Hello and welcome to the third edition of the Feedbag! Last time, we covered reviewing as an inexperienced judge. This month’s question comes anonymously regarding how to approach providing feedback to a judge who has very obviously not been having a good day:
“At a recent large event, I noticed that another judge was making mistakes. A lot of them. Other judges noticed the problems and offered assistance, but I could tell eventually that this judge was crushed, confidence shot for the rest of the event. Frankly, I’m not sure this judge should have been staffed in this role to begin with. Giving feedback seems really complicated under the circumstances. I don’t want to make this judge feel worse by rehashing all the problems. Do you have any ideas?”
Situations like this one are tough, because the judge in question is clearly already aware that they haven’t been meeting expectations, and the line between providing useful feedback and just piling on is very fine.
I’ll start out by noting that you may not need to get involved here. The desire to pitch in and offer something that you believe is helpful is hard to resist, but this judge has already received feedback from several other judges regarding the mistakes that were made. Do you feel that you have something to add that hasn’t yet been covered by the other judges who have already gotten involved? If not, then you’re probably not providing much value and may just make the judge in question feel worse. Like the old saying goes, too many cooks make you weep uncontrollably.
The best thing for you to offer here is collaboration. Other judges have already stepped in to help. Do their observations agree with your own? Have they failed to provide a concrete suggestion for improvement that you’ve identified? Have a chat with the people who identified these mistakes and acted to help with them. Work to incorporate your opinions into whatever post-event feedback or reviews these judges are already providing. This lets you offer your voice while not appearing to be yet another person highlighting how many mistakes were made.
Don’t rehash. Reinforce.
If these other judges have already provided quality feedback, it might just be worth reaching out to the judge in question to see how they’re feeling. Even someone with an earnest desire to improve and the ability to honestly self-assess and incorporate critical feedback is likely to get bummed out if their take away from the event is “Here is an enumerated list of ways in which you pooped the pillow.” That person might just need someone to vent to a bit, rather than another iteration of the feedback they’ve already received.
As a final note, this judge is facing difficulty because they’re not yet capable of succeeding in their assigned role. Was this role requested by the judge in the hopes of progressing in skill, or was this role assigned by the judge manager in a speculative capacity? This should inform the way you approach the situation. If the former is true, keep in mind that you’re dealing with someone who has just learned that they’re not as good as they thought they were, and help anyone interested in providing feedback to message it accordingly. If the latter is true, you may be dealing with someone who feels a bit thrown under the bus. It doesn’t eliminate the responsibility of the role, but it does change the context if their briefing was, “You’re team leading tomorrow; I’m sure you’ll think of something!” There may also be some feedback to provide to the judge manager here about how they staff people in important roles.
Thanks to this anonymous contributor for submitting another very deep question. (Is it the same anonymous contributor as last time? Who knows! It’s a secret to everybody.)
If you’d like to see your question in the next edition of Feedbag, either using your own name or an alias that you develop mid-interrogation based on background details, please contact me via Judge Apps.