Make handwritten feedback as anonymous as possible?
November 19, 2013 7:35 AM   Subscribe

I'm planning a workshop for my colleagues with various exercises. In one exercise, each person will have a stack of index cards. We will focus on a person in the group, everyone will write that person's strengths/weaknesses on one of their index cards, move to the next person, repeat. How can this process be anonymized as much as possible? I'd like people to feel comfortable and be completely honest. Their handwriting, unfortunately, will ruin anonymity. Also, I'd rather not involve technologies like computers.
posted by daniel.poynter to Human Relations (45 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If they will be writing short points/point form and not extensive notes, you could ask the participants to write using their non-dominant hand.
posted by gursky at 7:41 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Make printed forms listing a bunch of strengths & weaknesses and a "Yes / No" that the others can circle? You'll have to try your best to cover every type of strength & weakness that might be mentioned, but it's more anonymous than getting someone's handwriting...
posted by Seboshin at 7:41 AM on November 19, 2013 [9 favorites]

Write in block letters?

Also, who's going to be reading the cards? If you had a volunteer who wasn't as familiar with the participants' handwriting, like an admin or something, they could read the cards aloud. You may also be overthinking this - I receive handwritten mid-term evaluations from my students every semester and it's never been obvious to me who has written what just from their handwriting, even though I'm fairly familiar with it...writing style, of course, is a different story.

Finally, I will just gently, gently note that this kind of exercise sounds like hell to me - it's almost like a junior high-level burn book or something - and you might want to consider whether 100% pure anonymity is exactly the kind of thing you want to unleash. Even the slight possibility that their contributions could be recognized via their handwriting might exert a slightly civilizing control over their discourse.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 7:45 AM on November 19, 2013 [40 favorites]

My first thought is please don't do this this sounds awful.

My second thought is if you must, do it like Seboshin suggests. Maybe something like a Johari window.
posted by phunniemee at 7:48 AM on November 19, 2013 [34 favorites]

Okay, this sounds like my absolute worst nightmare. Is it not possible for people to do this non-anonymously and verbally, which would mean they'd have to be extremely careful and diplomatic about what gets said? This sounds like the kind of dynamic that could lead to hurt feelings and paranoia that could undermine group cohesiveness unless you're talking about weaknesses like 'Sarah doesn't peel garlic very quickly' or 'Randy never sweats the onions long enough'.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 7:49 AM on November 19, 2013 [15 favorites]

Make sure that everyone uses the same writing utensil (all pencils, or whatever) and it will be fine. Writing on cards, quickly, is not something that most people do regularly, and the unfamiliarity and rust will be as good an anonymiser as you could ask for, so long as the cards and the utensils are identical.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:52 AM on November 19, 2013

What about using a scale, and people can just mark an X where they feel a given person's possession of that trait belongs on the scale?

systematic                                                                                      chaotic

needs guidance                                                                              independent
posted by divined by radio at 7:56 AM on November 19, 2013 [9 favorites]

Just chiming in to agree that this seems like the absolute worst "group exercise" in the history of group exercises.

If for some reason you have to do it, agree with the above poster in having everyone use the same utensil, and then make it one that they're not used to using- a fat marker or a over-sized pencil.
posted by aviatrix at 8:05 AM on November 19, 2013 [10 favorites]

This exercise looks like something the Maoists might have cooked up during the Great Cultural Proletarian Revolution (1966-76).

If you must go ahead, suggest capital letters and everyone using the same writing instrument.
posted by Mister Bijou at 8:09 AM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

One tiny-but-not-insignificant tweak that will make this much more palatable and not much less useful for everyone, including you:

In one exercise, each person will have a stack of index cards. We will focus on a person in the group, everyone will write that person's strengths/weaknesses on one of their index cards, move to the next person, repeat.

