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Submitted by joshyeager on


I manage a team of programmers, and a lot of their most valuable work happens when they are "in the zone". Unfortunately, it's not easy to tell when someone is in that mode, and even a short interruption can derail them for 10-15 minutes.

As a result, I'm reluctant to give feedback to someone when they're at their PC, because the cost of interrupting them is potentially very high.

I don't want to use email for feedback, but I also don't want to wait until an O3 or other meeting to deliver the feedback.

Any suggestions?

TomW's picture
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If you give them feedback right after they do something, they probably won't be in the zone at the moment.

joshyeager's picture
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That's true, but a lot of the things I want to give feedback on are features they've written or customer emails they've sent, which I usually don't see until a while after they are done.

mattpalmer's picture

I struggle with exactly the same quandry, with exactly the same sort of directs.  I haven't got an answer for you, but thanks for posting the question in such a clear way (my attempt a couple of months ago just got me a ticking off). 

carguin's picture

Speaking as an ex-software engineer, I am very familiar with that in-zone feeling. Had my boss asked "Can I give you some feedback", I could easily have replied "I'm in the zone now, can we do this later?" and not lost it. I probably couldn't have taken much more than that, but if you cannot at least tell people to go away, you're never going to stay in the zone long!

Also, just observe them for a few moments... if they are looked focused, they are probably in the zone and it's best to try again in an hour or so.  If they are laid back, checking email, etc... go ahead and ask.


Chris Arguin

joshyeager's picture
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Thanks, Chris. That's helpful. I'll have to ask my team if they can say "not now" to feedback without losing their flow.

If anyone else has any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.


joshyeager's picture
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I'm doing feedback consistently now, and my team seems to like it a lot. I sometimes postpone feedback to their next one-on-one if I can tell that they are in the zone. But for the most part, it doesn't seem to be too disruptive.


AllBusiness's picture

Thanks for this followup.  I've found that more feedback is better than less.