7/23/2009

Corporate Survival Guide: Be the Master of All You Survey

If you’re slogging through the trenches of today’s corporate battlefield, you’re probably bombarded constantly by internal company surveys. Management apparently wants to know how happy you are, what you think of the company, how much you like the food in the cafeteria, and how clean the restrooms are.

Those who are not true Corporate Warriors (“Fodder”) may be thinking one of two things about these surveys:
  • “I’d really like to help the organization improve itself; I will gladly fill out these forms so that the company keeps getting better and better!”

  • “why do I have to fill out another survey? Shouldn’t I do some real work instead?”
Both of these responses are, of course, dead wrong. The company doesn’t actually care about improving itself; it’s already doing pretty well. But those in charge of the surveys would definitely like you to spend your time on the surveys instead of real work; the amount of time you spend thinking about your corporate environment is directly proportional to how important the bureaucracy can feel about itself. The more surveys, the more satisfied the company.

No, the real way to think about these surveys is the way that you, the Corporate Warrior, think about everything you do at work and in life in general:
How can I improve my position through this task?
There are actually two different ways that you can profit from employee surveys: completing them and authoring them. Both require different approaches and skill sets, so I will cover them separately.

Completing Surveys

There are two main tips for filling out any company survey:
  1. Get your name in there
  2. Use “Other” fields as much as possible
Credit where Credit is Due (to You)

Most surveys make a point of being anonymous. The theory is that they just want general feedback and statistics so that they can collect an overall impression of how the employees feel. But seriously: do you think that if someone says something really horrible about the place they wouldn’t want to know exactly who that loser was so that they could fire their sorry butt, pronto?

Similarly, if someone (read: you) said glowing things about the company (read: your management chain), they would want to know who that person was. Imagine: if someone said that you were good-looking, wouldn’t you want to know who said it so that you could determine whether you felt honored, deserving, or just creeped-out by it?

Chances are that the surveys have some means for determining who filled them out. But just in case, you want to make it very obvious in your answers so that there was no way they could avoid tracing it back to you.

The way you make this possible is by copious use of the “Explain” field.

Explain Yourself

Most of these surveys consist of simple multiple-choice questions. Many of the questions will have no write-in field, in which case you should just pick the answer that you think the executives most want to hear. But for any question which has an “Other” answer with an “Explain:” field, it’s all yours. You should select that “Other” choice and then call forth your inner Shakespeare to wax eloquent on the topic presented in the question, the overall survey, the executives that authorized the survey, and the company leadership in general. And always tie it back to you.

Let’s look at a couple of examples to see how this works.

Here’s one from a survey about employee morale, complete with how a true Corporate Warrior would respond:
167. Please rate your overall satisfaction with the company. Consider whether you would recommend this company to others:
__A. Very High
__B. High
__C. Medium
__D. Low
__E. Very Low
X_F. Other
If “Other”, please explain:
I was confused by this question – is there really any correct answer besides “Very High?” Seriously, does anyone bother to choose anything else? If so, you might consider whether the jobs they are performing here couldn’t be better performed by someone else (such as me, Bill Frentzner).
I not only *feel* great about this company and want to recommend it – I *do* recommend it to others on a constant basis. I make it a point to call everyone I know, every day, to tell them what a wonderful place this is to be. I figure my day isn’t complete until I’ve made everyone jealous of how perfect my life is because of this job. And it must be working, because now they all hang up on me when they hear it’s me; they must be really jealous!
I also tell my coworkers how great it is here, just to make sure that we’re all on the same page. Sometimes, like last Tuesday while helping mentor my co-worker Greg Schneel, I get the feeling that some employees aren’t ecstatic to be here. Greg (Schneel, two “e”s, one “l”), for example, rolled his eyes when I said my regular piece about how happy I was to be working here. But I’m positive people like Greg are just oddballs in the mix and that all of the right-minded people are completely on board with where this company is at.
Thank you!
Sincerely,
Bill (“Bill”) Frentzner
Cube 74b (next to the 3rd floor stapling room)
Badge #478,982

Here’s another example, from a survey about restroom cleanliness:
47. Please rate the overall timeliness of bathroom facilities personnel in responding to issues:
__A. Fast
__B. Adequate
__C. Slow
X_D. Other
If you selected “Other”, please explain:
I was going to select Fast, but frankly that’s not an adequate description – the facilities group is without fail immediately on the problem, no matter what the issue, nor how long it takes. I (Bill Frentzner) was saying to my co-worker (Jerry Crously) the other day, “Jerry, you should stop complaining about the restrooms, the facilities department, and the overall company structure – this company is great in every respect. You might say that the company, like that guy in the bathroom, is really going places!”
Clearly, management is doing great things here: always has, and always will!
Thank you!
Sincerely,
Bill (“Bill”) Frentzner
Cube 74b (next to the 3rd floor stapling room)
Badge #478,982

Note, in the examples above, that there are some key points made in every response. Like political candidates in a debate, it doesn’t matter that you answer the question, but that you stay on message:
  • It’s all about you. Include your name and any other relevant information that can help the survey analyzers track you down. It’s not worth saying great things about the company if you don’t get credit.

  • Always tell them how great they are. Even though you picked “other”, make it clear that you did so only because either the top-rated selection wasn’t high enough or because you needed room to explain how great it really is. Your goal in these responses is to be excerpted for slide presentations at all-hands meetings. Management will want to show everyone how wonderful things are, so they will choose some quotes from these ‘anonymous’ surveys as examples of how others felt. You’ll know that you’ve gotten your personal agenda across by writing one of those chosen.

  • Upward mobility is relative. Always remember that there are two ways to get ahead of your co-workers: by being advanced yourself and by having your peers pulled back. Your answers can help you on both fronts by allowing you to paint yourself in a good light while also portraying some of your co-workers negatively. Be sure to be very specific, with names and possibly home addresses, so that your Human Resources department can get right on those morale problems.
It goes without saying that if there’s a field at the end of the survey that invites an open response, go for it. Use the tips above to create a response of such eloquence and obsequiousness that the executives cannot help but notice and reward you.

So start filling out those surveys. But go beyond that: seek out other surveys to complete: join email aliases at work just to have the opportunity of getting and filling out more of these, ask around to see if there are other surveys you haven’t seen yet, and fill out multiple copies of surveys whenever possible.

Surveys, like ridiculously expensive holiday gifts for your boss and acquiring blackmail photos of executives’ weekends in Vegas, represent some of the best opportunities for stepping up the ladder that you will encounter. Besides, they’re free and they give you a nice break from all of that tedious ‘work’ you have to do.

Authoring surveys, the other half of the survey ecosystem, is another critical skill on the Corporate Battlefield. But we’re all out of room for this week and I have some surveys to write; we’ll cover this in a future installment.
Post a Comment