Why J&J's CEO Won't Get the Straight Dope From His "Anonymous" Staff Survey

Last Updated May 14, 2010 2:18 PM EDT

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) is in the midst of its Credo survey, a biennial temperature check of the company's 117,000 employees, and it could not have come at a worse time for management. The survey asks workers to rate how the company is doing compared to its famous value statement written by founder Robert Wood Johnson (pictured) in 1943.

A J&J spokesperson said, "It helps us take the pulse of our employees around the world." But staffers will fill out the questionnaire after several recalls of Tylenol, an FDA-enforced packaging change on Benadryl, an elimination of some staff bonuses, a 3 percent decline in revenues, and 8,100 job cuts. At the same time, CEO William Weldon made himself unpopular by taking a 6 percent pay rise to $31 million and buying himself an $8 million vacation home while he was planning those layoffs.

Some of those events have made the Credo look unintentionally ironic, as it includes lines such as, "We are responsible to our employees ... They must have a sense of security in their jobs. Compensation must be fair and adequate."

The survey is supposed to be anonymous but in fact it isn't, which is likely to distort the results as staffers hold back criticism of their bosses. One commenter on CafePharma noted:

Do they really think we are gonna answer honestly when they know who we are? They ask for your opco, region and district. Yeah I'll tell you the truth...never! I am far from disgruntled, but you have some real tools in managment. I don't care what opco, you make one comment viewed as a complaint and you are toast.
An anonymous source told me:
While the survey is somewhat anonymous, it is drilled down to the director levels and most directors do not have more more than three-four direct reports. So it's fairly easy for them to identify who may have provided bad Credo results.
It is a fact that if your department credo survey comes lower, you will be told that not management but that "your department" has a lot of work to do on credo values and therefore, you get dinged on bonuses.
The survey thus has the potential to give Weldon an overly rosy picture of how his employees feel about working there. Not everyone at J&J is disgruntled, of course. One CafePharma denizen commented:
Ladies ... Please. What's with all the misplaced anger? Did your paycheck bounce? Did J&J not give you your 401K match? Did the hospital refuse your health insurance? Did you have to spend your own money on gas for your company car? Did J&J not donate hundreds of thousands of dollars in relief for Haiti? I know a whole lot of people who would love to have your problems.