Over the years, I’ve reviewed (and written) my fair share of items for attitude surveys and culture assessments. These instruments can be pivotal — serving as a barometer of sentiment within an organization. The data can help us understand shifting attitudes among contributors and the general state of “well-being” within an organization. Moreover, the data sets are often utilized to explore dynamic constructs such as job involvement, organizational commitment, job satisfaction and engagement — topics which we strive to fully understand.
The best of survey items are honest, to the point and utilize a “conversational” tone. It actually takes quite a bit of thought to write an item that effectively “captures” the spirit of a construct — and in this medium, items can sometimes appear uninspired or “flat”. Avoiding this problem often involves creative strategies. Stephen Race, an organizational psychologist who crafted a culture assessment for Jiibe, contracted a TV and film writer to edit the items he created to become more engaging. (A great idea. You can see examples of the items below marked with an asterisk.) Interestingly, each writer has their own style — some direct — some incorporating a bit of dry humor behind the core message. A few of the more “direct” items about leadership that I have drafted have been met with a moment of pause. (But happily, the items were eventually included in the final survey instrument.) Ultimately, the hope is to connect with employees and attain an honest view of their work environment.
Classic items such as “Overall, how satisfied are you with your job?”, will always prove useful. However, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of the more candidly worded items I’ve seen over the years — and a few I’d like to see going forward. The items touch on varied workplace topics; leadership, feedback, decisions, work spaces, stress, and engagement.
A few items to consider, for your next survey:
I honestly don’t know who is running the show around here.
People don’t speak up here, even if they have something valuable to add.
My work aligns with my strengths.
I do the same mind-numbing tasks, over and over again.*
My colleagues are like family to me.
I avoid my boss.
I brag about the work we do in this organization.
I’m not sure that my boss knows my last name.
There are so many interruptions during my day, I find it difficult to work.
Sometimes we are so tired around here that we can’t see straight.
My boss asks me how I am doing.
I dread going to work.
People here say they are teams players, but in reality they are not.
I wouldn’t recognize our company CEO, if seated next to me.
The organization learns from its mistakes. It makes changes based on what it has learned.*
No one stops to say “thank you” in this organization.
It has been forever since my manager has told me I have done a good job.
I am recognized for what I am doing right, not wrong.
If I had my way, I wouldn’t work on another team.
I can expect to be rescued by my coworkers, if I’m drowning in work.*
People in this organization have a high level emotional intelligence.
Meetings around here are so useless, that I often feel like screaming.
My ideas are valued.
As far as the quality of my work goes, I have no idea where I stand.
I often leave work thinking that I never want to go back.
I’ve grown as a contributor since I’ve worked here.
In my opinion, open offices are “for the birds”.
Sometimes I am so focused on my work, that I delay using the restroom.
Finally, here is one from the Jiibe culture assessment, that captures a telling observation.
My co-workers are like zombies — at least like the kind of zombies who don’t joke around or have any fun.*
What are the best (and worst) items that you’ve seen? What items would you like to see? Share them with us.
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She also writes The Office Blend.