There is no way to do group assessment of people's weaknesses that will not degenerate into shouting and blame and hatred. None whatsoever.
posted by Etrigan at 8:16 AM on November 19, 2013 [12 favorites]

In Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde, the characters avoided this problem by filling the "Snap Cup" with nasty notes about the activity's organizer.
posted by acidic at 8:17 AM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

block letters or comic sans or something like that...

there will be a residue of distrust. who here hasn't heard of an instance when supposedly anonymous forms contained hidden identifiers, e.g., visible under blacklight?

seconding the folks who said this is a terrible idea. i may very well be a flaming asshole, but do you suppose it will engage my self-sacrificial team support instinct to hear this in a meeting?
posted by bruce at 8:22 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Supply every participant with scissors, paste, and a stack of old newspapers. They can then assemble their evaluations in the style of an old-school kidnapping ransom note. This may seem like it is unworkable, but the hardship will actually be a valuable bonding experience for them.
posted by thelonius at 8:23 AM on November 19, 2013 [9 favorites]

Ertrigan has it... focus on the strengths. Weaknesses? There lies misery and discord.
posted by Mister Bijou at 8:26 AM on November 19, 2013

Seconding the suggestion to provide writing instruments. My primary writing instrument is red pen and it makes my comments instantly noticeable in meetings where we're all annotating paper documents. Make sure everyone's writing with the same pens.

Might also work to have pre-listed adjectives people check or circle. Or, I suppose, set up an anonymous way to submit the comments electronically *before* the workshop and then you as the organizer bring them printed out in the same font, stripped of telltale wording, etc.

I would strongly urge you to scrap the whole thing, though, or modify it as suggested above. This sounds awful. (And if you *did* ask me in advance to tell you my colleagues' weaknesses? I would get conveniently sick the day of the workshop rather than hear everyone's slam-book opinions of me So that's a problem with that solution.)
posted by Stacey at 8:30 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think the best way to anonymize this exercise and make it as relevant and unpainful as possible is to heavily standardize it. I agree with the Johari window approach. Instead of freely writing on a card, have a sheet of paper with sixteen or so characteristics and have everyone tally which characteristics best describe that person. Best if everyone uses a clean sheet of paper instead of passing one around, so nobody's influenced by what a previous person wrote.

Encouraging people to be completely free and honest about each others' weaknesses, anonymously, is a recipe for drama and disaster. What if someone gets something like "you're ugly and creepy" or "you're a passive-aggressive douche" as feedback? That's hardly helpful.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:32 AM on November 19, 2013

I'm going to agree that this particular activity sounds horrible, I don't know where you got it, or what you think it will accomplish, but you may actively alienate your workshop participants with it. I know that if I were participating, that I'd check out, mark the leader off as a jerk, and even if I had to stay in the room, do as little as possible without being a complete pest until the end of the workshop.

There's no easy way to make this anonymous while allowing folks to keep rhythm and flow during writing. Having folks write with their non-dominant hand, or cutting out letters, randsom note style, while working, would be crazy-making and it will draw out the length of the task, and may make the responses hard to read.

A computer would be the best way, since all word processing is the same.

Index cards and pens...I don't see how that's going to work.

Please write back and tell us what the object of this portion of the workshop is. We're all of us old hands at this and we can come up with a dozen, better activities that you can do.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:47 AM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

I've had this done to me, and it was as unpleasant as suggested above, but it also honestly didn't tell me anything I didn't already know (I knew I stumbled on my words, said "uh," had a lousy handoff to the next speaker, etc.--all things I wouldn't have done if I'd had more than 30 minutes to decide on and put together a speech).

There were so many cards to read, most of them saying variants of the same thing, that I didn't really care who'd written what. Mostly what I cared about was that I was being judged for doing something poorly which wasn't a part of my regular job. I have never before, or since, needed to put together a speech to deliver in 30 minutes' time.

My advice would be that if you're going to go ahead with this exercise, which I do think is ill-advised, that you make absolutely sure the exercise is something that the people have to do as part of their daily job. Otherwise they'll probably just leave annoyed by the pileon and resenting both the exercise and the workshop.
posted by johnofjack at 8:57 AM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

I've done this exercise. It doesn't turn out as bad as it sounds like it would. In fact, it's the exercise that finally gets through to some people. Sometimes it's what turns "well that's just your opinion, man" into "hmm, Every. Single. Person. is saying the same thing." It sounds to me like you're trying to break one of the control factors that makes it work, though.

