No More “Gifts & Greats”

presentEsther Derby has a wonderful post about the “Praise Sandwich” that critiques the compliment-defect-compliment model of feedback. That reminded me of another feedback technique: “Gifts and Greats”. They’ve been very popular in the Agile community for a while (I can’t recall where they came from). Just to be perfectly clear: I hate them. The technique is really quite simple:

  1. Start with the gift: some feedback that highlights a weakness or area for improvement. Preferably something painful that only one “who really cares” would share.
  2. Attempt to soften the blow with some sort of observation of a strength of yours.

It’s sort of a one-two punch. Usually I’m left reeling from the first punch and never even hear the compliment that follows. For a while I thought I just didn’t handle feedback well. That may be true, but I’m coming to realize that not only does this “Gifts and Greats” technique not work for me – it probably doesn’t work well for some other people too. In fact, in my opinion it is downright counter productive for some of us.

I want to own up to the fact that this technique doesn’t work for me. Perhaps it works well for others – otherwise I imagine it wouldn’t be so popular. My own consideration of this sort of feedback suggests that the feedback mechanism needs to be tailored to the audience. As much as I dislike the sandwich approach, there may be appropriate times to use it (I’m having trouble coming up with a good example though). The same may apply to “Gifts and Greats”. Perhaps in the right context they work well. What ever the context, use them with care.

For now, no gifts for me please.

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