchy rash, your surgery or your prostate, etc. Yes, the practice of avoiding running your mouth and disclosing TMI rules at work today.  Find a therapist, a mate or a relative who really cares about the medical details of your life. But don’t share it with your coworkers, because hearing about those things makes them uneasy and can make work an uncomfortable place to be.

The third taboo at work revolves around the word “relationships.” Don’t go there. People don’t want to hear about your marital or relationship problems. Through the years I can’t believe how many people have shared intimate information about their relationships with me. Call me a prude, but I think pillow talk should be reserved for conversations that actually take place over pillows.

The fourth taboo is the word “why.” As in “Why did you…” “Why do we…” Most corporations don’t take kindly to being asked this simple question. Sure, there are bosses who can handle it. I just think that they are rarer than most people think. Sometimes it’s better to just bite your tongue and forge ahead with an assignment, even if you’re not totally sure about the outcome. People who constantly question the worth of a project or a boss’s decision often get tagged as malcontents. So be careful when you drag out the “W” word.

And finally, the fifth taboo — “bravado.”

Most of us learn at a very early age that we are never to show weakness or vulnerability at work. Bravado is the way; do what you can and fake what you can’t. I personally believe that the lack of vulnerability weakens organizations because it prevents real connection and real interactions between people.

If I had a magic wand I’d hope that we could all do a much better job of being more vulnerable at work. Sure it’s tough, but isn’t it time that we all brought a bit more humanity to our jobs? And what better way is there to do this than being genuine and vulnerable with the people we work with? So stash that bravado and learn to show a softer side — it will humanize you in the eyes of your coworkers and probably encourage them to do the same.

My five taboo words at work — felony, TMI, relationships, why and bravado. Of course I left layoff off the list. Just too painful to go there right now. I’d love to hear your suggestions.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. If you have a question for Bob, contact him via [email protected]


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Harassment for All

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Image: Bob RosnerIn a landmark decision, California’s Supreme Court held that two women who were not involved in a workplace affair had grounds to sue because the women who were having affairs with the boss received preferential treatment.

Prison and party don’t normally go together in my mind. But after reading about the workplace where the harassment took place, California’s Valley State Prison for Women, I’ll have to think again about what goes on behind those guard gates and razor wire.

Let me explain. Two Valley State women employees sued because they claimed that the warden promoted women who he was romantically involved with over women who were not sleeping with him. This is where the case gets interesting. The warden wasn’t having one affair. He wasn’t sleeping with two women at the same time. He managed to maintain THREE concurrent affairs. Actually the CNN description didn’t even stop there; its report said that he had “at least” three affairs.

This guy gives new meaning to the phrase “working around the clock.” I’m a guy and the thought of maintaining three affairs just wears me out. Then again, just being a warden, I thought, would manage to occupy your full attention too.

This case also is a great example of the law of “unintended consequences.” This is where we are so focused on what we are doing, that we fail to see its unintended results on the people around us. After reading much of the commentary surrounding this decision, there was a common thread that this case would obviously be overturned by the right coast Supreme Court (isn’t it interesting how the coast of both so completely aligns with their political affiliations?).

Whether the case is overturned or not, it clearly shows the danger of putting all your eggs in the workplace basket. Many of us spend a huge amount of time at work, we make all of our friends at work, we derive most of the meaning for our lives from work and yes, we often date the people at work.

This case points out that our actions, especially dating, can have an impact far beyond us. It’s like when you throw a rock into a calm lake and the wake generated flows in all directions. Relationships not only make work complicated for the people involved, it makes things complicated for everyone that they come into contact with.

What’s so ironic is that so many people seem to think that they are like Casper the Friendly Ghost at work—invisible. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is only one workplace dogma that I believe—no one can keep a secret indefinitely at work. And if you are a boss, well the odds go down even further. Because, whether you like it or not, every person who works for you is always watching everything that you do or say.

So according to the California Supreme Court, if you are a supervisor who dates at work, don’t be surprised if you are suddenly greeted by an orgy of lawsuits.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. If you have a question for Bob, contact him via [email protected]


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Sex At Work: Guidelines to Avoiding a Sticky Situation

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Image: Nicole WilliamsAuthor of Girl on Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career Success

Let’s face it. We spend more waking hours at work than at home. And considering the fact that men think about sex every 52 seconds (true stat!), to think that hookups aren’t taking place in the office is not only absurd, it’s naïve. Today’s working singles have little time to socialize with existing friends, much less meet enough new people to successfully find love.  An estimated 10 million couples met their mate at the office in 2003.  Some found themselves in sticky situations with far reaching career consequences, even resulting in the loss of their job. Others had a fling, married co-workers or engaged in extramarital affairs. It’s no longer just the classic image of the male boss chasing his female secretary around the desk. Women are initiating the trysts as well, and are even doing so with subordinates.

It is becoming more common for companies to ask workers to sign love contracts, which require them to alert their bosses to an office romance, confirm that it is indeed voluntary and inform them when they break up. Other companies have policies against in-office relationships. However, with or without these restrictions, negotiating an office love affair can be tricky. It’s difficult to avoid distractions, conflicts, and gossip, not to mention the complications if and when the relationship ends. Ultimately, if you start an office love affair, you need to keep your résumé up to date, because it’s likely that one of you will need to look for a new job.  Of course, if you understand the risks and insist on taking them for the sake of finding love, here are a couple of guidelines to follow:

Know Your Company’s Policy on Inter-office Dating
If there are special rules, make sure you talk together about it first and are clear about the potential ramifications before moving forward.

Don’t Keep It Secret
If you are hiding your relationship, it’s likely that you shouldn’t be in it in the first place.

Be Discreet and Act Professional
Nothing will put off your colleagues and superiors more than public displays of affection, much less sexual exchanges on office property. I’ve heard some great stories about the places in the office couples find to have sex; the boardroom seems to be the favorite, followed by the snack room and elevator. But these quickies are often discovered and may result in much more dire consequences than a little gossip around the cooler.

Be Aware of Sexual Harassment
This is true especially if you are thinking about starting a relationship with a subordinate. Even if you are both enthusiastic, if the relationship gets rocky, you might find yourself facing charges.  A subordinate is arguably incapable of consenting freely to a relationship with her supervisor, because of the inherent pressure and influence of a direct superior’s advances.  By the way, your company is the one that pays the harassment bill. And insurance doesn’t cover it.

Finally, if you find yourself in an office entanglement that has gotten tricky, or if you have doubts about how to handle the office politics around your affair, think about making use of the human resource department. They will be able to advise you and advocate for you should you need it. In general, while an office affair can work out, it’s often more trouble than it’s worth. But, as Shakespeare once put it, “The heart knows reason that reason knows not.” In other words, “sometimes we just can’t help ourselves.”

©2009 Nicole Williams, author of Girl on Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career Success.

About the Author: Nicole Williams, author of Girl on Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career Success, is the best-selling author of Wildly Sophisticated: A Bold New Attitude for Career Success and Earn What You’re Worth, and the founder of WORKS by Nicole Williams, the first media and content company marketed toward young professional women. Her advice is featured regularly in major media outlets including Elle, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Marie Claire, the Wall Street Journal, and the Financial Times. Nicole also regularly appears on The Today Show, ABC’s Primetime, Good Morning America, Fox News, and CNN.

You can visit Nicole’s websites at www.NicoleWilliams.com and www.GirlOnTopBook.com.


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