The most important thing is to focus the scope of the comments to one particular aspect of the person. We did instructional skills. That has two benefits. One is that even bitter enemies can often admit that admit that the problem isn't the person's instructional skills and give honest feedback on that. And if they are over-nitpicky, it's still valuable to the person being evaluated. The second benefit is that even if someone empties the shotgun, it's limited to "you have shitty instructional skills", not "you're a shitty person overall."

The SEMI-anonymity is important, too. Exactly as pretentious illiterate says, the internet anonymity effect can empower people to be jackasses. In my experience, nobody will bother to try decoding who said what. But they COULD, and that exerts just enough pressure where people will still write the thing, but they'll word it as politely as possible.

If you really insist on it being completely anonymous, you're going to have to have the facilitator collect and summarize the comments in a report. "Your tie is ugly - 4 people." "You say um too much - 9 people."
posted by ctmf at 9:01 AM on November 19, 2013

My sixth-grade teacher did a version of this exercise with us, except a totally neutral version, where we were each secretly assigned another student, then wrote a description of them on a card, then she read them aloud and the class was supposed to guess who it was. I was a sort of scholarship student (my tuition paid by a relative) at this rather posh private school, but there wasn't any such thing as actual scholarship students, I was just the one very poor kid among a bunch of rich kids. The card about me said "This person always wears the same two dresses and brown sandals." Somehow I had deluded myself into believing that no one would notice that those were the only clothes I owned, but when the teacher read the card everyone in class immediately shouted "HotToddy!" I don't think the person who wrote it meant any harm, it was a simple objective description, but I was absolutely burning with shame and spent the rest of my time at that school feeling horribly self-conscious. I eventually managed to get ahold of a pair of ill-fitting corduroys, and then everyone was like "Hey, you got corduroys!", in a nice way, but that only intensified my self-consciousness.

Anyway, I never did know who wrote it. So if you're intent on proceeding with this horrible idea, have everyone hand the cards to you face-down, or folded, then read them aloud.
posted by HotToddy at 9:04 AM on November 19, 2013 [9 favorites]

I'd like people to feel comfortable and be completely honest.

Feel comfortable? Are you kidding? Nobody is going to feel comfortable during this exercise, except the psychopaths among you.
posted by Wordwoman at 9:06 AM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Again, Ask MetaFilter comes through as being awesome.

I had no idea I'd get so many negative responses -- thank you! I like positive AND negative feedback, but it sounds like I'm in the minority.

The purpose of the workshop is to stir up ambition and unlock our team's potential. I want to help break out of common routines/perspectives. Vague, I know.

I was thinking of a few activities:

-Go through Covey's eulogy thought experiment (From 7 Habits of Highly Effective People -- How would you want your friend to eulogize you at your funeral?)

-Go around the room (several times) reading short, inspiring quotes. Eg:

-Understand our strengths and weaknesses (errrr, "things we can improve")
posted by daniel.poynter at 9:07 AM on November 19, 2013

Bygones, but personally I don't know that any of your activities would help to make me feel more ambitious. I have participated in a ton of training workshops like that in my day, never have I left feeling more motivated, and I am not a job hating grumpy gus. I'm a keener, I love my job, but I hate those days. At the very most, having to suffer through these day long "Lets all get motivated! Yeah!" workshops serves as a bonding experience with my co-workers because we are all so miserable and can commiserate. YMMV, obviously, but I don't think I'm in the minority with this one.

Rather than wasting spending people's time on these activities, why not look more to ways to encourage them and motivate them. Rewards and recognition. Job shuffling/shadowing to give people a taste of different types of work in your company. Maybe small little internal for-fun competitions for the most sales or whatever (but that would need to be done very carefully to make sure people don't become assholes about it). Maybe ask your employees what THEY would appreciate and what THEY think would help motivate them.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:24 AM on November 19, 2013 [10 favorites]

The purpose of the workshop is to stir up ambition and unlock our team's potential.

