I'm trying Monte Cook's A+ thing this month - the 'no negativity' thing. I like to think I'm generally pretty positive on the blog anyway - for the most part, my "Notes On..." articles, for example, are to call out the elements and mechanics I like in different games. But for the rest of this month, I'm going to try to 100% it.
Which is tough, actually, because I seem to be hardwired to find flaws. Which is not a happiness habit. But I'm suddenly reminded of something: performance reviews.
I haven't had to give performance reviews in years, which is one of the many things I love about being indie. But when I did have to give them, I had a trick for keeping them positive. Like I said, I'm hardwired to find flaws. When I got ready to write in the comments section of a report's performance review, whatever little way they had let me down that year would be the first thing to pop into my head.
But, instead of writing that down, I flipped it around and made it a positive. And then wrote that positive on everyone else's review.
Programmer X's code was sloppy - had a high bug rate? I wrote on programmer A, B, and C's performance reviews that they had low bug rates. Programmer Y needed their hand held? I wrote on programmer A, B, and C's reviews that they showed initiative. Programmer Z liked to run a 90-yard dash? I wrote on programmer A, B, and C's reviews that they saw things through to the end.
As I was thinking about this article I realized I could apply this technique in other places. It's hard for me to give praise - but if one of my daughters is driving me up the wall, instead of criticizing her, I can always turn around and praise the other one for how well behaved she is. (Hopefully not right in front of the first daughter though, how lame would that be.)
I can also turn the content of negatives into positives. Yes, it can be frustrating when my daughter takes ten minutes to clean up her board game. But I can praise her for how conscientiously she's organizing the pieces.
Some people may feel a bit iffy about this practice. Is it a little bit dishonest? Shouldn't I just say what I feel? Wouldn't my reports want to know what's bothering me about them, so they can fix it? I know when I ask for feedback on a game I'm making, I want the brutal honesty. (I hate it, but I want it.)
Well, maybe, but performance reviews are the worst time for that. If a report is so sloppy with their code that it's a problem, as their manager I need to tell them right then. I shouldn't wait an average of six months for performance review time to come around.
And if the problem isn't a big problem? If it's just a nitpick? Then why bring it up at all? The reason you're a valuable part of the team is probably because of a few big positives - for the most part I'm willing to take the bad with the good, do my best to ignore those nagging nitpicky things. We've heard how a ratio of five positive interactions to one negative interaction is important at work (and in marriage) - so I'll leave as many negative interactions as I can off the table.