Throw out your feedback sandwich – it’s mouldy

| March 15, 2017

Most people would have encountered the “feedback sandwich” tool, which involves “sandwiching” some bad feedback with two pieces of positive feedback.

The next time you think about using it… don’t. The sandwich is mouldy but there’s a fresh approach that you can use.

Here’s why it doesn’t work:

  • No one likes the taste of the sandwich. The receiver either only hears the good stuff and discounts the bad OR the good feedback comes across as totally inauthentic and is completely missed.
  • If you do it often enough, then any time you genuinely give positive feedback your employees are going to be bracing themselves for the bad part that follows the good.
  • It’s a total cop out. Managers use this approach because they’ve read it’s the right thing do to be a “good” manager.

There are better ways to provide genuine and effective feedback, although it’s not a quick fix. Building a culture of open feedback doesn’t happen overnight but you can start taking steps today to make it easier in the long term.

Know your audience – some people are going to be naturally better at receiving feedback than others. But just because some people are perhaps more sensitive than others, doesn’t mean you need to back down, you might just need to take a different approach. Using a tool to understand your team, such as extended DISC can be really helpful to give yourself some guidance as to how to approach individuals.

Provide feedback regularly – People need constructive criticism to push themselves. The more often you give feedback, the more normalised it’s going to become. It’s still important to balance the good and the bad, but don’t feel like you always need to give it at the same time. This doesn’t always come naturally to everyone. It’s ok to develop structure and mechanisms to “remind” you to give feedback until it becomes a lot more habitual (put triggers in your one to one template, set yourself a calendar reminder to go and give feedback, find something that works for you until you make it a habit).

Get on a level playing field – feedback should be a conversation, not a monologue. Being given feedback can bring up all sorts of insecurities and make people feel inferior.  Talk collaboratively with the receiver to get their input and buy in. Ask them what they think and their input on what could have been approached differently. It’s human nature to put defences up if you have someone is just speaking at you and telling their own point of view.

Giving feedback isn’t always easy, because there are usually a lot of emotions at play. But if you build your own awareness and adapt your style of interacting with others consistently and don’t just listen to out-dated management models, you can help others develop and reap the benefits.

Sue-Ellen Watts

Sue-Ellen Watts is the Founder and Managing Director of wattsnext, a rapidly growing service company that has evolved through her passion for people and the challenges faced across the small to medium business sector. With over 15 years’ experience, Sue-Ellen has worked as both a recruiter and human resource professional across a variety of businesses, industries and states. This experience coupled with her drive and passion to succeed led to the innovative creation of wattsnext. wattsnext are a dynamic team of accomplished HR, Performance and Recruitment specialists providing powerful pathways to new levels of business and people performance.