This is really hard to do on a long-term level. People are where they are because of who they are, and a single experience is less likely to change someone permanently and profoundly than Hollywood would have us believe. Perhaps it would be better to focus on what you want out of them today (and by "today," I also mean "this month, this quarter, and this year"). Brainstorm solutions to actual issues that your group is facing.

-Understand our strengths and weaknesses (errrr, "things we can improve")

The Army uses "sustain" and "improve" when it does reviews of actions. This is useful because it refocuses both aspects into better directions:
  • Sustain means that you're good at something while reminding you that you have to keep being good at it.
  • Improve means that you're not just saying "Stu is bad at getting his TPS reports done on time" -- you have to say "Stu should set aside time on Tuesday afternoons to do his TPS reports."
This method also focuses less on "Stu is wrong" and more on "Stu does this wrong." I think of this as "why" vs. "how" -- the former is good for placing blame, the latter is good for solving problems.
posted by Etrigan at 9:38 AM on November 19, 2013 [9 favorites]

Also, in terms of wanting to break out of common routines/perspectives, maybe open things up. Create a scenario where all of your established work flows and routines are thrown out, and employees can suggest how THEY would perform those tasks and what they think a good work flow would be. Start with one work flow (ex. correspondence with the public, how mail outs are prepared, whatever) and have everyone, INCLUDING PEOPLE WHO HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THAT WORKFLOW NORMALLY, suggest a new way of doing it. Some people will basically keep it exactly as it is, some will make small changes that would make their life easier, some will suggest totally different ways of approaching it that may or may not make sense. Seriously consider each suggestion, force yourself and your team to step back from what they know and look at it more objectively, then make changes based upon their suggestions. Make a point of adopting some of their suggestions or they won't be too engaged the next time you run this exercise on a different work flow. Some of the changes may be small, but some may be key things that totally change (for the better) your workflow so that it is more efficient.

I guess my biggest suggestion is to try to avoid things that are clearly just "Rah Rah Teamwork Happytime Rainbows Job!" activities, avoid using buzz phrases like "unlock our team's potential", and instead focus your time on activities that relate directly to their work. Rather than coming at them with "I want us to unlock our potential and break out of our routines!", come at them with, "Lets discuss different ways we could change how we do __________. What changes could we make to our existing work flow that would make it more efficient? Should we throw out our current routine altogether and create a totally new workflow?" They will be MUCH more invested and interested, and you have the chance to make seriously positive changes.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:40 AM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh, and maybe do some research in to Six Sigma/Process Improvement.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:46 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

i don't believe any of your proposals will result in your stated goals. as an alternative, may i suggest the werewolves/villagers/moderator game, which has been featured on metafilter before and is actually fun?
posted by bruce at 9:46 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Getting off track of the original question, but related to your follow-up:
I'm not sure that exercise is the best for team building. That's more of a hard skill practice and feedback exercise.

I got to be on the audience side in one of these workshops a few weeks ago. I went in feeling exactly like PuppetMcSocerson describes. Bleh.

But this one was good, because I learned some new things. The highlights for me were Glasl's model of conflict escalation and the five levels of leadership agility.

Both were presented as not necessarily, you know, fact, but as interesting theories, and we talked about how some of the participants' current situations could be analagous. Using Glasl's model to intentionally escalate a silly made-up conflict as a role-play is kind of fun.

The five levels was interesting, in that it was stressed that each type is OK. In fact, each type is required in a healthy organization. So we thought about which type we think we are, and what it would look like in our day-to-day to be a different one. What would we do differently?

