Anonymous Workplace Surveys in Software Engineering

Dr Stuart Woolley
Published in
8 min readJan 12, 2022


Are they useful, does anyone read them, and how long will it be before you’re fired if you tell the truth?

Photo by Mikael Blomkvist from Pexels

I’m always keen to hear about ways in which the workplace¹ can be improved for us generally put upon software engineers whilst plying our technical trade.

Having dismissed the nuclear option of exit interviews² in a previous article as a way of effecting change to outdated practices, bias, and generally bad things that happen to make your life more miserable in the workplace (even more miserable than having to account for your actions in terms of oh-so-passé story points) — what other options are there for an engineer to make things better in the workplace?

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Well, one option is the frequently trumpeted ‘anonymous workplace survey’ (known often by various other ‘empowering’ names) where the lowly minions who actually do the work can express, allegedly anonymously, their observations, comments, and (most often) complaints about their jobs and the company in general.

Of course any workplace survey is fraught with danger for HR and its controlling overlords as it potentially risks opening a huge can of worms.

And, once the can has been opened, the results exposed, and subsequently let loose wriggling into the world (we’ll get into that later) the minions who originally aired their grievances will accordingly expect some kind of action.

It’s a brave HR evangelist who sends out any employee survey, doubly so when it potentially exposes the company to criticism. It’s somewhat akin to posting a controversial opinion on Twitter and expecting a peaceful afternoon.

At first glance this seems like an excellent opportunity for the progressive engineer to change things, but, stop right there. Let’s consider the dangers of participating in such a survey and the potential ramifications if you say anything even remotely near the truth in your answers and comments.

None of the Above

Most of the sections in an employee survey tend to be multiple choice, primarily as it denies employees space to state their actual opinion and instead replaces it with a bland statistical measure in any…



Dr Stuart Woolley
Editor for

Worries about the future. Way too involved with software. Likes coffee, maths, and . Would prefer to be in academia. SpaceX, Twitter, and Overwatch fan.