Ideas, Complaints and Conversation: 3 Arguments Against Anonymity

The question comes up from time to time, so I guess I should not have been surprised to hear it come up again at the 2017 Microsoft Ignite conference. I was at a learning session where Yammer developers were talking about how they create new functionality for the Yammer platform, and they were asked if they ever plan on giving users the option of posting to Yammer networks anonymously.

Very diplomatically, the Yammer developers replied that they would like to learn more about why anonymity would be an attractive feature, and they would consider the request.

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It’s probably a good thing I was not on the dais. I may not have been so diplomatic.

The very value of Yammer is the transparency and opportunities for collaboration it provides. Our organizations become stronger when our employees know more. When they know what other teams are working on, when they can work in a safe space where experiments can fail, where lessons can be learned and new avenues for success can be discovered. As soon as someone has a way that anonymous posts can be made, all that value will go away.

When we can post anonymously, our workplace, which is now a positive and productive place due to the teamwork and collaboration we have cultivated through our Yammer network will now become infected with secrecy and suspicion. Responsibility for network activity and comments is abdicated on the part of both management and staff.

  1. If a complaint is made anonymously, management will not feel the same responsibility to follow up as if they knew where the complaint came from, and staff may be more likely to complain without thinking through their own possible solutions, or implications of their complaints.
  2. If an idea is shared anonymously, management cannot properly contextualize the idea if they do not know the employee, team or department the idea came from. Staff will feel no responsibility for the ideas shared, and may start to share ideas without investing the necessary time and planning, knowing that they ultimately not be held responsible if the idea is deemed to be poor.
  3. If people choose to contribute to an online conversation anonymously, colleagues will be left to wonder why no name is attached, and will have no concrete way to follow up with the comments shared. If staff are allowed (and therefore encouraged) to engage in conversations anonymously, people will be left to feel unsure and suspicious about their colleagues.

Anonymity should be discouraged. Staff, whether part-time, non-exempt or executive team members, should “own” their comments and their input. Everything should be thought through carefully, and colleagues should be given the opportunity for meaningful follow-up. Management should provide an environment of safety and trust.

Recognize that the deployment of a platform like a Yammer represents a moment in time that a decision is made. A decision to collaborate more. A decision to be more transparent between colleagues and departments. A decision to be more productive.

To allow anonymity would push against all those efforts and would move your organization in the exact opposite direction of all the positive growth and change Yammer provides.

My name is Larry, and I don’t think Yammer should offer anonymous posting.

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