Sparkles of feedback

Feedback is a gift. Unsolicited positive feedback to someone’s manager is the quiet gift you never know you received.

🎁 Give this gift freely. 🎁

I have a habit of writing these short “sparkles of feedback” to colleagues’ managers during review season. These aren’t about major projects or wins, just moments where someone’s work had extra impact that likely isn’t obvious to them. I try to write a few each review cycle1 to help them be recognized for their work. You should consider doing it too!

Call out the good things in day-to-day life because it is kind. 💝

Review season is stressful for everyone. Writing formal feedback for others and your own self-review is hard work. It’s easy to overlook things that aren’t The Big Wins. Acknowledging these also helps retain the teammates you want to be working with. Everyone wins! 🎉

Why it’s important

Managers can’t always see everything their team members do. They don’t gain omniscience upon moving into the role. It seems like a difficult transition to make into a hectic role. You could see something that they didn’t know about entirely.

A coworker in another department wrote a set of scripts to help finish their own tasks. They shared this code with the rest of the company. These scripts were exceptionally useful to the customer-facing team in bootstrapping demo environments much faster than possible manually - something they were not designed to do. It saves each of us a few hours every month!


Not everyone enjoys public praise. As best explained in this witty comic from The Oatmeal, it can be difficult to gracefully accept a compliment - especially in a public setting. I don’t need or want to be seen giving this. I definitely don’t want to cause anyone to feel awkward either. It’s (more than likely) not my job to call attention to good things publicly2 as well.

The goal is to help this person be recognized professionally by giving their manager an extra bit of data to write a thoughtful, specific review. This process hopefully ends with Good Professional Outcomes for the recipient. Doing this isn’t about you.

How to keep track of it all

Take a note. When I notice something good, we worked together on something, etc., I’ll write it down. There’s a single note for the next review cycle that includes both the folks I’ll be expected to provide formal feedback for and these as well. There’s absolutely zero chance I’ll remember anything more than an hour ago while stressed out about my own review.3 Anonymized, here’s an example of that page.

Person 1 - got me unstuck here and didn’t have to, (link to pull request)

Person 2 - (link to design proposal), added persona to this, which helped me add $$$ to these accounts

Person 3 - (copy/paste email from customer), they were involved on troubleshooting this too and that made this client happy.

Search all the things. Slack/GitHub/Salesforce/etc. has ways to save things to keep coming back to. Calendar statistics are useful too. These should help you with being specific and writing quickly.

Carve out some time in each cycle to put it into your review software or just email it to their manager and skip. Personally, I need about an hour to do a couple.

After rewriting one of the notes above to look a little nicer, here’s what one of those emails looks like:

I love working with Colleague and how much he can book on a calendar is incredible. He’s a force of nature on every customer call he’s on, always selling with charm. His ability to anticipate customer objections and position the product accordingly has grown tremendously in the past year. Keep it up!!


Be specific! Saying “Alice is helpful and cheery” is nice. Alice is a nice person. Telling her manager that her work on project was used by team to do task with business impact helps her by putting weight on the impact they’ve had. The outcome of this process isn’t (only) an awkward conversation between Alice and her manager. Her manager has to trade horses around for bonuses, salary adjustments, promotions, and other Things That Cost Company Money for Alice.

Help the manager-folk out. Many aren’t actually that great at managing. All are human. Try to incorporate your company’s values or mission statement or something to tie action to value to business impact explicitly. It’s cheesy, but never underestimate the raw power of copy/paste.

Enjoy writing it. I like to think of it as an extra round of Secret Santa, giving tiny gifts just for the sake of it. 💖

Be careful when you’re calling attention to things that are Not Their Job. It’s great that Bob organizes all the birthday/retirement/whatever parties and leads the new hire mentoring group - if Bob is also doing his core job well. When it’s Not Their Job, it can backfire in their review. At best, it is a very uncomfortable position to be praised for doing many things that aren’t your job well while having clear room to improve in Your Actual Job4.



Don’t engage in the “performance review circle jerk.” It’s why I don’t copy the person it’s about or mark it as visible in the HR system. There’s no need to make it awkward where they’ll feel the need to say thanks or write something in return. It’s also easy to get a weird reputation for being pay-for-play.

Don’t delay hard feedback or substitute this for HR’s involvement. If something important is at risk of failure, don’t wait for review season to say something!

Don’t be fluffy. Get to the point in 3 sentences or less.

It feels weird

One of my many jobs in college was telephone tech support for a TV company. I was yelled at about football blackouts and confusing remote controls a lot. When someone needed an account reset near the end of a particularly difficult shift, they ended by asking to speak to my manager. I had no idea what I’d done wrong.

They wanted to say thanks for solving their problem quickly. That tiny bit of kindness got me an extra shift break and made the shift supervisor a bit happier. Little happy feedback is very rarely unwelcome. 💗

Because you care

💫 I value working with you. 💫

I hope you know that. Also, the thing you did really helped my team too. “Thank you” is nice, but you should also get some credit for it come review season.5

I want to keep working with you. This means the company needs to keep you around. Many levers for this - opportunities for growth, market-rate compensation, promotions, and more - are all in the hands of your leadership team (not me). This starts with your line manager’s performance review (also not me).

Helping them help you by giving them the data they need to make the case for you helps me keep working with you. That’s all. 🥰


  1. Beyond the folks that have asked for it or I’m expected to write for, like my direct manager and immediate teammates. Ya’ll get feedback too, just writing solicited and more in-depth feedback isn’t the same as this. 

  2. All of this is true when feedback is actually your job - a manager, someone asked you for a peer review, etc., but that’s not today’s thing. 

  3. The past several years of self-assessments were brought to you, my direct managers, by imposter syndrome and single-malt Scotch. It probably shows. 🥃 

  4. I have personally fallen into this trap many times. Don’t follow my bad habits. 

  5. As best I know, this has never actually helped me out in my own reviews. Do it anyways. 

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