I want your thoughts on how candid I should be in responding to a Zoomerang Survey that my department head sent out.

As I have posted on other threads, morale is not great at my workplacet. More people in my department continue to leave, taking lateral jobs that require relocations. I've tried to remain positive, but this week even I began feeling very negative about things -- meanwhile, the market is really up turning as Mark and Mike described, and I'm getting lots of calls as a result of my good Linkedin profile.

This past week, our department head (my boss's boss) sent out a survey from Zoomerang about how people feel about our department culture, leadership, promotions, etc. saying it was anonymous.  We all got the same three URLs (not unique URLs), 11 questions each (limit on free accounts is 12 questions) in an E-mail where each department member (n=45) was on the "To". Looking at the questions, I suspect I'll answer "Strongly Disagree" to many of them, and I've been making notes on a number of comments I will make, all with potential solutions. I plan to access the URL from my home computer too, in case an IP address is tracked.

Before I do, I wanted to ask if there should be anything I think about before responding to the survey or entering comments? I want to also know if the results go only to the department head, or if someone outside the department (HR, or his boss) started the survey. 

EDIT: Additional info, within our department, people are so quick to find negatives in what other people do, usually behind their back, are quick to dismiss ideas or claim they are too risky, give people no credit for the time or effort they've done to do a quality job or research something, and managers are quick to become angry when stressed (known as the s--t down approach in our department). I actually may not need to write much as I've talked on the phone with a few coworkers this weekend, and others are writing what I was going to write. I'm mentoring someone (who I've actually known for 4+ years) who surprised me the other day telling me she cries or 15 min every day before coming to work. I should add that all of us have generous severance plans due to being acquired -- some people are afraid of using it, some people are hoping to use it.

My boss actually supports me very well, the problem is that the other bosses underneath my boss's boss, who were all recently promoted, do not think very highly of me according to my boss. They are unfamiliar with the complexities of my project, and come from a different background. I actually drafted a LONG post about this, but decided not to share. My boss is open to all ideas from me on helping but agrees the culture is really bad. Though I have a PhD in science / engineering, I have studied and practiced in non-profits communication, leadership, organizational behavior, conflict, negotiation, teamwork, motivation, etc for many, many years. The current management of my department was promoted because of their science, and because they were on visible projects. I don't think they have the ability to think about people in the proper way (which a read of 7 Habits could show them), which is why my suggestions could be valuable - if they listen.

melissas's picture

With Zoomerang, and other similar survey services, when the invitation is sent via Zoomerang, the URL in each individual's email will contain a unique identifier, which is what's used for tracking. Also, emails can be tracked if you load images. Marketers use that to track opens and click-throughs on links. Zoomerang allows for anonymous surveys, but that doesn't mean that's the way your employer actually set it up.

If the email was sent via your office email system (with the same message copied to everyone) then it's more likely that the survey truly is anonymous. Try to compare your link to someone else's in the office and they match, then it is more likely anonymous.

Even so, your comments could still identify you. How many times have Mark & Mike reminded us that managers *know*? We may think they don't know what's going on, but they do.

mmann's picture
Licensee Badge

If the people taking the survey can all be included in the To line of one email, I'd overlook the email.  Failing that I'd be overcome by events.  Failing that I'd answer with the most uplifting praise I could muster without lying.  

If your boss isn't sitting at a table asking you (and others) personally for advice then s/he's probably not truly open to improving.



bffranklin's picture
Training Badge

If someone really wants to know who you are on the internet, they can find out.  Your employer has access to hundreds of emails of yours.  It would be trivial to definitively deanonymize the survey simply based on word choice and sentence structure.  Don't look for technological assurance of anonymity; ask yourself if you are comfortable with the assurance of your employer that the survey will be handled anonymously and act appropriately. 


TNoxtort's picture

Thank you for all your trips. I ended filling out the survey and answering all the multiple choice survey questions as I would, and just had my wife helped me tone down my response on the few open ended up questions. There were three parts to the survey, and I submitted them at all different times, using my home computer. I found out it wasn't even going to the boss's boss, but rather one of the other bosses who was charged with figuring out why morale is so bad.

But you know, I gave a speech a few weeks ago that bothered a lot of people because I brought up issues that I guess folks didn't want to.

I used to be the most positive person at my work. Now, I come home every day feeling so down on myself. I am actually hoping to get a package so I can get out (or get laid off), because I just feel so awful all the time, and so many of my coworkers have left for that same feeling.

430jan's picture

Ok so the 360 review is done. Manager tools would have advised to avoid it like the plague, but that is that. And they already know you're dissatisfied, so that's not a secret.

