It’s neither and can be both. Here’s my take on whether it helps or hurts.
Ideally inside an organization, a team, or in any relationship, the best-case scenario is that feedback happens out in the open. The source of it is not a mystery. It’s given directly to the audience it’s intended for and it’s received well.
However, if you have a team or organization where feedback is not historically something that people have a healthy relationship with, that they’re not skillful at doing, and it’s seen as a negative or solely as a vehicle to deliver criticism, then doing it anonymously may be your best chance to gather feedback that is honest.
Ultimately, the purpose of feedback is to uncover the truth so that you can bring to light any areas of opportunity to grow and improve, and to empower people’s voices and experiences.
Feedback is vital to individual and team success. Feedback being honest is vitally important to be effective. If it needs to be done anonymously to get the truth, then so be it.
However, without question, the work to be done as an organization is to move towards an environment where feedback is productive, safe, welcome, sought after and seen as an opportunity to build better relationships and experiences.
Feedback done well inside an organization, or any relationship, is the fastest, easiest and least expensive way to build trust, accelerate improvement, and reduce unnecessary static and conflict.
Move towards transparency. Proactively moving towards an environment where feedback can be given and received transparently, and where it’s normalized and asked for on a regular basis, is the goal.
The most direct way to arrive at that place is:
Be more consistent with it. Have healthy feedback conversations more often. Leaders should be asking for feedback as well to normalize and model that receiving feedback is a positive and healthy way to grow and improve other people’s experience with you. Consistency also means walking the talk that you actually want to hear what people have to say by taking it to heart and making changes and adjustments based on what you hear.
Level up those skills. If you recognize that feedback is a challenge for people on your team and that they’re threatened by it or not skilled at giving or receiving it, then for the love of all that’s good, train up their skill at it. Unless your people are incredibly great at feedback, then you have a huge opportunity to level them up in a way that will contribute to stronger teams and relationships, and a much healthier work environment and overall culture.
To sum up, anonymous feedback is OK, but it’s not ideal. In the most perfect world, feedback is open, honest, transparent, received well and given well. Strive for an environment where feedback is awesome and you’ll have a culture where relationships thrive.
Galen Emanuele is a speaker and trainer on business leadership and team culture based out of Portland, Ore. Every week, Emanuele produces a video and blog post highlighting vital conversations, building skill sets and showing teams how to drive exceptional culture and leadership. To see more, visit shiftyes.com/blog