Business Communication/survey results


Hello Dr Jung,

We had a long questionnaire in our community to assess how well everyone feel we are communicating and dialoguing among ourselves and what we think we should do or not do about it. This was because many have complained of our need to improve.

I initially felt it was probably a bit slanted toward the status quo: Even though we undertook the whole process because many had reported we do not communicate well, most of the questions/statements to be agreed/disagreed with (yes/no or very much/little/sometimes) were phrased: "Our dialogues are going fine." or "Our system of communicating with each other is okay>" or "I do not have any problem approaching the leader of the community" etc.

These yes/ no choices were tallied after all answers were in, and they clearly lean toward: leave everything as is.

But the free comments after each question tell another story: When I added all the "stay as is" comments and all the "change something here" comments, the totals here are in favor of changing many things -- though not by as great a margin as in the yes/no sections.

Nevertheless, the grand total of "stay as is" versus "make changes," combining the answers from both categories (yes/no and comments) is even!

When I brought this up at the followup meeting discussing the results, the one who transcribed the results and posted them claimed that this evenness (parity) is "not real," since one given person may have several suggestions about changing things in one area, so that counts as only one person. Yet those who wanted to keep things as is added very few comments. So they essentially have only one thing to say in most questions, whereas they were given a chance to say more. The ones who see a need for change had many more ideas, and I think they should not be dismissed as being only a few only because fewer people wrote them.

Isn't this a way of slanting the results in favor of "stay as is," since one person may have said "keep the format of the dialogues as is," leaving it at that even though they could add comments; but another person not only says "change the format" but proceeds to add several points of suggestions. Shouldn't this count as a number of several points of suggesting change, not just one simply because it's the same person?

In addition, the main bulletin board only posts the questions with numbers voting yes/no, and none of the comments. A small print note says the comments are available on a table far away, where they are not as thoroughly read as on the bulletin board. Isn't this like hiding responses that are "inconvenient" for the framers of the survey?

What is the usual way, if any, to understand this type of results?

Thanks so much!


Hi Greg,

You are right. Surveys can be hard to understand—both for survey takers and those who prepare the questions and draw conclusions from the results.

Open-ended questions often produce the most valuable information because participants express their ideas, experiences, and feelings. But avoid challenging the method of adding Y/N answers and comparing them with the number of other answers.

Instead, take a closer look at the open-ended responses from your organization’s survey. Note: Write down your responses to these questions. Ask another person to do the same, and compare notes once you have both done the exercise. Here are some suggestions:

+ What words or phrases stand out?
+ Group the responses by topic or issue. Do you see any patterns or trends?
+ Do you get a sense of which communication formats people seem most satisfied with? Least satisfied with?

From this point, you might do several things, depending on your communication goals:

+ Summarize the survey results for the general membership. Circulate your brief report in your newsletter or blog or both. Invite feedback from others in the group.
+ You might convene a meeting to focus on the issues or topics that flow from a closer examination of your survey findings.

Posting messages on a bulletin board is fine as a back-up measure, but if your group values communication, distribute the findings via email, blog, or in multiple formats. Let everyone in on the discussion.

The bottom line: get people talking about what works and what could work better. Keep the lines of communication open and people are more likely to engage with and understand your messages.

Good luck,

Business Communication

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Maureen A. Jung, Ph.D.


I can answer questions related to: What to do--and what not to do--in business communication. Tips for more effective communication in print, on paper, in person, and via electronic media. Grammar, punctuation, and tone-related questions. How to Say ‘No’ without negativity. How to plan, format, write, and review your messages, letters, articles, etc.


More than 20 years' experience as a communication consultant, business writer, editor, communication trainer, and writing group leader. I've provided communication training workshops, seminars, and writing services to businesses and organizations for more than 25 years, and edited and/or researched 15 non-fiction books for other authors. I've been a columnist and contributing writer to many publications, wrote a successful $15-million health care grant for a nonprofit organization, and wrote two White House presentations.

Florida Writer's Assn.; Clay County Writers, Writing Group Leader; American Business Women's Assn.; Medical Managers of Northeast Florida; Law Office Support (Jacksonville, FL)

Comstock's Business Magazine, California History, Living Blues Magazine, American Archivist, Sacramento Business Journal, Sutter/Yuba Business Journal, California Mining Review, Red Voices, Insurgent Sociologist, Social Forces, Sacramento News and Review, Coastlines, Sociological Spectrum, etc. In 2009, I wrote the book: Many Pathways: Planting Seeds for Communities in Recovery (2009).

B.A. Sociology, Colorado State University M.A., Ph.D., Sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara Fellow of the South Coast Writing Project since 1984, a think tank for writing teachers affiliated with the National Writing Project Post-graduate studies in history and archives, California State University, Sacramento

Awards and Honors
Charles Spaulding Research Prize, University of California, Santa Barbara (for my M.A. thesis); Theodore Calvin Pease Award, Society of American Archivists (for an article based on my dissertation research); Invited Contributor, California Sesquicentennial Project, for my article: "Capitalism Comes to the Diggings," published in: A Golden State, Mining and Economic Development in Gold Rush California.

Past/Present Clients
Huntley, Mullaney, Spargo & Sullivan, Inc.; Cox Ferrall, Sales Wisdom Now!; Groeteke Resources, Jacksonville; California Mining Assn.; Central Valley Rock, Sand & Gravel Assn.; Sacramento City University; SolutionsWest, ITEX Corporation; Dr. Wilson C. Riles; Capital Program Management; Small Business Resource Center, Inc.; Vanir Construction Management; Prime Time Boxing; California Rural Indian Health Board, Inc.; Trumbull Insurance Agency, etc.

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