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Your Opinion is Wrong!?

Think about that for a minute – can someone’s opinion actually be wrong? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an opinion is, “a belief, judgment, or way of thinking about something: what someone thinks about a particular thing.” So if someone has a belief or a way of thinking about something, can that actually be wrong, or for that matter, right? That is not to say that we have to agree with someone’s opinion about something, but we can’t necessarily state that their opinion is wrong.

WrongAs HR Pros, we run into situations like this on fairly regular basis. Employees get upset when someone disagrees with their opinion on something or disregards it. Some people want their opinion to be the one that everyone adopts when it comes to the way ahead on a project or client proposal. One of the biggest challenges I experience in dealing with this issue pertains to employee surveys. Survey time, for many companies, can be a very sensitive undertaking. Keeping in mind, when organizations decide to do an employee survey, in order for it to be productive, they must be clear on why they surveying, what they are surveying about and what they will do with the results. Hopefully, the organizational intent is to obtain a good temperature check on the level of employee engagement and satisfaction its employees has with the various elements of their job and the company in general. The more progressive organizations are prepared to take action against the top areas of opportunity that are uncovered during a survey as a means of making their company a better place to work (i.e. attract and retain talent). They sincerely look for honest, candid feedback so that they can address root cause issues and continue to excel.

Now, here is where some of the challenges come in to play. There will be members of your management team that don’t buy into the reasons for conducting a survey. They may think it is a waste of time, serves no purpose or aren’t prepared to change anything. The other challenge, depending on the level of detail you can cull from your surveys, is that you are often able to pinpoint particular geographic or departmental hotspots. This in turn shines an uncomfortable spotlight on particular managers or department heads. Regardless, the desired outcome(s) should always be to improve organizationally, foster communication and address key/critical areas that are impacting your employees’ ability to be successful (and as such, the organization’s ability).

As alluded to earlier, the pain points I have experienced are when managers, upon seeing survey results, attempt to discredit the results and the feedback. Instead of accepting the survey results for what they are – a temperature check/moment in time opinion response from your employees – managers will attempt to subjectively rationalize the (poorer) results. I have heard comments like, “well, the staff are misinformed; they don’t know what they are talking about; they scored that low because on that day xyx event took place that they didn’t like; we have addressed these issues before and fixed them…they are just never happy, etc.”

You see what just happened there? By attempting to discredit, disregard and disavow the employee feedback, they were basically telling employees that their opinion was WRONG. An employee survey is just that – the employees’ opinions/feelings about things at the time of the survey. A response that attempts to arbitrarily rationalize the results is akin to telling your staff their opinions are all WRONG. You see how bizarre that all sounds? And how can their opinions be wrong?

So, what do we need to do as HR Pros if/when this happens at our companies? First off, you need to get the focus back on track. Circle back to the goals and objectives of the survey. What are you trying to accomplish? Dig into the survey results. Compare to previous years. If there are dramatic changes up or down over the course of a year or so, conduct some focus groups to get to the heart of the matter. Ask staff for their feedback and recommended solutions. Provide those solutions back to your leadership team. Keep meetings with managers and staff solutions focused – not on what is ‘wrong,’ ‘broken,’ or not working. Keep circling back to the goals you established at the start of your survey launch – i.e. improve communication, address key areas, sustain/improve engagement levels, sustain/improve retention, sustain/improve productivity and quality. Remember, the survey is simply a tool – a means to communicate and engage with your staff. At the end of the day it is simply information…..and opinions. It can’t be right or wrong, it just “is what it is.” As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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