I don't know if that gives you any ideas or not. We were a group of supervisors at a level where typically people struggle with not being able anymore to be the expert of every various thing our people do, so the five levels thing was relevant.
posted by ctmf at 9:49 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

One more thing (and I apologize for so many comments), from your suggestions and the language you used (ie. "unlock our team's potential"), I think you are running the risk of coming off as cliche and that you won't be taken seriously. Everyone and their dog have been subjected to upper management drowning them in buzz phrases and cliche'd phrasing that actually means nothing. We're all tired of it to the point that it is a running joke. The second someone starts using that cheesy management language, employees start to disengage. I'm sorry, but seriously. Talk to your employees in real word, like a real person. Don't fall in to the trap of using Corporate BS because that is going to get your employees to turn off faster than you can imagine. So just be real, be sincere without being cheesy, use normal every day words. Don't do what all the management books suggest. The majority of employees, when hearing stuff like "unlock our team's potential", are going roll their eyes or just dismiss you as "another one of those". People largely see users of those buzz words as being all talk, no action. They say a bunch of things but nothing ever changes. Don't be one of those. Have a CLEAR message with a CLEAR goal (ie. "reduce our invoice turnover time by 2 days", not just "be more ambitious"). Have CLEAR measures in place to be able to see if things are improving or not. Communicate those goals and measures clearly to your staff, and inform them at regular intervals of the progress.

And finally, a happy work environment is usually a more productive one. See what your employees would like in order to be happier.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:57 AM on November 19, 2013 [16 favorites]

If you wanted to modify your proposed exercise to help "unlock your team's potential", rather than having people write down strengths/weaknesses why don't you have people write down one job-related area where they feel the person they're writing about excels and where they could serve as a resource/mentor/guru for the rest of the team, and one other job-related area where they feel the person they're writing about has the potential to excel, given a little time and effort?

This would be a positive-only exercise so people would come away feeling praised and valued (which is motivating), and it would help the team recognize each others' strengths so that they could be more useful to each other and also help people identify goals for themselves.

Maybe Bob could pretty much write a book on how to handle difficult clients. Maybe Mary is ace at juggling five different tasks and setting effective priorities, and could offer the rest of the group some pointers. Maybe Joe is always categorizing his assignments and making notes on how to handle different situations, and with a little effort this could grow into a systematic SOP binder that would revolutionize the whole office's workflow. That's the kind of thing that would help improve your team's potential and make people feel more valued, I think.
posted by Scientist at 10:44 AM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm with PuppetMcSockerton. My eyes are already up in my head.

What EXACTLY do you need to accomplish? More widgets, fewer rejects? Is morale poor and you want to improve it?

The exercises you've listed sound positively painful. I would actually howl like a dog if asked to do them. ARWOOOOOOOOO AWWWWOOOOHHH.

Go back to the drawing board and Google "Team Building Exercises". Some can be fun, and getting people together to do fun stuff, and feeding them yummy things can be a welcome break at work. Doing bull-shit, touchy-feeling, Esalen stuff is for our off-time, not our work time.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:54 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Given that you're surprised (!) by the feedback that:

-Most people don't like negative feedback about their work AND
-That these exercises are likely to torpedo any group cohesion you do have...

I think you need to seriously evaluate whether you are the right person to lead this workshop.

To be as charitable as possible, your "goal" will not be met (and may be severely hampered) by a workshop led by someone who doesn't understand group dynamics, what motivates people, and how people respond to different group exercises. You may want to hire an expert if you have actual, specific objectives for this day. Alternatively, a nice group outing without structured activities can be a genuine, nice way of team-building (think lunch, a baseball game, something low-key like that).
posted by leitmotif at 11:40 AM on November 19, 2013 [17 favorites]

The OP asked for a solution, not an indictment of the idea. It's like s/he suggested the most revolting thing in the world — the OP should be encouraged for creating an activity that pushes against the same ol' paradigm and is instead using a potentially ground-breaking approach, which is the root of discovery.

I would suggest "x" stickers to be placed on a scale.
posted by Kruger5 at 11:54 AM on November 19, 2013

Wow, if I was on the team and knew about this in advance, I'd call in sick in a cold second.

