I received the following email from a reader:

My company recently eliminated the commission for salespeople. For some, it is a majority of their pay. Employees are dropping like flies...including recently promoted associates who are not earning what they did as salespeople. Many more are planning to leave, including some productive and conscientious people who helped build the business for several years.

The corporate office asked me to be the spokesperson for our store to share associates feelings and stories about the company. Some of the questions included: Why they chose the company; What is an example of our company at its best?; What do we love most about the culture- Is there anything you wish you could change? My favorite: What are some moments you felt particularly recognized or rewarded at this company? (when I received my paycheck every 2 weeks perhaps?) What could the company do differently in this area? (maybe pay commission again?) H-E-L-L-O--you let 100 people go at Corporate the beginning of December and you just eliminated commission. Morale stinks!

Please give me some insight into what they are thinking and how do I report all the negative comments from my store at a corporate meeting the end of this month? I don't want them to shoot the messenger.

My bet is that the survey was put together by some HR person with high ideals who thinks this can be used to solve the company's problems, and then it was hijacked by a clueless executive who wanted it to be positive.

You're right to be concerned about being shot. The questions are begging for positive responses and they are expecting positive responses. You can feel it in the questions.

What can you do as the bearer of bad news? Make sure it's completely anonymized. If there are three people at your site, that's not going to work. If there are 50, then you can do this. Here's how.

Collect responses anonymously. Ideally, you don't even want to know who said once. Ask people to fill out the survey without you present. You don't want to be in the position where an angry corporate person said, "Who said that?" and you have to keep your mouth shut. It's far better to be able to honestly answer, "I don't know."

Tell people to be nice and honest. These two things don't have to be mutually exclusive. Why did they choose the company? Are there moments you felt rewarded? These things can still be positive. "I felt rewarded when my boss praised my work in a team meeting." "I was attracted by the health insurance at this company." But, the honesty can be negative as well, "I felt rewarded when I received commission checks." They need to know.

Be unemotional. Any attacks on people or bad words should be removed. When you present the information do so in a matter of fact manner. "People are frustrated with the removal of the commission."

Now, what if you are the management team that are asking these questions? Don't ask for an employee survey unless you want to know the truth. And if you have high turnover and the results of the survey come back positive, that's a hint that your employees don't trust you.

Yes, actions speak louder than words, and high turnover means that there are serious problems, regardless of the employee survey. If you've asked your employees and they've only sent back praise, the problem is that they don't trust you. They assume they'll be punished for expressing resentment or dissatisfaction with their great leader's ideals. Instead, they'll just smile and nod and leave.

High turnover means there is a serious problem. If you can't get your employees to tell you what those are, look at your Glassdoor reviews and check your exit interviews (which may still be full of lies in order to preserve a reference). You need to make changes until your turnover moves to industry levels. (Some turnover is necessary and good.)

Under no circumstances should you ever punish the messenger who tells you your employees are unhappy. Listen and be thankful that you know where the problems are.