See these bad survey examples for insights on questions to avoid

bad survey examples

To succeed with employee engagement programs and employee experience surveying, you have to make sure that you’re thoughtful, targeted, and building programs that cater toward the specific results you’re aiming for. This means that survey questions have to be good and intentional, and your organization has to make sure it isn’t just going through the motions. To give you some perspective on how to stay on top of your surveying game, we want to share some bad survey examples. 

Bad surveys can happen for a number of reasons. It could be the fault of upper management not investing in employee engagement or not taking the company’s efforts seriously. It could be due to an HR or engagement group experiencing burnout or going through the motions. Or it could even be caused by engagement teams not keeping up with the latest trends and best practices to discover engagement information. 

We won’t dive too deep into the causes for our bad survey examples, but we do want you to keep in mind some of the scenarios that could lead to poor surveying. No company is perfect—and it’s possible that even the most employee-first ones have a bad survey here and there—but once you spot some common mistakes and causes, keep them in mind as you’re building employee engagement surveys and programs. 

The types of questions not to ask

We’ll share a couple examples of questions and framing of questions to avoid, but for starters, here are a few things to remember not to do. 

Be careful with yes/no questions 

In some circumstances a simple yes/no format will suffice for the topic you’re covering, but oftentimes you want workers to elaborate and have room to share as much detail as possible. 

Details are especially important if workers are leaving the organization and you’re conducting an exit survey, or if workers feel disconnected and you want a thorough understanding of the gaps in their experience. 

Don’t pit groups against each other 

Always make sure that your surveys and questions aren’t framed in ways that make other teams, groups, or even leadership feel like they’re adversarial with each other. It’s always possible that groups in organizations have competing interests, but creating any sort of “us vs. them” thinking can have lasting and negative effects on a company. 

Always find out why teams and groups aren’t collaborating well, but keep the framing of the circumstances collaborative and not combative. 

Don’t be insensitive or ask the wrong questions at the wrong times 

Did your company just have to lay off workers? Are there any sensitive topics in the news that workers are concerned about? Has there been any recent controversy or issues with company culture? 

Make sure to consider any related circumstances that could be happening at the time of your surveys, and whether or not those issues could make any surveys or questions feel out of touch. 

Time your surveys well 

It’s inevitable that organizations will experience change. Sometimes it happens for positive reasons -like a merger, acquisition, or growth because of success – but change can also happen because of problems with a company. 

If you know that change is on the horizon, try and ask workers what types of expectations they have, resources they’ll need, and other employee experience questions or concerns long before the event happens. It’s much better to prepare in advance than to be reactive after the fact. Your employees may not recognize the preparation, but they’ll be much better off because of it. 

Don’t ask multiple questions at the same time 

Asking multiple questions as part of one survey question can keep you from getting important information about either. 

Keep questions easy, concise, and unravel them into multiple questions when you need information about multiple things. 

Avoid loaded or assumptive questions 

You don’t want to have any questions that seem to already assume the opinion of your employees or responders. This is bad in all circumstances, but it comes off as especially insensitive if the survey is about a contested topic. 

Remember, the point of surveying is to uncover how workers feel. It isn’t to assume they’re opinions or try to persuade them into having any specific ideas. 

Get rid of confusing phrases or jargon 

This is a general rule for businesses and their communication teams, but confusing or technical jargon can be especially troublesome in employee surveys.

Some employees won’t be familiar with technical business terms, and they may be turned off by a survey all together if they have to spend additional time to understand what they’re being asked. 

Specific bad questions to avoid 

We all know that not every piece of writing or communication lands with an audience the way the speaker intended. Mistakes happen, and so does miscommunication. Leave yourself some room for error and give yourself grace knowing that fact, but always aim for clarity so that workers aren’t left frustrated or with a misunderstanding of what you’re trying to communicate. 

Here are some specific examples of questions that might sound nice in theory, but they’re not exactly communicating what the speaker thinks they are. 

  • Do you like the company/leadership team?
  • Which team is the biggest blocker in your workflow?
  • What do you rate the company culture?
  • What reasons do you share with peers when you tell them you like our culture?
  • What did your last company do better than ours?
  • Are you happy with your job?
  • Were you impressed with how good the recent product launch was?

As you can see, these examples cover many of the scenarios that we mentioned to avoid in the section above. They may seem like obvious things to avoid while you’re reading them now, but over the course of a year and while surveying it gets easier for a bad question to sneak its way through. 

Update and audit surveys as part of your engagement cadence 

Your engagement and HR folks should keep best practices top of mind when they’re creating surveys, and you should always have additional reviewers so bad questions are spotted.

Also remember that it’s important to perform occasional audits of your surveys. It’s possible that questions or topics are outdated, or even that the circumstances from past surveys no longer apply to your organization. 

Looking for more info to avoid the pitfalls of these bad survey examples?

Whether you want help crafting the right survey questions or you need an assist to rethink your approach to engagement and surveying entirely, Workify is here to help. Our engagement specialists can help you see what questions will resonate with workers, and they’ll be able to utilize the latest in our surveying methodology to do it. 

All of our surveys are also connected to our Engagement Intelligence Platform, giving you the latest in employee listening and making it almost feel like you have an in-house analytics team.

Our programs and surveys are also backed by I/O psychologists and our team of specialists will help you navigate the Engagement Intelligence Platform so that you understand all of your data and know what to do with it. Connect with us today to learn more and get started.