Go around the room (several times) reading short, inspiring quotes. Eg:

I would die a thousand times inside while this is going on.
posted by Cycloptichorn at 12:16 PM on November 19, 2013 [15 favorites]

Here's a suggestion for something you SHOULDN'T do:

I've been part of an exercise, twice (two different but related situations), where we were asked to draw one arrow towards someone that helped you, and one arrow towards someone that hindered you. The second time around I was in a group full of very difficult headstrong personalities and had the majority of the negative arrows point at me - even though some of those same people came up to me personally and said "I don't actually think you were that bad".

What I've found some success in is something purely positive - what is something they are good at? The earlier suggestion about things that person could offer to the group is a good one. I've seen boards where people post that information up about themselves.

You could present a scenario and ask what sort of skills are needed to resolve the scenario. Then you could poll around for who is able and willing to use those skills - maybe someone would volunteer themselves, or someone else could recommend another person for the job.

How well do all of your group members know each other? Kind of hard to give any sort of feedback if you don't know them well enough.
posted by divabat at 12:23 PM on November 19, 2013

OK, this is honestly not meant to be mean, but your description of this event is starting to sound like a Saturday Night Live skit.

The purpose of the workshop is to stir up ambition and unlock our team's potential. I want to help break out of common routines/perspectives. Vague, I know.
I was thinking of a few activities:
-Go through Covey's eulogy thought experiment (From 7 Habits of Highly Effective People -- How would you want your friend to eulogize you at your funeral?)
-Go around the room (several times) reading short, inspiring quotes. Eg:
-Understand our strengths and weaknesses (errrr, "things we can improve")

Have you really thought this through? For example, why do you think that listening to co-workers read Warren Buffet quotes out loud will stir up peoples' ambitions?

Have you imagined it as it would unfold in real life? A group of bored people sit around a conference room table, or whatever. One after another they read, in a droning voice, the quotes that have been handed to them. After each quote there is dead silence. People are staring out the window, or trying to sneak looks at their phone. And you know why? Because it's SUPER boring to have inspirational quotes read out loud to you.

I really think you should consider the advice of someone upthread- either bring in an expert to run this event, or just take everyone to lunch and an activity.
posted by aviatrix at 12:30 PM on November 19, 2013 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: A quick response:

@aviatrix I somewhat understand your disbelief, but that's not been my experience. I actually did this quote-reading exercise before with about 15 people and had incredible results. It electrified the air and made peoples' eyes sparkle. Then we launched off into a memorable, wide-ranging conversation...
posted by daniel.poynter at 12:59 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have very distinctive handwriting, and flat out refuse to participate in events that ask me to write anonymously, full stop. Even if a boss's boss asked me to do it, there would be no way in hell.

It electrified the air and made peoples' eyes sparkle.

I have literally never seen nor heard of this happening in any office-based team building exercise ever (excluding people who were suck ups to begin with). However, taking your lived experience as fact: I will assume that you're very good at running such events, given that they garner such amazing responses. With that in mind, you probably know what the most effective activities are better than any of us on the green. Really, you should be advising us on such things.

Yet, I would still avoid any kind of anonymous writing. It's too likely to pray on people's paranoia, especially with regard to an institution that pays their salary.
posted by Shouraku at 2:32 PM on November 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

I cannot favorite PuppetMcSockerson's comment enough. I work in a creative department of a large corporation, and every few years, someone from head office sends in someone to run training days like this. We all loathe them, and at the end of the day our eyes sparkle and the air turns electric when we realize that its almost over and we can get out of there. This is, in my opinion, the sort of event that management type people love, so perhaps your audience in this training (and previous training sessions) has been management types. In which case you are golden. If your audience tends more towards us worker drones, then don't expect sparkly eyes and electric air. We prefer something a little more pragmatic, something where you get to the point and suggest useful strategies for working smarter, or relating to your co-workers better.

My biggest complaint about these sorts of sessions is that when its finally all over, I could write down the useful take-away on an index card; and if someone had mailed that to me, I could have read it and then done a full day's work. But instead I had to sit through a day of tediously chirpy inspirational exercises, which I (an introvert) HATE.

