Self-skewing Survey Questions

Everyone has probably seen a few multiple choice survey questions, where you are asked something like:  How was your overall experience? And you are allowed to choose from: very good, good, average, below average, and not good.  A question like that is perfectly fine, anyone with a grasp of english can understand what is being asked, and the options are clear and all encompassing.  But suppose you get a job, and you are asked on a mandatory survey:

Do you agree with the following statement?  My manager motivates me to do good work.

And the only options are: Strongly agree, agree, disagree, and strongly disagree.

In this case, the surveyor is going to get skewed results which will tend towards agreeing with the statement, which benefits the manager.  These skewed results are caused by the use of the phrase “good work.”  This phrase means that the question is asking two things at the same time:  Does your manager motivate you? Do you do good work?  If you answer the survey by agreeing with the statement then your bases are covered, but if you disagree with the statement then it is either because the manager doesn’t motivate you or because you don’t do good work, and since most other people are likely to say that the manager motivates them when asked directly, any negative answer becomes a weapon against the person that so replied.  Furthemore, it is also entirely possible that while being interviewed for the position, you said that you were self motivated, such that you cannot now say that your motivation comes from the manager without llin into uestion your previous statements.  In other words you could potentially be made to look dishonest if you agree or like you do bad work if you disagree, making the question a lose-lose for you.

Therefore, this question is inherently manipulative, and that can be fixed by dropping everything after the word “me,” or better yet rewording the statment to be, “When I do good work, one of the contributing factors is positive motivation from my manager.” But, since no surveyor is likely to admit that they were intentionally being manipulative, it is much easier to solve this and any subsequent issues by adding one of the following two responses to every mandatory survey:  “Other” or “Write-in”.  Then the person who is forced to answer the question can select one of these options when they detect possible subterfuge in the construction of the question, and each “other” or “write in” answer can be interpreted as a thumbs down vote for the question itself, telling the surveyor that the question needs to be reconstructed.


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