What Managers Can Gain From Anonymous Chats

When used strategically, anonymous digital chat tools can help build stronger employee engagement.

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An MIT SMR initiative exploring how technology is reshaping the practice of management.
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Anonymous chat apps are quickly picking up steam in the workplace, providing employees with a platform to discuss concerns and complaints, offer advice, and provide unfiltered feedback in novel ways. These technologies can be helpful to managers — but you wouldn’t think so from much of the press surrounding them.

Blind, one of the most popular of these apps and dubbed “HR’s worst nightmare” by TechCrunch, offers employees the opportunity to provide raw feedback, which is “the antithesis to HR’s utopic vision of a manageable and orderly corporate culture.” The New York Times has looked at the trouble anonymous feedback gives employees and managers, citing expert research that anonymous peer reviews are just as political and subjective as any others.

Contently cofounder Shane Snow announced in January 2018 that his company was ending most anonymous employee feedback, which had opened a platform for snide, nonconstructive remarks that left the team “with little but hurt feelings.”

These are all valid concerns. But as a manager myself, I’ve found that there is a time and place for collecting anonymous feedback from my staff. In fact, doing so can help retain great employees, boost productivity, and build greater engagement.

To be clear, it is important to have a workplace culture based on real, open communication and transparency so employees feel free to share their concerns and ideas by name without fear of reprisal. Far too many companies are failing to build these cultures. In fact, according to a study by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte on digital leadership, “C-level executives often portray their organizations as transparent, open to risk-taking, and having high morale. But as you move down the organizational structure, managers rarely believe it and say that the level of trust is very low.”

It’s clearly important to address this at the manager level. It’s why I meet with every person on my team — not just my direct reports, but with their reports as well, at least once a month. I work to build relationships with them and encourage them to bring me anything that they feel deserves my attention. When they do, I try to help them and follow up, as building trust is crucial for fostering environments where feedback can be shared openly.

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Topics

Frontiers

An MIT SMR initiative exploring how technology is reshaping the practice of management.
See All Articles in This Section

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