Why people are getting fired for answering an anonymous survey

Blocksurvey blog author
Aug 7, 2023 · 6 mins read

In 2013, a group of workers at a Walmart store in Ohio was asked to participate in an anonymous survey about their working conditions. The survey was conducted by a group of workers' rights activists trying to shed light on the poor conditions and low wages at Walmart stores. Several workers who filled out the survey were later fired by the company, allegedly for participating in union activity. The workers filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that their firing was retaliation for answering the survey and was, therefore, illegal.

The NLRB investigated the matter and found that Walmart violated federal labor laws by firing the workers. The company was ordered to reinstate the workers and pay them back pay for the time they were unemployed. Walmart also had to post notices in the store informing workers of their rights to participate in union activity without fear of retaliation.

Another incident of individuals fired for answering anonymous surveys occurred at a call center in New York City in 2017. A group of workers at the call center was asked to participate in an anonymous survey about their working conditions, including their pay, benefits, and job satisfaction. The survey was conducted by a group of workers' rights activists trying to highlight the poor working conditions at the call center and advocate for better pay and benefits for the workers.

However, the management of the call center got wind of the survey and identified some of the workers who had filled it out. Those workers were subsequently fired for what the administration claimed were "performance issues."

anonymous feedback

There is another type of incident we come across, like, though they declare as 'Anonymous,' they are entirely not anonymous. They will send a reminder email for those who have not finished the survey; even some are even worse like they are asked to enter the employee ID for the survey. Seriously!!

These incidents show how anonymous surveys are rarely anonymous when it reaches the management, and their purpose is to bring awareness of the issues that may affect the workplace and the employees fade entirely out.

Understanding the ideology behind Anonymity and Employee surveys

The word anonymous refers to something or someone not identified or named. It can also refer to a group or organization without revealing its members or leadership. Anonymity gives the power to provide honest and candid feedback without fear of retaliation or negative consequences. It allows them to express their opinions and concerns freely without worrying about how their employer or coworkers may perceive their answers. This can lead to a more accurate representation of employee attitudes and experiences and a better understanding of any issues that may be present within the organization. But there is a widespread belief that a completely anonymous survey cannot yield the expected results. That too with employee surveys.

anonymous feedback

Taking employee surveys seriously means approaching the survey process with a willingness to listen to and act on the feedback provided by employees. It demonstrates a commitment to creating a positive and productive work environment and improving the overall employee experience. It also shows that management values the opinions and perspectives of its employees and is willing to make changes to benefit the organization as a whole. It can also foster a culture of open communication and trust between management and employees. And also can help the company to identify issues and develop a plan to address them.

But how the actual intent of an anonymous employee survey fails is another topic of debate. Let us understand why Employer wants to break the 'Anonymity.'

Why Employer wants to Break Anonymity in an 'Anonymous Survey.'

There are several reasons why management might break the Anonymity of an anonymous survey:

  1. They may want to identify individual participants to follow up with them or provide feedback on their responses.
  2. They may want to cross-reference survey responses with other data, such as employee performance records, to understand the issues being raised.
  3. They may want to use the survey results to hold individuals accountable for their responses or to identify and address issues related to specific departments or teams.
  4. They may believe that breaking anonymity is necessary to take action on the survey results and improve the organization.
  5. They may have pressure from upper management, who may be interested in knowing who made specific comments or complaints.

It's important to note that Anonymity is one of the critical elements of a survey, and breaking it can lead to mistrust and demotivate employees to participate in future surveys.

Reasons Why (Partial) Anonymous Survey Fails

There are several reasons why anonymous employee surveys can fail to achieve their intended goal:

Lack of trust: If employees do not trust that their responses will be kept anonymous, they may be reluctant to provide honest feedback. This can happen when employees suspect that the survey is not truly anonymous or fear retaliation if their responses are discovered.

Insufficient Anonymity: Even when employees believe that their responses will be anonymous, they may still be reluctant to provide honest feedback if they suspect they can be easily identified based on their responses. This can happen when the survey is not designed or administered in a way that provides sufficient Anonymity.

Lack of follow-up: Anonymous employee surveys can fail if the results are not used to address the issues that the employees have raised. If employees see no evidence that their feedback is being taken into account, they may become disengaged and less willing to participate in future surveys.

Difficulty in identifying the issues: Even if the survey is anonymous and well-designed, it may be challenging to identify the problems that employees are raising. This can happen when the survey does not ask the right questions or when the results are not analyzed in a way that provides actionable insights.

Management or company's attitude: Even when the anonymous survey is well designed, well administrated, and followed up, the management or the company's philosophy can affect the success of the study. Suppose the management or the company is not open to hearing and addressing negative feedback. In that case, the survey results may not be used in any meaningful way, and employees will be less likely to participate in future surveys.

Overall, anonymous employee surveys can be an effective tool for gathering employee feedback, but they fail to do that.

