On Fearful Employees: What should the Production Manager do?
In any event, it is important that surveys be anonymous and taken out of sight of direct supervisors.
In the event that the survey happens to be in the form of an open discussion, it is obvious that results could not be valid nor reliable to a great extent.
Maybe the question here is not about an engagement survey. Is it about having a discussion group in the context of process improvement? In that event, there is a need for a neutral facilitator, a climate of trust, and the need for the management member who is present to avoid managing the group. The production manager should be more of a mentor.
Is it about everyday interaction? In that case, there is a need for direct supervisors to somehow distance themselves from organizational productivity constraints. While performance standards need to be met, leadership needs to be aware of variables that are sometimes overlooked whenever considering the big picture. Meeting performance standards is a team effort.
One organization can only be as productive as its employees are "comfortable" with their situation at work. Maybe the production manager is the best person to gather all missing pieces of information and bring them to the table for consideration, if worthy of it. And any feedback from fearful employees is always worth consideration...