The feedback sandwich

As a manager, one of the hardest things to learn is, what performance issues to discuss and how. While being the taskmaster is part of being a manager, learning to weigh items that need necessary correction with those inconsequential flaws is an art form. I have had both the manager who points out every error and the one who is so buried that they give no correction at all. While the former seems annoying, I prefer that to no feedback at all.

I like to write out all the negative things I need to discuss with an employee and then ask four questions about each issue.

  • Is this a procedural issue? Is this simply an error of not following the right steps.
  • Is this a critical behavioral flaw? Were they rude, harassing or socially inappropriate for the workplace.
  • Is this a clash of personality? Are people simply not getting along and needing to learn to play better in the sandbox.
  • Lastly I ask what will happen if I don’t address this now? If the answer here is nothing, I toss it!

Statistically employees who receive feedback will multiply the bad feedback by three. They are also more likely to forget the positive feedback if it is delivered first. I have found an extremely productive way to give feedback is the sandwich approach. I sandwich all tough feedback between two positive comments. I also do so in writing so that when people are rereading my comments; they can actually see that there is more good than bad, literally, twice as much. I also do this regularly. When you share both good and bad feedback on a regular basis, at a ratio of two to one, it is both easier to take and more believable.

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2 responses to “The feedback sandwich

  1. Back in the days when I had a job, I had to force myself to remember to discuss the performance of my staff at least once during the year. It helped both them and myself in determining their likelihood of (1) getting additional assignments, (2) being given additional responsibilities, (3) the level of compensation reward to be expected. Since I hand-picked my staff and my expectations were high from the start, these were usually all positive meetings. The once-in-a-while bad meetings that resulted in negatives for items 1 & 2 usually meant no reward in increased compensation (3), but at least they weren’t surprised…

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