Being fired for answering an anonymous survey can be a traumatic and stressful experience. It can cause feelings of betrayal, anger, and injustice. The individual may feel that their trust has been broken and that their Employer does not value their opinions or contributions. They may also experience financial stress or uncertainty about their future. Being fired in this way can also damage the employee's self-esteem and self-worth. This doesn't end with that particular employee; it is a chain reaction; it affects the morale of others in the workplace and eventually comes to a point where the business can see irreparable damage.

Still, we cannot conclude that 'Anonymous employee surveys' is not your thing. The only solution to this is they need to be designed, administered, and followed up on in a way that promotes trust, Anonymity, and action.

Proof of Anonymity

Proving the Anonymity of an online survey platform can be a challenging task, as it requires demonstrating that the platform is designed and implemented in such a way that participants' identities cannot be determined or linked to their responses. One way to do this is to conduct a thorough audit of the platform's technical architecture and data handling practices, including encryption and other security measures, to ensure that personal identifying information is not collected or stored.

There are several factors to consider when trying to prove the Anonymity of a survey platform, including:

Technical measures: The platform should have robust security and encryption to protect participant information and prevent unauthorized access to data. It should be designed to mask the respondent's personal information to maintain Anonymity.

Data handling practices: The platform should have strict policies and procedures for collecting, storing, and handling participant data and should not collect or store any personally identifying information.

Privacy policy: The platform should have a clear and transparent privacy policy that explains how participant data will be used and protected.

Communication: The platform should communicate the Anonymity of the survey and the measures taken to protect participants' data to the survey takers.

Compliance: The platform should comply with all relevant laws and regulations regarding data privacy and security.

It's important to note that proving Anonymity is not a one-time task; it's a continuous process that should be regularly monitored and updated.

How BlockSurvey ensures the Anonymity of your survey

BlockSurvey is the most secure survey tool with the highest data security for survey creators and respondents. BlockSurvey is an end-to-end encrypted survey tool with a pack of rich features that provides complete privacy, Anonymity, and security.

"Decentralizing is the only way to own your data. BlockSurvey is the first online survey tool that uses Stacks Blockchain, which Bitcoin secures to power up the surveys." And also, it is an AI-driven survey tool; creating surveys with AI is much easier and faster. BlockSurvey, by default, does not collect the meta identity or the IP address of its users, and also, strictly, there are no ads or trackers on the platform.

Build Your First Anonymous survey

Sign-up to BlockSurvey now and join thousands of other privacy activists worldwide who enjoy complete privacy and ownership of their data.

During Sign-up, you will receive your secret keys; the account you created is a Decentralized Identity(DID), which gets anchored in Bitcoin's blockchain through Stack. A secret key is a set of 24 words that proves your ownership of our account/identity. It is used to access your identity on the Stacks blockchain.

Design your first completely anonymous survey in BlockSurvey and share it with your participants easily. Analyze your data with best-in-class built-in analytics to extract the quality information from the survey created.

Why people are getting fired for answering an anonymous survey FAQ

What are the consequences of answering an anonymous survey?

Answering an anonymous survey means that the responses cannot be linked back to the person who provided them. This can have several potential consequences, both positive and negative. Some of the positive consequences include: Increased honesty: People may be more likely to provide honest and accurate responses when they know their answers will be anonymous. Greater participation: Some individuals may be more willing to participate in a survey if they know their answers will be anonymous.

Does my employer have the right to fire me for answering an anonymous survey?

If you are participating in an anonymous survey that is related to your work environment and the survey is asking about illegal activities, discrimination, harassment, or other protected activities and your employer can't prove the authenticity of the response, it may be illegal for your employer to terminate your employment in retaliation for participating in the survey.

Are there any legitimate reasons for an employer to take action against an employee for answering an anonymous survey?

There may be some legitimate reasons for an employer to take action against an employee for answering an anonymous survey, but it would depend on the specific circumstances. Here are a few examples: Disclosing confidential information: If an employee reveals confidential information in an anonymous survey, this could be grounds for disciplinary action. Defamation: If an employee makes false or defamatory statements about the company or other employees in an anonymous survey, this could be grounds for disciplinary action. Misuse of company time: If an employee completes an anonymous survey during working hours without permission, this could be grounds for disciplinary action.

What should I do if I am asked to answer an anonymous survey?

Understand the purpose of the survey, and the type of data being asked. Analyze the platform used to host the survey and their privacy policies if they are storing any personal information or are completely anonymous. Be mindful of the information you provide and be aware of the potential risks when answering an anonymous survey. Avoid providing any information that could be used to identify you, such as your name, contact information, or other identifying details.

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blog author description

Vimala Balamurugan

Vimala heads the Content and SEO Team at BlockSurvey. She is the curator of all the content that BlockSurvey puts out into the public domain. Blogging, music, and exploring new places around is how she spends most of her leisure time.


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