4 Ways To Avoid Response Bias When Crafting An Internal Survey

June 12, 2020

Julia Morrissey

Team Contributor

During this uncertain and challenging time, it is more important than ever to understand how your employees are doing. Now, as COVID-19 continues to disrupt businesses across the country, it is an optimal time to send internal surveys to employees. Many employees are working remotely for the first time and this may have impacted their productivity and even mental health.

Internal surveys, if designed correctly, can help companies understand the impact coronavirus has had on employees. Through a well-designed survey, leadership can understand how they can best assist employees and improve their experience. Conducting an internal survey is a rather simple process; however, it is important to take the time to properly design the survey. 

4 Ways To Avoid Response Bias When Crafting An Internal Survey

One issue that can arise when constructing a survey is response bias, which causes participants to answer questions inaccurately. If response bias occurs, you will likely misunderstand how employees are really feeling. Getting the most accurate answers, especially during this time, is crucial. There are many reasons why response bias might occur. If a survey contains leading questions, is too long, is not laid out thoughtfully, or is unclear respondents will likely answer questions inaccurately. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to protect against survey bias.

1. Steer clear of leading questions

Leading questions are ones that are phrased in a way that subtly directs survey respondents to choose an answer that may not actually represent their feelings. The best way to avoid leading questions in a survey is by asking the respondent how they feel about something and giving several response options (ie: on a scale of 1 to 10). 

2. Stress that the survey is anonymous

If a respondent is unaware that a survey is anonymous, unflattering results bias may occur. This happens when a respondent is worried about how they will be perceived based on their answer. If someone doesn’t view their answer as being flattering to themselves as a person, they might not answer the question truthfully.

To avoid this kind of bias, reassure and emphasize all survey respondents that the survey is completely anonymous. Anonymity plays a significant role in accurate and honest answers and gauging how an employee truly feels about a company’s response. It’s also recommended to keep the reason for the survey hidden so that the participants aren’t worried about how their responses will be used.

3. Keep the survey short

The all or nothing bias is when participants answer the questions in the extremes, such as “extremely agree,” “extremely disagree,” or “neutral,” depending on the question. Typically, this happens when the respondent is bored because the survey is too long. To combat this issue, ensure that your survey can be completed in a reasonable amount of time.

Print the checklist!

4. Randomize the order in which questions are asked

Changing context, also known as the question order bias, occurs when participants are “primed” or prepared for the upcoming questions. This can result in a respondent answering simply to appear “consistent” with their message. For instance, if the one question asks how an employee feels about working remotely and the next question about how productive the employee thinks they are working at home, the employee might feel pressured to answer a certain way. In order to avoid this issue, keep the order of the questions random.

Undoubtedly, the situation with COVID-19 has affected every aspect of the workplace, increasing worries and anxiety across the board. An internal survey is a great, cost-effective way to learn about your employees’ needs and how you can best offer support. A well-constructed survey will better ensure you get the most accurate and honest responses.

For additional tips on how to avoid response bias, check out the visual and the response bias checklist.


Speaking of surveys, you can turn surveys into a fun, engaging game with Teambondings’ Virtual Survey Says. Use your own survey questions, most popular, or a combination of both to create an interactive online game show to be played in teams.  Contact TeamBonding for more information!

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