Interesting Research Dichotomy

I have done many surveys as part of Dialog Research & Communications’ work – and I continually notice an interesting phenomenon.  When respondents are asked to quantitatively rate something, often having to do with their workplace or leadership [as that’s my sphere], the quant ratings trend toward positive and optimistic.  Yet when one delves into open-ended commentary, it’s usually a different tone.  Critiques, criticisms, cynnacims, frustrations – this is where they start to come out.  Delving into that more is of course the purpose of focus groups and interviews, but sadly I don’t think enough companies are investing in having that dialog with their employees these days.  So in the absence of more ‘meat’ it’s easy to look at relatively high quant scores and think ‘we’re doing enough’, when inherently, it isn’t so.  Why this dichotomy exists puzzles me – does a ‘3’ out of ‘5’ seem too harsh a judgement?  Those rating below a ‘3’ are the highly disgruntled and in my opinion are generally ignored as outliers.  Do people just want to drink the Kool-Aid?  Do they truly believe that management is trying and they just need to vent a little?  Any researchers out there who may have some hard data that explains this phenomenon, I’d be very interested to hear.

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