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Stop Feeding Feedback Sandwiches

February 28, 2018


How many times have we heard the recipe for a feedback sandwich? It typically goes something like this:


2 parts nice comments 
1 part critical comment



  1. Say something nice about the person's actions or behaviors.

  2. Speak your critical issue about the person.

  3. Say something nice, but ideally different than the original nice comment.

We’ve been led to believe that following these steps allows you to be sensitive to a person's feelings and avoid a defensive reaction. That it will be easier for people to deal with negative issues by discussing positive ones alongside them. No matter our best intentions, this sandwich model doesn’t always make for a constructive meeting or achieve the outcome we want. What it does is downplay the critical issue: The most important part of your message is covered up by feedback that doesn't add value.


It's time to try a new recipe. 

Stop feeding employees feedback sandwiches. Throw them away in the garbage and start with a different recipe:


Ask your team member. Ask if you can give them feedback. You're not asking for permission, but asking if this is the right time and place. "May I share something with you?"

Share the behavior. Discuss actual behaviors you have witnessed versus attitudes or perceptions that you believe exist. "At our last meeting, I saw you..." or "When you..."

Wait for a response. This is a good reminder that you're not trying to run over the team member or quickly get through your speech. Pause, stay silent, and wait for their response and reaction.

Point to the impact. Tell your team member what you felt or what the impact was on their behavior. How is it influencing the expectations or goals you both have set in the past? "When you do this, this happens..."

Ask for ideas. You're showing that you want to work together on a solution but that you're looking for the team member's specific solutions. They need to own the solution if true change will occur. “So, what ideas do you have?"

Agree on next steps. Again, ask the team member what they believe is an appropriate next step based on the above. What relationships need to be repaired, if any? An appropriate question to ask here can also be, "How can I help you?"

Follow up with the team member. Discuss progress and refocus, if necessary. If the team member is making progress, use the follow up as time to provide positive feedback!

Following this new feedback recipe will take some practice but will ultimately help you deliver more effective and meaningful feedback to your team.

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