You have to assess. Is it temporary? Are there other positions you could take within the company? Life is short. If you can't change it, then maybe it is time to plan an exit. There are podcasts on how to resign. I had to do this once, in the middle of a mass exodus from a really awful manager (before manager tools). I was tempted to let 'em all have it on the way out, but for once I held my tongue and refused to say anything bad in my exit interview. I figured they knew it all anyway and for whatever reason were unwilling to change at the time. I was so glad that I left the way I did because I was able to return in a few years under a new manager and now have moved up to the head of my division. That never would have happened if they pulled my file and I had fired off what I really wanted to say.

You never know where life will take you in a career. It's hard to be in the middle of such a mess, but be careful not to "nix" yourself for any future opportunities and references. It is a very small world.

p.s. I'm sure I don't have the whole picture but I am also concerned about your boss's support of you. I would never tell one of my directs that they were disliked by other bosses. The observations I give to my directs are mine alone. Even if concerns are raised by another I think it shows a lack of courage and professionalism to lay criticisms off on another person. It feeds the kind of despair that I feel is happening to you right now.


TNoxtort's picture

Hi 430jan,

Thanks for your feedback. Yes, I've listened to those podcasts and such on resigning. The problem isn't just my department, it is the whole very large company. I've posted a little bit about it on some other threads of mine and the interviews I have had. My boss can be very unprofessional in the way she interacts with people, so her saying bad things about her fellow boss's or boss's boss is nothing new. Also, she disagrees with those bosses, because none of them have taken the time to understand the complexities of my project.

I am not at all planning to let anyone have it -- I get thoughts all the time, but share with my wife instead (as they advise in the Angry Boss podcasts). My field is VERY small - I had a phone interview the other day who worked with my boss and now retired boss at my company 20 years ago!

The survey was anonymous, and I think that will remain, since everyone is unhappy. My comments were very constructive and I had my wife read them over first. We have lost a lot of people in 2011. The number left who do what I do is in the low single digits. You cannot just hire this talent -- we all have PhDs and got trained here on this very specific dosage form, and all have been here at least 3 years. I am actively looking right now and every headhunter says they cannot find someone with my experience. I put one position on hold (which I posted here about)) and the headhunter calls me every few weeks to see if I've changed my mind, since they can't find anyone. Furthermore, the company is in a downsizing mode, but word is that more business is coming to our department.

I've had my project for four years, with four different supervisors and three different CEOs, and it is very complex and doesn't fit normal projects. Without my, my boss, or her boss's knowledge it was chosen to be the first on a fast-trac to get early reads on whether a project is even feasible. Those folks want me to skip steps, some of which are required by law, to move it faster. On the other hand, people in my department who are not on my project are upset because I don't have data to address what he or she thinks is the biggest risk (which is different for each objector). My boss had said she trusted me --- this week, in her typical change her mind like the weather, she took over one of my meetings and went nuts to see a long term timeline -- though this is an early state project with urgent actions to DETERMINE if is worth puruiing long term! Then she said she could wait a few weeks while I get these urgent things in, and then called two other of her fellow boss's to do that work instead! I called three of my former coworkers who left this year, and all three laughed at me because they've been through my boss's mood swings. My wife found some positives in it -- the other people she called will likely be folks who I can get on my side. My boss called a meeting with me on Monday morning - who knows maybe I'll get laid off and I can take my generous severance package with benefits and others will finally see how complex this project is.

A few years ago I read the book by the Inquiry Institute, Change Your Questions, Change Your Life by Marilee Adams. I have her Choice Map ( and top 12 questions on my wall and I try to ask them often when I get stuck in the dumps (judger mode) and want to switch to the more productive learner mode. 

430jan's picture

Whatever happens on Monday it sounds as though you have been through the ringer. I wish you all the best as you sort out your next steps!

TNoxtort's picture

Thanks for your support. Monday was OK. My boss started by telling me I needed to stop taking things seriously. Then she went on about how the other bosses and her boss were all (derogatory phrases) and I'm smarter than all of them. Then she told me I need to give up the brainless parts of my project to someone else, so I can focus on the brain-ful parts, and this guy is a favorite of the boss's boss and so that will help me get brownie points. Not so happy about that, because the further you get on a pharmaceutical project, the more routine the work, but the people at the end get the credit. Though I've talked to him and his people, and they're not quite in any position to assume any responsibilities. But she wants me to invite him to all my meetings now. I had another meeting today to talk about a certain issue, and my boss as usual changed the topic and continues to demand late stage timelines despite having urgent early work going on (and telling me last week she wouldn't bother about it for two weeks). I'm following my dad's advice and preparing a letter to send to all stakeholders that our team is changing focus, and will share with my boss tomorrow.

She told me that last week, all the bosses met to discuss the results of this survey. They talked, but no action items came of it.

I continue to talk to recruiters I've known and let them know what I'm looking for. Having a pregnant wife on a high risk pregnancy (1st child for us) definitely complicates things. Most really like my resume, but one today pointed out that I need to list more of my team leadership experience.