I know I'm being very negative here, so I'll say that the best event like this which I participated in was doing the marshmallow challenge with co-workers. We have a large team, so we were split up into mini teams deliberately design to put people together who haven't worked together before. This was a) Fun b) I came away knowing more co-workers than previously c) We were forced to work together co-operatively as a team under pressure which is a good skill to practice often and d) Fun.

I cannot remember the details of all the other teamwork and training events I've attended, and I am not of the opinion that they helped me in the long term. Please, try to make them a little more practical than reading quotes to each other. Assuming your audience is similar to me and the other MeFites who are responding here.
posted by Joh at 3:36 PM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

It's better to collect the data and then have a person convey the feedback constructively and in the aggregate. Does someone really need to hear, 35 times in a row, IN FRONT OF THEIR PEERS, that they are (for example) lazy? Much better for them to hear once, in private, that their is a general consensus that you don't perform your share of the work, or don't deliver on what you promise, etc.
posted by ravioli at 5:02 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

There are trained professionals who facilitate improvement groups. From the sound of it, you're not one of those trained professionals. Having an amateur do this is a spectacularly bad idea.

Basically, you're doing a group slam book. And then you're going to discuss that as a group. How do you feel when people anonymously gang up on you? Does that spark you to improve or does it make you defensive?

posted by 26.2 at 11:05 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

God, dude, I really want to help you. You sound like you really care and you really want this to be a great, amazing workshop for your workers, and I commend you for that. I REALLY think you're going at this in a really unfortunate way that is going to do the opposite of what you're hoping to accomplish. I think it is safe to say that mefites come from many different corporate levels and have worked/are working in many different office environments. If we take the people here as a reasonably representative sampling of workers then the conclusion could be drawn that the vast majority of people don't enjoy or appreciate the types of activities you're suggesting. I think it is safe to say that the majority of people like to be spoken to as an equal, in clear and "real life" language (again, "electrified the air and made eyes sparkle" reads as more corporate speak). Go vulcan. Go pragmatic. Eliminate adjectives and superlatives from your language. Have a clearly stated and clearly defined issues (or group of similar/connected issues) and have the workshop be about finding out WHY it doesn't work and HOW you are going to fix it and WHEN do you agree it should be fixed by. I'm not trying to rag on you. I really want to help this to be as good of a workshop as possible for both you and your employees. If you want your employees to take something away from your workshop, have it be that they felt HEARD, they felt VALUED, they felt like people were acknowledging all the problems they (probably) have complained about for years and people are FINALLY doing something to change it. it is simple stuff like just having your employees feel heard that can have the biggest and most positive effects on productivity and employee happiness.

And really, Joh brought up a great point - if your workers are all management types then maybe your ideas are bang on and may be well received. If, however, they are lower down in the totem pole, grunt workers it almost definitely won't be. You need to play to your audience.

Can you tell us the type of people that will be attending your workshop? That could change things. (Regardless of the group, the anonymous compliment/insult thing has to be binned.)
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:07 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I think we need to know the audience with more specificity. Maybe this is some kind of religious or multi-level marketing group? I guess I could see quotes generating sparkling eyes and electrified air if it's the kind of culture that's already based on "stirring up ambition" and "unlocking potential." But for the rest of humanity? Ugh.
posted by HotToddy at 9:46 AM on November 20, 2013

It electrified the air and made peoples' eyes sparkle.

Eyes glass?
posted by phunniemee at 9:50 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Pointing out strengths and weaknesses and developing a plan to fix them is part of the regular evaluation process you should be constantly engaged in, not a single group activity. Every person you have responsibility over should know pretty well what you expect them to improve and what you think they are doing a fantastic job on already - if not, a single activity or event is not going to fix the systematic problem you'd have in regard to employee evaluation and development.

My employees know what I expect them to change because we talked about it when it first became known and relevant. When we do team building activities, it isn't about talking strength and weaknesses - that's already been said - it is about team building. Taking a day to do a ropes course together, taking them to lunch, or even giving them a day off does lot more to foster that our team's spirit than picking at each other via index cards.
posted by _DB_ at 9:57 AM on November 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

« Older iPhone budgeting app with multiple users?   |   Helping 7 yo process mother's death Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.