Sarahah, an anonymous feedback system to be used by friends and coworkers alike, is the newest fad in social media. Although we at The Feedback Loop usually write articles about feedback and Magic, we also discuss how feedback affects the world around us. Sarahah prompted The Feedback Loop team to discuss anonymous feedback, and whether it deserves a place in the judge program.
The Feedback Loop as the name implies, wholeheartedly supports a positive feedback culture. That being said, I don’t think that having an anonymous feedback mechanism, like Sarahah, would be easily implemented in the judge program in a positive way.
Anonymous feedback can work wonderfully, but only in select places. In large corporate settings, managers use anonymous surveys to get entry-level workers to give more quality feedback. As someone who once worked in an entry-level position, I can testify that there is a legitimate fear of retaliation and termination in response to negative feedback. Companies that use anonymous feedback mechanisms are very different from the judge program. Those companies have a high turnover rate, low-morale, a strict chain-of-command, and mandatory work requirements.
The judge program embodies the opposite of these management procedures. We don’t have a high attrition rate, morale is generally high, and although we have a level system, emotion-based decisions of an individual cannot prevent judges from being staffed. We also have a culture that encourages feedback. At every Grand Prix, team leads are pushing review-writing, and the Exemplar Program is essentially a form of positive feedback.
Currently, we have a system of overt feedback, where there are two names tied to every review. This creates the opportunity for conversation, where the judges can identify problematic or exemplary actions, and how to continue or discontinue those behaviors. However, anonymous feedback takes away this opportunity to start such a discussion. Just like any any choice in the judge program, there are costs and benefits associated with that decision. If the judge program created an anonymous feedback system, there might be an increase in participation in our feedback culture – and that’s great. I speculate that there wouldn’t be a large increase, however. We require feedback as a qualification for L2, and we encourage our L1 judges, TOs, and players to constantly give us feedback. Although I can sympathize with those who are worried about writing their first review, the judge program makes as safe a space as possible for giving feedback.
On the other hand, there are plenty of downsides to an anonymous feedback system. An anonymous review can be negative both for the giver and the receiver. As an anonymous feedback giver, I lose all accountability over my feedback. Sometimes, a judge may choose not to make a recommended change, and I can’t approach that person to discuss their thought process. Moreover, I can’t follow up and discuss any progress with that person, which ultimately is another form of feedback.
On the other hand, if I receive anonymous feedback, I can’t clarify any feedback I receive. Anything vague or confusing can’t be expanded upon. That makes me less likely to enact suggestions from the feedback, because I might not have the specifics needed for a positive change.
There’s also the elephant in the room: ugly feedback. I encourage judges who aren’t familiar with the concepts of good, bad, and ugly feedback to read the articles, as they touch on the concept very well. Sarahah is notorious for having hateful messages sent through its platform, and there’s no good way to eliminate that. It’s simply an aspect of anonymous feedback.
Good and bad feedback can be expressed through JudgeApps reviews, and although everyone would like to to keep the bad feedback to a minimum, overt feedback cuts down on the amount that gets acted on. JudgeApps reviews also prevents most types of hateful feedback, which is another draw towards making reviews visible to both parties.
With Sarahah, and by extension anonymous feedback, I think you get exactly what you ask for, including the fun (“Your outfit was on point at the GP!”), the constructive (“I couldn’t hear your opening announcements; Speak louder.”), and the downright hateful (“You’re a terrible judge.”). The first two can be done via JudgeApps reviews, or Facebook message if necessary. I don’t think it’s positive to have the third be indirectly promoted through Judge-endorsed platforms.