5 Questions To Avoid In An Employee Engagement Survey

by Kylee Stone Jul 29,2015

The People Strategy Leaders Podcast

with Srikant Chellappa, CEO

Our previous article 8 Steps To Effective Employee Surveys focused on how employee surveys help your employees engage better and build new organizational strategies. But before you proceed, take heed of the questions you should not include in an employee engagement survey.

The questions listed below are here for a reason. Either they put your employees in a bind – where they’re damned if they do, damned if they don’t, or they are in incredibly poor taste.

Questions To Avoid In A Survey

1. Question to avoid: Who according to you is a better boss? Your supervisor or the CEO?

By including this question in the survey, you might intend to know what your employees think about their superiors and their leadership abilities. However, this question puts your employees in a catch-22 situation, where they cannot decide what to answer and even if they do decide, they might not want to disclose their opinion due to fear of being pulled up.

Also, it’s not nice to pit one leader against another. Everybody has different leadership styles and as a result, leads differently. Not to mention, a supervisor has responsibilities that are quite different from that of a CEO.

2. Question to avoid: Are you making enough money? Or would you like a pay raise?

While you might think that this question will help you know how satisfied your employees are with their pay and benefits, it might actually increase problems for your employees. Who wouldn’t like a raise in their pay? Including this question in the survey might make the employees think that this is a trick question. Also, the answers you are going to receive might be radically different from the truth and only lead to more uneasiness among your employees.

3. Question to avoid: Do you like working with us?

No employee would ever answer this question with a ‘no’. Asking this question will not get you any good information that you can use to improve your organization. Instead, it bewilders your employees, which leads to false answers and decreases the significance of the survey.

Avoid using yes-no questions. The results will be more informative and eye-opening if the questions can be answered with statements.

4. Question to avoid: When are you planning to get married/have children?

Really, this is not something you ask employees. It is one thing to want to know where your employees see themselves 5 years down the line or where do they see themselves in the organization. But it is a completely different thing to ask them about their personal lives. While the question itself is not wrong and you might feel justified in asking it, it is in extremely poor taste.

Most employees might not want to reveal their future plans, at least not to the boss!

5. Question to avoid: What changes would you like to make to the organization if given a chance?

When you ask this question in a survey, you might expect your employees to suggest new ideas and improvements for the organization. But, your employees might think there is a hidden caveat to the situation. For example, an employee answers that there should be a more relaxed dress code. Next thing they know, they are being called by HR and being told that asking for the dress code rules to be relaxed is not a constructive suggestion. This is just an example of what could go wrong. It is important to note that not all HR departments are the same. But, I digress. The point is, your employees might misunderstand the question, especially if your organization is not for open communication.

After you make a survey, you might want to show it to your colleagues, get some feedback, revise the survey, get some more feedback, further revise and then send it to all employees to be taken. If a question gives you pause, then the best thing to do is not include it all. Or if a question makes you ask yourself, should it be included, reconsider its inclusion.

Share some of the craziest survey questions you’ve seen with us in the comments section below!

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Kylee Stone

Kylee Stone supports the professional services team as a CX intern and psychology SME. She leverages her innate creativity with extensive background in psychology to support client experience and organizational functions. Kylee is completing her master’s degree in Industrial-Organizational psychology at the University of Missouri Science and Technology emphasizing in Applied workplace psychology and Statistical Methods.

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