What is a honey roast?

Roasts (when talking about oration, not ham) are speeches to honor someone but usually fall along the line somewhere between good natured ridicule to criticism veiled as a joke. 

Honey roasts are the kinder version of a regular roast. A honey roast is an opportunity to say all the wonderful things about a person completely free from ridicule and criticism.

Honey roasts at Clockwork

A few years ago, a person was leaving Clockwork to start their next adventure. On their last day, we went around the group and each said some of our favorite things about working with that person. They were showered with love and well-wishes. We all felt warm and connected.

That’s when we realized, why should we wait until someone is leaving to say nice things not only about them but to them? Shouldn’t we let the people we work with know we appreciate them while we’re still working together — when saying these things may help strengthen the relationship and build stronger teams?

With that realization, honey roasts started building momentum at Clockwork. One team started doing them on a fairly regular basis. That team decided to share how it was building trust and connection by piloting a honey roast at our company-wide “All Hands” meeting.

How to do a honey roast

The setup and rules are simple:

  1. Enter everyone’s name into a digital wheel — leadership, new joiners, everyone! (or go old-school and pull names from a hat)
  2. Spin the digital wheel (or draw a name from the hat)
  3. The person whose name is landed on gets honey roasted! Also, the name is removed from the wheel so there are less and less names to choose from until everyone has been roasted.
  4. To honey roast, attendees simply raise their virtual hand in Zoom and speak in the order that they put their hand up. Sometimes we have a “moderator” who calls on the next person in line to keep things clipping along.
  5. The roast ends after 10 minutes (but you can choose a timeframe that makes sense for your team)

The only rule for the honey roast-ee is: No deflecting. Just say thank you!

It’s hard for many of us to accept compliments without qualifying them in some way. “Oh, it was really so-and-so who did that” or “I just got lucky with that one”. That’s why, at Clockwork, we don’t expect the roast-ee to say anything besides “thank you” after a compliment (and even that’s optional!). Nevertheless, you may still experience anxiety seeing the wheel spin and hope that it doesn’t land on you. I did, and it did land on me. But you know what? It wasn’t bad at all — in fact, it was really great to hear all the wonderful things my colleagues think about me!

Benefits of honey roasts

The pilot honey roast was a success and we decided to make it a regular feature of our All Hands meetings. We’ve done 4 now and it’s added a lot of joy and gratitude to our company meetings. Not only that, it has benefits backed by behavioral science:

  • It helps build community. Building community is a process, and the practice of a honey roast enables individuals to get to know one another, which enables community building. When I learn what I have in common with my colleagues, I feel more aligned with them and I’m better able to listen, be supportive, and collaborate.
  • It encourages interaction. Within the few minutes it takes to do a honey roast, it can elicit laughter, open dialogue (our Zoom chat is usually pretty active), or stepping out of one’s comfort zone. Most importantly, it prevents a siloed work environment, which breeds dysfunction.
  • It strengthens empathy. To build a strong team, empathy is essential because it allows team members to explore someone else’s point of view and consider this new perspective when making a decision. A honey roast gives participants the opportunity to see their co-workers in a different light, which allows them to be more empathetic.

Now that you know how and why to do a honey roast, we encourage you to try it with your team (and send us a note to let us know how it went!). Don’t wait until you’re waving goodbye to a favorite colleague to share how much you appreciate working with them!