Is the Feedback Sandwich Full of Baloney?

bologna in a vacuum packageQuick show of hands … how many of you were taught to use the sandwich method when delivering negative (or as I like to call it, constructive) feedback?

Many of us have but I must admit, I’m not a fan.  Here’s why:

  • Surrounding the message regarding the behaviour that needs to change or the performance that needs improvement (the meat) in between two slices of praise (the bread), takes the focus away from the change needed.  If the last thing your team member hears is that they are doing well, chances are that is what they will take away from the meeting.
  • The feedback sandwich doesn’t support the intention of the meeting or discussion.  If you expect a change in behaviour or performance, focus on that instead of beating around the bush.  Honest, truthful, respectful feedback inspires trust.
  • It’s a little condescending in that it sends the message “you are not strong enough to hear this”.

The sandwich method may help ease the task of delivering constructive feedback, but it’s not particularly effective.  Instead of using the feedback sandwich, try the following:

  1. Before entering into any discussion, know exactly what behaviour or performance standard is not being met.  How often? When? Avoid using words like always or never.
  2. Focus on one improvement at a time.  Sometimes, those baloney sandwiches were so loaded with meat, it was overwhelming.
  3. Don’t ignore areas of success or excellence. Include them in the natural flow of conversation, instead of just in the beginning or at the end.
  4. Be specific about what change is required and why.  Involve the employee by asking why they think the change is important or who is impacted when a behaviour or standard is not met.  Identify the positive results that will occur when the change is complete or even in process.
  5. Don’t compare one employee to another.  Nobody likes to be told they should be more like so and so.
  6. Don’t use judgmental words like lazy or slow.
  7. Involve the employee in discovering the ‘why’ and ‘how’.  Perhaps more training is required.  If so, how will it be delivered?  A workshop?  Partnering with a workplace coach or another team member?
  8. Develop a plan. How will you assess or monitor change and when will you next meet to review progress?
  9. End the meeting with an expression of confidence in the employee.

When feedback is delivered respectfully and with the intention of helping someone be better at their job, it makes the message easier to hear.  While many people would much rather hear how amazing they are, instead of their shortcomings, most of us also realize we are not perfect and appreciate an honest, sincere offer to help.

What do you think? 


2 thoughts on “Is the Feedback Sandwich Full of Baloney?

    • Thanks Tina. I understand the intent behind it … don’t only focus on the “negative”, but it does come across as contrived. I am all for including positive messaging and ending on a positive note with an expression of confidence that the objectives can be achieved.

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