The Silicon Valley Voice

Power To Your Voice

Survey This

Now I’ve heard everything. After years of telling us how to think, employers are suddenly obsessed with what we think. Or, to be more specific, what we think about what they tell us to think.

Think you’re confused? Let SurveyMonkey explain.

SurveyMonkey is in the survey business. Why they called themselves SurveyMonkey instead of SurveySimian, SurveySalmon or SurveyHedgehog, I have no idea. I suppose they conducted a survey, and “SurveyMonkey” won. Ignore the logical question of just how serious we can take a firm with “monkey” in its name.


The company recently announced a partnership with the Society for Human Resource Management. The result of this association is a panoply of exciting new surveys made available for employers who want to probe the inner lives of the employees whose outer lives they usually are trying to squish.

Let’s put aside the thought of how much more we would like HR departments if the name of their organization was SHRMM for the Society of Human Resource Management Monkeys and think about how these surveys aim to “help organizations improve employee engagement and satisfaction,” not lingering on the truly wild and out-of-the-box concept that employees might not need to “improve engagement and satisfaction” if their salaries were increased to, say, one-hundredth of the paychecks cashed by their fat cat CEOs. These surveys are touted as a “fast and easy way to assess employee engagement, identify successes and determine where there’s room for improvement.”

As long as that room isn’t occupied by company executives, of course.

According to the Monkey, this new SRHM-approved survey program fixes the polling techniques of the previous decade — a decade in which surveys weren’t “asking the right questions to properly assess employment engagement and satisfaction.” This surprises me. I assumed that when a manager pops up in your face to ask if you would rather stop complaining and keep your job, or quit and feed your family off government cheese, the responses would be 100 percent accurate.

This raises an important question about the questions on the survey: What are the right answers? For me, the answer is obvious. It’s the answer our employers want to hear. After all, what would your management prefer to do? Make a bunch of changes to make you happy, or simply solve your unhappiness by firing your sorry butt?

For those of us who never quite know the answers our employers want to hear, here’s a preview. It’s the best way I know to keep you from blundering your way to answers that are guaranteed to finish your job the moment you finish the survey and press “send.”

For example, do you strongly disagree, disagree, neither agree nor disagree, agree, or strongly agree with these statements: “I am inspired to meet my goals at work,” “I feel completely involved in my work” and “I get excited going to work.” If you find yourself torn between answering honestly, or putting your head in your hands and weeping, let me rephrase the questions for you: “I am ready to lose my job by answering honestly to this dumb questionnaire.”

Now, wasn’t that easy?

SurveyMonkey is not satisfied with just measuring your level of engagement; it also wants to measure your level of contempt for your co-workers. Why else would you be asked to agree or disagree with statements like “Employees here always keep going when the going gets tough” and “Employees in my organization take the initiative to help other employees when the need arises.” I think you can, with good conscience, strongly agree with both statements. When the going gets tough, employees like you get going — right out the fire door and down to the Kit Kat Klub to drink yourself into a stupor. And certainly, you are strongly demonstrating strong agreement when you take the initiative to see that your fellow workers get blamed for your mistakes. This is a big help to your co-workers, who can get a jump on applying for unemployment insurance before the firm goes under.

With questions like “I am inspired to meet my goals at work,” you do have to be careful. You certainly don’t want to “strongly disagree” with your manager’s ability to inspire you. Tick the wrong box and you’ll be inspired to live in a box, under the freeway underpass.

It proves that in responding to one of these evil surveys, you should not be honest. No question about it: Anyone who answers truthfully to a management survey is a real monkey.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at


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