I raised allegedly confidential concerns about my former manager’s behavior last year. After that, I felt like I had a target on my back because my manager learned what I’d said. I was ready to resign until my manager got fired because others had complained as well.
Fast forward to last month—we were told to fill out a survey concerning relationships within our department. I talked to a coworker who already took the survey, and she said it contained more than a dozen questions about our manager. She and others suspect this survey is looking for dirt on him and I have plenty. I haven’t shared what I know with anyone, but I no longer trust the powers that be to keep what I ask private.
Our HR has put out a memo stating that since the survey is online and uses SurveyMonkey, our answers will be confidential.
When I asked about this, I was told that we’d be submitting the surveys without names and thus anonymously. My hesitation is that we’re to fill out the surveys at our workstations. I know that this links my survey responses to my individual computer. How is my anonymity protected?
Online surveys can provide anonymity. They don’t always.
The individual that creates the survey makes crucial decisions when developing and administering the survey that impact responder confidentiality. Survey collection methods determine the level of anonymity responders receive.
Online survey providers such as SurveyMonkey can protect participant identity by choosing not to record the IP address of the responder and by not tracking email addresses or other personal identifiers. Survey Monkey records the IP address of the responder if the survey is administered on company-owned equipment. This means your company’s IT personnel can trace the response back to the last user.
If the survey URL begins with HTTPS://, it means that your survey is sent via SSL encryption, making it difficult to intercept. You can further protect your confidentiality by accessing a survey on a personal computer or cellphone, provided the survey is administrated by a generic Web link or via a group email invitation. If, however, you’ve been sent the survey via an individualized email invitation or you’re the only responder who uses a non-company computer, you might still be compromised.
© 2020, Lynne Curry
Lynne Curry is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016) and “Solutions” (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com). Send your questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.