- (of a person) not identified by name; of unknown name."the donor's wish to remain anonymous"
- used in names of support groups for addicts of a substance or behavior to indicate the confidentiality maintained among members of the group.
That's the Oxford Languages definition of the word anonymous, listed above. Pay especially close attention to the second definition.
Sure, the word is closely associated with e-rebels who wear Guy Fawkes' masks, but even their message is all about keeping identities secret and private.
So with the understanding of this word, if you were asked to complete an "anonymous" survey while at work, you would assume that your responses wouldn't be tied to your identity, right?
The whole point of making an anonymous survey is to allow folks the opportunity to express how they really feel, without fear of retaliation from their employer.
This is probably exactly what Alex, who works as a Nurse and posts on TikTok under the handle @nurse.alexrn, who said that he "got in trouble" after expressing what he didn't like about work in what was supposed to be an anonymous survey.
"I got an email from my manager saying 'take this anonymous survey. I was super critical on that survey, but also very professional," Alex says in the TikTok.
The next day, Alex said his manager wanted to meet up with him pertaining to his comments in the survey, to which Alex responded that he thought the results of it were supposed to be "anonymous," as the email indicated.
His manager revealed that the word "anonymous" was a lie and that employees' responses were still tracked.
"My manager tried for a solid two and a half weeks to get this meeting with me. In the end, I just got written up for something stupid and that was it."
His TikTok begins with him, in his nurse scrubs and a microphone in his hands, stating, "All right so this is how I got in trouble for doing the 'anonymous' survey at work. So I get an email from my manager saying, 'hey do this anonymous survey about what you don't like about work.' And you know here's the thing, I was super critical on that survey, but I was also very professional."
He continues, "And then the very next day my manager comes up to me and says hey let's have a meeting about that survey. And I was like, um, no thank you and also I thought that was anonymous by the way. And she just flat out told me, 'yeah no they can still track you. And the chief nursing officer wants to talk to you as well.'"
He goes on to say, "Nope, I am not gonna meet you for this meeting. I'm not gonna do it. And my manager tried for like a solid two and a half weeks to get this meeting with me and in the end, I just get written up for something stupid and that was it."
TikTokers who say Alex's post had a litany of different reactions. Some cautioned to "never" trust "anonymous" work surveys as they're a setup and upper management almost always knows who is writing what. Others wanted to know what the survey entailed, which, according to Alex in the comments section: "I mentioned we shouldn’t be double rooming oncology patients with other kids who are RSV and flu pos," which sounds like a valid concern.
Others said that this kind of treatment of nurses is indicative of why so many "are leaving in droves."
"If you got “wrote up” it’s time to leave… nurse here of 16y and that’s how they start a paper trail. Second contact a workplace lawyer retaliation."
"Obviously they DO track you. Now you know anything that comes from ‘work’ is NEVER anonymous. It helps them cull any ‘trouble makers’"
"Not without my union rep!"
"I never believe them when they say it’s 'anonymous'"
"What survey? It was anonymous? I didn’t do the survey."
"This happened to me too. Smh never again have I done their surveys"
Others said that his manager may have been using workplace discrimination in order to find out who was posting what responses to the survey:
"Those surveys often ask basic demographic info: if you’re in a small unit they can figure it out. This is quite possibly discrimination."
Getting fired for expressing candid opinions in "anonymous" surveys is nothing new, unfortunately.
SHRM says that workplaces use a variety of methods in isolating who responded to what in an "anonymous" survey: "Even when an employer promises anonymity, the details that such surveys ask of respondents—the department in which they work, their title, their salary level, their years of service—can be enough to let any company know who responded and how."