Browsing the Internet today brought up this interesting blog, The Organizational Attitude Survey by Scorecard Metrics for HR, which attempts to sell the benefits of organizational attitude surveys. The author’s message illustrates a fundamental organizational problem that many enterprises encounter, and one that an attitude survey can’t solve.

In organizations with a hierarchal, parent-child culture, telling the truth feels risky – even dangerous.  Consider how a survey exacerbates this very problem. Most organizational attitude surveys are:

  • Commissioned by those at the top or their agents (Human Resources)

  • Designed so respondents can remain anonymous

  • Tabulated and administered by agencies outside the organization to ensure impartiality

  • An opportunity for people to say anything they choose without having to be accountable for their statements

  • Supported by the belief that senior management will act on the results

  • In some cases designed so survey takers don’t see the results

These types of surveys create the expectation that it’s management’s job to fix the organizational problems and employees are off the hook for resolving serious organizational issues.

Having worked with many HR departments over our 25-year history, we have collected a number of organizational attitude surveys, from diverse industries and from large and small companies. They are all eerily similar, and produce nearly identical results:

  • Supervisors don’t give them enough information.

  • They feel like they could make a greater contribution

  • Teamwork needs to be improved

  • Supervisors are below average in showing how much they care

  • People are not satisfied with the amount they are paid

  • Nothing much has changed in the 2 years since the last survey

HR’s fundamental expertise is organizing human effort to do productive and meaningful work. If HR specialists directed more of their expertise to helping the organization create adult cultures, where people can tell the truth without fear of recrimination, attitude surveys would become unnecessary.