There’s an old saying that says people don’t quit jobs, they quit managers. And while that’s not the whole story, there’s definitely a grain of truth to it. In particular, there’s one area that will turn off even employees who are otherwise happy in their jobs: an unapproachable manager.
According to Gallup:
65% of employees who don’t feel they can approach their manager with any type of question are actively disengaged
Engagement is highest among employees who have some form of daily communication with their managers — face to face, on the phone, or digitally
Engaged employees report their manager returns their messages within 24 hours
There’s a direct correlation between being able to ask questions and raise issues to your manager and an engaged workforce. It makes common sense too: managers who are unapproachable likely don’t have a pulse on employee happiness levels. When employees don’t feel comfortable going up to their manager with a problem, they just end up keeping the issue to themselves. And this isn’t a winning situation for anyone. Issues never get resolved and managers aren’t kept in the loop.
Clearly, a manager can’t have a one-on-one meeting with every employee every day, but an anonymous feedback system can help carry the weight. The addition of anonymous feedback won’t replace direct contact, but it is an excellent supplement to find the heartbeat of your workforce and be approachable to your staff — in particular for these reasons.
Real Issues Aren’t Kept Secret
Even if, as a manager, you claim to have an “open-door policy,” many employees won’t feel comfortable addressing real issues in the workplace. According to the Harvard Business Review, 42% of employees withhold information from their managers if they believe they may lose something by sharing. Essentially, fear leads to tight lips.
Whether the fear is real or perceived, it doesn’t matter. But an anonymous feedback system will help employees feel free to speak their minds. It’s the comfort of not having a name attached to the feedback that allows employees to air their dirty laundry without a sense of fear — which is the only way real change can occur.
The Power of Employee Empowerment
When managers are consistently asking for your feedback in a systematic way, employees are more likely to feel included and respected as part of the whole. Feeling valued is a massive step in employee engagement. And it doesn’t take much.
But if you start forcing your employees to provide feedback, things start to become inauthentic. So make sure your employees are doing this of their own will. And make sure they know it’s for their benefit, not the company’s. Doing this shows that you’re genuinely concerned about their happiness, which reinforces the employee’s sense of feeling valued in the workplace.
We’ve all probably been in this situation before: you have workplace concerns or issues that are weighing heavily on your shoulders. But there’s no one you can turn to, or you feel like you have to wait for the annual survey. There’s a greater chance you would be pushed to your limits and quit.
But on the other hand, if you were frequently asked to anonymously scale your happiness level on 1 to 10 and then provide a brief explanation as to why, it’s more likely to get prompt resolution on any concerns — something a yearly face-to-face review could never dream of doing.
There’s a remarkable difference between waiting 12 months and not having to wait at all. The latter allows issues to be resolved immediately. The former allows issues build up.
Of course, feedback doesn’t always have to be of the negative variety. An anonymous feedback system allows employees to call out an excellent coworker, something that a manager may have missed in the daily bustle.
This fellow employee praise can be used to boost employee morale — collect any responses you get and send them off in a newsletter or call them out during a team meeting. It reinforces the idea that what employees do matters, not just to their managers but also to the people they work with on a daily basis.
One of the best practices to keep in mind is that you need to share your feedback results with your team or organization. But this isn’t entirely plausible if names are attached. Who wants their problems with their colleague or manager to be known to the rest of the world? It’s unsettling.
Keeping the feedback anonymous allows employees to let it all out on the table. This eliminates the need for people to play office politics or get shunned by others.
And with those factors out of the picture, people will be more willing to resolve issues together as a cohesive team.
Steps to Take
There’s a notorious distrust between employees and their managers. But there are definitely ways you can ease this tense and gain their full trust. Keep in mind that this trust won’t be bought overnight.
Be up front: Tell your employees that their responses will be truly anonymous — that any information related to them will be scrubbed off the face of the earth.
Share the feedback: Show your employees everyone’s responses at meetings. Once they visually see that no one’s name is attached to the feedback, you’ll start gaining their trust. Plus, doing this also fosters a culture of transparency.
Get them involved: Don’t just keep the solution-finding process to leaders. Collaborate with your employees to find resolutions that resolve their pain points. Because in the end, it’s not about you; it’s about your employees.
Ask them again: In a perfect world, there would be no issues at the workplace. In reality, issues come up one after another. So ask your employees for feedback and ask again. You’ll want to nip the problem in the bud.
It may seem overwhelming to constantly be accepting feedback, but when approachability is so tied to employee engagement, it’s crucial to make the effort. An anonymous employee feedback system can help plug holes in the cycle and make employees feel valued.