Why No One Likes Surveys

Most people I’ve met don’t like taking them. But why?


By Jared Lafitte

Here are a few honest answers from actual people.

“If I take a survey it won’t contribute to change anyway. It’s just an empty HR formality.”

“I don’t trust that I can be honest. I’m afraid of my company retaliating. I basically just lie.”

“My company gave us financial incentives for answering the survey questions the way they wanted.”

I’ve never enjoyed company surveys. As a coach and consultant, I’ve used them, but I’ve never really liked them.

It’s hard to measure how someone’s feeling using a scale from 1 to 5. Human emotions are too complex. Human experiences are too multifaceted.

How can I really gauge what’s going on in someone’s mind, much less predict how they’ll behave, with a handful of answers filled with numbers or terms like “moderately true” or “I choose not to respond”?

I can’t. No one can. And for most surveys, it takes days, weeks, and sometimes months to sort through what responses mean.

By then, many of the people who took the survey in the first place aren’t even in the company anymore. Virtually everyone else who’s still there has changed their feelings because people’s feelings change every day.

You’ve seen the question…

“How has your experience here been over the last six months? Please answer on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being “Excellent.”

How can anyone compress six months of their life into a single number? How can I expect to make sense of that information and build a better company out of it?
Surveys shouldn’t be like this. In an ideal world… Surveys should ask questions that completely engage me, with a full understanding of what I’m going through. My response to a survey shouldn’t take weeks or months to interpret. It should be interpreted instantaneously, as if I were talking to real human being. A survey should learn what I’m feeling week by week and understand my state of mind as clearly as I do myself. A survey should help my leaders understand exactly not only what I’m feeling and my peers are feeling, but what actions to take as a result. A survey should be able to do this for tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people at the same time, delivering instantaneous results so leaders can spend less time gathering and analyzing and more time actually making people‘s lives better. Survey should be able to tell me what people are actually thinking and anticipate how disengaged they are and how likely they are to leave their company. As an entrepreneur and consultant who has worked with HR departments for the better part of the last decade, this is something I would have used if it existed. So I helped build it. And I’ve gotten some of the largest companies in the world to help me make it better.