Throw out your feedback sandwich – it’s mouldy


Throw out your feedback sandwich – it’s mouldy - 2020 - Wattsnext Group

If you’ve read any management books or articles you would have encountered the tool of the “feedback sandwich”. You know, “sandwich” some bad feedback with two pieces of positive feedback.

The next time you think about using it… STOP. That sandwich? It’s mouldy… no one wants it, there’s a much more fresh approach that you can use.

Here’s why I hate it.

  • No one likes the taste of the sandwich. You cannot win. 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. But here’s the headline – you can do so much better than that.

I’m not saying there’s 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 be awesome. 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.

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



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Wattsnext Group is a compilation of ideas and expertise from the entire team, past and present with a few added gems from guest authors from time to time. With this collaborative approach, you'll get a broader perspective and high-level of expertise across the HR landscape


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