When That “Morale Staff Survey” Is Less About The Staff and More About Keeping The Leadership’s Ego Safe.

While reading some of my morning Medium.com bloggers, I came across this one today that prompted me to pause. Mostly because it’s been a growing theme I continue to see and bothers me both as a leader and as a participant on many teams/colleague based processes.

The 9 questions that uncover the most surprising insights from employees Written by Claire Lew from KnowYourCompany.com

Check out the full article above – its a great read and has some really insightful thinking behind it.

I found this hit home for me— I see it all the time; leaderships on paper will be ready to “evaluate” and do “365’s” on the workforce, teams, products — even themselves. But when you really do a deep dive into the text of the questions chosen; you find they either the senior leader themselves or the supporting posse of “yes people” create these assessments with imbedded passive resistance, fear and lack of self commitment built into the frame of the questions and the limitations on the ways the workforce can respond. The really tough ones are cached in soft language — often because the senior leader may have a sensitivity to hearing the raw reaction of his or her workforce. Worse yet is the survey that comes out that illustrates how little the top levels understand the supporting teams. Inevitably the final set of questions are so bland and “safe” that staff and teams are forced to “answer” the best or option that isn’t even reflective of opinion, over be able to indicate how they truly might respond.

I think for any real measure of success (especially for all you band-wagon jumpers trying to force feed organizations with Sigma Six and Lean systems) should allow the workforce to provide the survey questions — NOT your communications or “advisory” cabal. Then allow you, to hear the results in real time, with out any sanitized review. This pervading theme of  “I don’t want any surprises” form of leadership instills fear and minimizes efficient change and growth at the cost of a few egos.

Each time I hear a senior leader, when asked about staff retention rates and sinking morale, and I hear them spin it as a soundbite to play better with the more senior boss or colleagues with the we did our job frame – I want to scream -“NO, You Haven’t”. Being told and reading such lines as  “Well as they move on, I feel I have done my job, our (insert org) has trained those people to go on and succeed elsewhere based on the amazing work they do, so I don’t see it as a problem or retention…

So it always makes me wonder if they even care how disingenuous that sounds or as simply that ignorant of what that sounds like to folks struggling to keep up on the increasing demands. The teams are leaving not because they want to in many cases, but because they are being made to feel unsafe, devalued and unchallenged. This isn’t industry specific. I have seen it from the non-profit to the for profit, private and public sectors. Because ultimately it is easier to let good people go, than step up and change an work environment that requires the senior leadership to change and actually put effort being buzz words like “transparency” “change leadership”, “workforce morale” and “staff development”.

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