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Glad Sad Mad retrospectives let you focus on feelings

Glad, Sad, Mad retrospective template

What is a Glad Sad Mad retrospective?

A Glad Sad Mad retro is a highly-tuned tension finder. Running one of these retrospectives will help you locate where the stress of team members is creating rough patches in your process. A Glad Sad Mad retrospective can be a useful tool to:

  • Establish healthy team dynamics
  • Improve team morale
  • Refine processes so they work as well in practice as they do on paper 

Remember, the focus is on feelings when running a Glad Sad Mad retrospective, and all feelings are on the table and valid. Let’s look at each category and define the feelings you’re looking for.

Glad: What parts of this process or project did you enjoy? What were the successes and wins that put a smile on your face? These are the things that  make you think, “I love the way this went.” 
(Example: Kicking things off with a huge group brainstorm was so fun!)
Sad: What experiences disappointed you? What do you wish could be improved? Things in this column aren’t necessarily bad, but they’re not productive either. 
(Example: I wish we didn’t have to rush the UX research phase so much)
Mad: What drove you crazy? What roadblocks did you hit that just tanked productivity? What parts were a huge hassle? These are the things you didn’t like, even if they seemed to work.
(Example: I can’t stand filling out that time allocation sheet every week!)

The key to Glad Sad Mad retrospectives is giving space to participants to share their feelings—something that’s not easy for everyone. You’re talking about emotions, which are personal, so remind everyone the goal is to learn, not to blame, accuse, or throw anyone under the bus. It’s a safe environment to share experiences. Learning about how different team members perceive the same experience is inherently valuable. 

It’s also important to remember that your goal isn’t to solve the problems brought up by the feelings in this retrospective. Probe them, examine them, dig deeper to find root causes, but don’t dismiss feelings with any off-the-cuff solutions. Cultivating that safe environment will likely result in greater participation and discussion. Glad Sad Mad retrospectives will get richer over time, as team members feel more and more comfortable sharing the tensions they’re experiencing. 

When should you do a Glad Sad Mad retrospective?

It’s good idea to run Glad Sad Mad retrospectives when you want to make an impact on morale and job satisfaction. Here’s a few scenarios where a Glad Sad Mad retro could come in handy:

A change in team dynamics

Maybe you brought on several new team members after a company acquisition, or maybe you’ve got a new team leader who brought in new processes and ideas. Changing a team’s dynamics can create new tension points, use this retro to find them.

After an event

If you just ran an event or webinar, it can be helpful to find out where attendees ended up emotionally. You can use this retro to help you fine tune the content of your event as well as spot barriers that stopped attendees from getting the most from it. A Glad Sad Mad retro can help you shorten the intent-impact gap.

Adopting new software or process

Bringing everyone onto new software or a company-wide process can be bumpy, especially if the old programs were deeply entrenched. Running one of these retros after everyone has had a chance to adjust could help you address the emotional issues that inevitably pop up when change is forced on a team. 

These are far from the only scenarios! A Glad Sad  Mad retrospective is a great option any time you want to assess the feelings of a team. You can run one just to break up the normal everyday business of work, or to find ways to help employees emotionally invest in the company, a project or process. 


How to run a Glad Sad Mad retrospective with Parabol

From your dashboard select your team on the right and then hit that vibrant Start New Meeting button. 

Select Retro Meeting with the arrows, then use the dropdown to select the Glad Sad Mad retro template. 


The Icebreaker box is checked on by default. You don’t have to do one, but we recommend it. They offer a chance to break the ice and get everyone in the chatty mood for leaving useful feedback. 

Hit Start Meeting to kick things off!

If you’re doing an Icebreaker, you’ll have a random question to answer. You can refresh it if you want another option, and of course you can create your own if you want. 

After the Icebreaker you’ll move on to the reflect stage. This is where you get into the principles of the Glad Sad Mad retro discussed above. 

Glad Sad Mad Retrospective Template in Parabol

Remember, Parabol is remote-friendly, enabling you to work asynchronously with your team. They can all leave comments together, or do it at a time that works for them. Also, reflections are anonymous, and no one can see them until you’re done working on them.

After the reflect phase, you’ll vote on issues to discuss, talk about the most voted on items, and then get a summary of the retro when you’re done. Make sure to review the retro 101 guide for tips on running a retrospective smoothly. 

Try it for yourself with a free account 


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