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I work as a software developer for a company that has recently started to use agile practices. For those unaware of the term, part of the agile process is to have retrospective meetings where the team look at how they can improve their processes in the future.

We have had a couple of these meetings recently where suggestions have been made for improvement, including some that I have made. The problem is I believe my team leader has taken it as criticism of her management style. While I can't speak for other members of the team, I have certainly not meant any criticism. I have a lot of respect for her and she has helped me on many occasions. I believe she is an excellent leader.

I'd like to let her know this but it seems out of place to just walk up and tell her this. So my question is, how do I let her know that her leadership is appreciated without it sounding strange or out of context?

  • (This question is perfectly on-topic here) But personally I'm not sure you should be worrying so much about your manager feeling critisized unless it's interfering with the work needing done - asking a similar question in workplace.SE might also help give you some perspectives on whether this is really a problem you even need to worry about. – Bilkokuya Aug 10 '18 at 15:10
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    @Bilkokuya It is not something I need to worry about per se. But I believe it is something I should worry about. When we work in a team, the well being of each team member is everyone's responsibility. We all work better in an environment where we are happy and valued rather than criticized. And a team works better when everyone is happy. The unhappiness of one team member is a detriment to the team as a whole. For this reason I believe it is in the best interest of of everyone if we look after each other. – IParry Aug 11 '18 at 0:10
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Personally, I think it would be a little out-of-place for you to try and redress this situation by saying your team leader is appreciated.

A team leader is a management role and is not only a senior position (actually they are not always ranked or paid higher in every organisation) but it is a different role requiring very different skills to those they supervise or manage.

To fulfil her role, your team leader should have the skills and experience to understand that feedback from employees is normal and not to be taken personally. A manager should see things from a "higher level" than those they manage and therefore does not need to be as "technical" or get involved with the work with the same level of detail. Really, they should be grateful for the feedback they get from their staff.

In fact, many organisations and managers believe in what is known as "360-degree feedback" - whereby feedback from subordinates is sought out, gathered and evaluated. So getting feedback from her team should be normal and useful. If she is a new manager, she may not yet have this skill or may not be used to receiving it.

Rather than try and correct what you perceive to be her taking offence, I would recommend that you leave it alone this time. It may allow your team leader some time to readdress their own management style. If they are not coping well with feedback, they are more likely to receive help for this from their own line manager. However, next time you give feedback you might want to choose your words more carefully in order to keep any criticism constructive and lessen the chance they will take it personally. For example you might prefix what you say with something like:

This is a really good idea, but how about...

or

That might work even better if...

Generally, feedback is most effective when it is direct, even if it is difficult to hear. Some managers attempt to "sandwich" what they feel may be perceived as "bad news" between two pieces of "good news". Others use what is known as "below the line discourse", which involves placing unpalatable information right at the end of a long discourse on other matters. These ways to deliver feedback are now widely considered to be bad practice. Really then, balance your desire not to offend your team leader with the importance of having your voice heard in the workplace and being able to make a difference to your working environment.

  • Where has the "sandwich" approach been declared bad practice for criticism? I find that feedback requires at least a well thought up good note or two so it is clearer what should be kept and what should change - it is objective and fair. – lucasgcb Mar 25 at 13:13
  • From what I've read in those very articles, the alternatives are to either up it with around 5 positives to every one negative or just being straight up negative handing statements (not feedback). Is that correct? – lucasgcb Mar 27 at 12:30
  • @Astralbee could you put links to some of those articles you mentioned about the sandwich technique into your post? Right now the post reads as if it is just your opinion that this technique is bad. – Rainbacon Mar 28 at 14:28

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