Is anonymous feedback toxic?

Miguel Regedor - May 6, 2019
Short answer: No! Feedback is a very important and valuable tool. Even more so if you make it anonymous, and why is that?

1. Sense of privacy and security

Speak our minds can be a stressful situation for some people, especially when it comes to our workplace, our colleagues, and our bosses. We fear we will be judged, rejected, or even fired for telling how we feel about something or someone; therefore we prefer not to expose ourselves. The way to make sure people share their honest opinion is to provide a context where those fears are not an issue.

2. Immune to cultural and social differences

Cultural differences can be an inhibitor of feedback simply because people are not sure how to approach others that come from a different background. So, it’s crucial to offer a common way for everybody to give and receive feedback that takes away this kind of concerns. This is particularly important within multicultural workplaces.

3. No heart feelings

Have you ever been in a position that you had to give not-so-positive feedback to someone who is your friend? Or did you ever received feedback from someone that made you feel hurt because you had a personal relationship with that person? These are (probably) the worst situations when it comes to feedback exchange. Anonymity rips away the personalisation of feedback and helps focus solely on the message itself, not linking it to anyone.

4. Better data

If people feel safe to speak up, you’ll get better data. Some critics of anonymity often forget that feedback is not exclusive to delivering negative opinions; it is also used to share positive thoughts and ideas. You may be inclined to think that there’s no problem with sharing good things and insights that can lead to improvement, but, as I said before, people are different. Some are shy or lack confidence in themselves or their ideas to say things out loud. An anonymous way to do it empowers everyone to speak their minds, gathering real and vital data.

Of course, some people can abuse the anonymity and use it with destructive behaviours. That is why I put a lot of thought while designing anonymous features for the Wellbeing Warrior.

In addition, I must say that non-anonymous feedback is essential too. The two are not mutually exclusive. They complement each other. And organisations must find ways to incorporate both.