A Rule of Thumb for Workforce Managers

Have you ever gone into a 1:1 with your employee and needed to give some critical feedback that turned the conversation sour? You can say no, but it’s happened to the best of us. 

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Dear Workforce Managers: have you ever gone into a 1:1 with your employee and needed to give some critical feedback that turned the conversation sour? 

Have you had to point out a falling metric that needed work and it caused your agent to get defensive, which derailed the whole meeting?

You can say no, but it’s happened to the best of us. 

And I developed an approach that helped me deliver feedback to my agents, helped those agents evolve, and improved our relationship.

Hello hello! My name is Sam Sanders. And in my first workforce managing gig I was only 19.

I’m from a town here in the US you may have heard of, Nashville, TN. You know, the one known for cowboy boots and country music? I’ve been working in call centers for over 15 years and it’s practically a part of my DNA now. 

I started as an agent, worked my way up the chain into management, built a few departments from scratch, jumped into project management and somehow landed in WFM.
Pretty wild right?! 

Before jumping into WFM or coming to Tymeshift, I was managing people throughout various departments in a couple of different call centers. 

When managing people, you learn so many things about interacting with different personalities: one person may prefer you give them feedback straight up, no chaser like their favorite tequila, while the next may need a sugar coated rim to soften the burn. 

Delivering feedback wasn’t – isn’t – easy.

I had various age groups on my team, some younger – but many were so much older.
Learning how to navigate giving feedback was definitely a challenge. Remember – I started managing people when I wasn’t even 20.

The fact is, in management there really isn’t a one size fits all to most things. How you deliver feedback, how you train, how you coach, how you communicate really has to be tailored to each personality to get the absolute best out of your people.

But learning this takes time. 

Some conversations were tough. Some failed epically. But in the process I developed a little technique that helped me close the communication gap, while getting to know my team. 

The 3 to 1 Rule (or a Workforce Manager’s Rule of 3):

When I introduced WFM to the workplace, some agents felt like we were using scorecards and metrics in a negative way. They felt like there was a risk that they would being micromanaged, over-watched, or undermined.

But the beauty of WFM is that it can bring transparency to your teams and autonomy to your agents. And this technique definitely helped get most people onboard! 


I call it the 3 to 1 Rule.

It’s super simple: 3 positives to every 1 negative. 

Let’s face it:
NO ONE likes to hear they need to work on something. 

Even if you walk into a conversation knowing it’s coming, it never feels good and oftentimes your agent will shut down and not hear the feedback needed to help them excel. 

Has this happened to you?
Let me help….

For every 1 negative thing you need to point out, start with 3 positives. 

For instance, if your agent’s AHT needs attention, but their QA scores, First touch resolution and CSAT scores are killing, TELL THEM!! 

Never start the conversation off with what needs work. 

Start it off by praising the good. Once they feel appreciated and see that you are valuing what they are contributing and not only focusing on the negative, they are 100% more invested in hearing what they need to work on.

Let’s be honest, sometimes frontline CX teams are faced with listening to angry people for a lot of their day, so the last thing they want is to hear that from one of their workforce managers too. 

Focus on the good, make them feel proud and then deliver the constructive pieces. 

Trust me, it will help you and your agent bring out your best and add a few “manager of the year” awards to your resume! 

Don’t believe me? Give it a try!
Your team will thank you.
And then – maybe – you will thank me.

About Tymeshift:

We’re Tymeshift, an effortless WFM solution made exclusively for Zendesk to make workforce managers’ lives easier. Our workforce management tools include shift scheduling, forecasting and analytics. A perfectly intuitive Zendesk integration makes your CX agents’ lives easier. Learn all there is about us and our product on tymeshift.com

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