Employee Surveys: Do you answer honestly? Here’s why you don’t

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

Employers spend billions, globally, on Employee Engagement and surveying their workforce.

But we all know that employees lie on these surveys, and here’s why.

An Employment Engagement survey can be a daunting thing. Many questions. Most of them are designed to make you think, using questions relating to:

  • your work environment
  • your training and development
  • your pay and remuneration
  • your job satisfaction
  • your performance
  • your stress and pressure
  • your wellbeing
  • your future in the organization
  • your manager’s performance
  • your manager’s behavior
  • your coworkers’ performance
  • your coworkers’ behaviors
  • your employer’s social responsibility
  • discrimination in your workplace
  • loads of other stuff…

All good things to ask about, right? Well maybe not.

One of the BIG ISSUES I have with these surveys is that they MAKE YOU THINK. They’re completed by using a mental process in your head – one where we rationalize the impact of the answer – but don’t answer honestly about how we feel.


  • We could be worried that our answers will be tied back to us, individually, and then we are reprimanded, bullied or sidelined by the person(s) affected by our negative response
  • We might be ‘in a mood’ and use the survey as momentary retribution (I’ll show those f**kers!)
  • We could be lining ourselves up for a promotion or benefit, so we answer more positively than we might otherwise
  • We might think that our employers are doing all they can in tough circumstances, so why kick them why they’re down?
  • I don’t want my boss to get into trouble, so I answer positively
  • I just can’t be bothered with this, so answer randomly
  • I’m leaving this place, so why should I answer honestly?

And there will be many more reasons why we don’t answer truthfully.

We don’t answer honestly because we think too much about the answer.

Some of the above scenarios are noble, kind and generous. And momentary. And ultimately, unhelpful for the purpose for which they were asked.

And, besides, have you answered these surveys and then afterwards felt I really should have answered honestly? I know I have.

I’ve started a poll at the bottom of this post to find out how you respond to employee surveys (answer honestly!)

Thinking About Answers: isn’t that a good thing?

No – it ain’t. We shouldn’t be made to think when we’re asked important questions, because we modify our answer – we don’t tell the truth (even if we think it is for a good reason.)

What we should do, instead, is to answer how we feel.

When we answer how we feel, rational thought is ignored. Our feelings stem from a place that is long term, and very personal.

Our feelings are what really drive our actions and thoughts, not the other way around. So when we go against our emotions in favor of a rational thought, we’re in fact behaving without integrity. This in turn can lead to a feeling of ‘letting yourself down’, guilt, and even depression.

If employers were to ask us how we feel, and receive emotional responses, wouldn’t that give them the real data to work with?

The problem is with the way answers are captured

We have too much time to think, and rationalize. There is no time limit. Our thinking brain kicks in and we answer according to thoughts, not feelings. But given the opportunity, you will do that, won’t you???

This isn’t something that we employees can fix, by ourselves. It will take a new way of capturing answers so that we’re forced to answer them quickly, and honestly. In the meantime, all we can do is this:

Answer Employee Engagement surveys as honestly as we can do, and not over-think the implications of giving honest and genuine answers.

[poll id=”3″]

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