When anonymous surveys aren't anonymous

If there are fewer than 50 to your "anonymous" survey, it's not really anonymous.

So your dev team is struggling with some things. You want to learn about their honest feelings about the relevant topics… so you decide to send out an anonymous survey.

Good idea, right?

Not so fast.

Anonymous surveys are a great tool, in the right context.

But surveying your development team is practically never the right context.


Well, anonymous surveys are only truly anonymous when there are a lot of people responding.

Don’t believe me?

Think back to the last time you got a negative review from an “anonymous” colleague. “I just know it was Bob who said that about me! He was the only one who knew about that thing!”

Or “Only Alice ever uses that word.”

As a rule of thumb, if there are fewer than 50 to 100 people responding to your “anonymous” survey, it’s not really anonymous.

And the respondants know this. And they won’t be truly open and honest, if there’s any fear of retribution.

The exception to this rule would be if your survey is purely multiple choice. Although that has other obvious drawbacks to save for another day…

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