Anonymous feedback: is it a good idea?
Updated over a week ago

We commonly hear in performance reviews “that to maintain information security and trust, we will keep respondents anonymous”. It happens precisely so that people can speak out without being afraid and be as honest as possible. But does anonymity still make sense in other situations such as direct feedback between colleagues or between leader and team member?

What we have seen is that it actually does not.

Negative aspects of anonymous feedback

We believe that anonymous feedback could have quite a negative impact on a company's corporate culture. Here's why:

  1. It reinforces the feeling that it is not safe to speak openly about the performance of others, even when it is done in a clear, direct and constructive way, within the company;

  2. It encourages a "witch hunt" or "vengeful" behaviors among employees, who could use the feedback tool to "run errands" and maneuver decisions based on this feelings;

  3. Delays the ultimate goal, which is to have people openly talking to each other about their performances and goals;

  4. Discourages the correct level of detail for more relevant development to occur. As the feedback is anonymous, the person will avoid putting details (often important) about the situation of the feedback so that it is not identified, hindering greater assertiveness.

When is anonymous feedback actually a positive action?

Even with the negative aspects of anonymous feedback, it could still be useful in very specific cases.

Often establishing a culture of open and genuinely constructive feedback is not easy, nor is it something a company could do overnight. Anonymous feedback can be a good first step in instigating the practice and developing the maturity necessary for the correct practice.

In these cases, it is worth the company to go through a testing period, supervised by HR, in which anonymous feedbacks are allowed. However, the company, through its managers and HR team acting simultaneously, needs to restrain any personal and non-constructive behavior with specific training and correction actions, with the awareness that this is just a step in the right direction, and not the final destination.

Moral of the story: efficient feedbacks will always have their senders identified so that the pair (sender and receiver) can deepen the theme and collaborate in their mutual development. Avoid anonymous feedbacks, using them only if your team is really in need of this kind of feedback and as soon as there is an evolution of maturity, switch as soon as possible to identifiable feedbacks.

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