Why We Need To Leave The Feedback Sandwich In Its Wrapper

We are all familiar with the feedback sandwich way of providing feedback – first comes the praise then the negative is in the middle and is followed by more positive feedback. I’m not sure how this has become such a widespread management technique as it certainly has some issues, particularly if you want to use this feedback method effectively on the job. When I survey course participants (prior to presenting what we believe the best way is) on what they think the most effective way to give feedback is, approximately 70 – 80 % choose the sandwich method.

I was prompted to write this blog when I came across a very interesting article written by renowned Australian author Kasey Edwards, who is also against this style of feedback. Her article is titled “Dear bosses, spare us the feedback sandwich, we’re over it.” Her key point is that as the sandwich method has been written up in management books and rolled out in management training for years, this style of feedback “is about as sincere as a mail-merge personalised message.”

I totally agree with Kasey and I have witnessed team members being on the receiving end of the sandwich and after hearing the first piece of praise they cringe as they wait for the bad stuff. I even heard one team member say to her manager after she was provided with just praise (for a change), “yeah but what did I do wrong?” Obviously this business had been using the sandwich for some time!

So what are the issues when it comes to using the sandwich method? Here are three key reasons why I believe the feedback sandwich is not effective, particularly when used on the job:

  • When I ask course participants what tiny word always come after the first piece of praise they all say “but”. And anything after a “but” is not going to positive. So what happens to the first piece of praise I ask – the team member doesn’t even hear it, so it’s a waste of time even mentioning it. I think giving praise first is more about the feedback provider not the receiver.
  • If we then provide the negative feedback and follow up with more praise, don’t we run a big risk of the team member being confused? Are they doing well or not? Which piece of feedback do they focus on, the negative or the positive?
  • Using the sandwich method is time consuming, as you have to provide three lots of feedback to a team member. This is clunky when a lot of feedback needs to be provided on the fly on the shop floor.

I hear you ask, well how do I give effective feedback that works? Having used two separate ways of giving feedback for over 25 years, I have witnessed first-hand on many occasion that this way is massively effective.

Our rule is don’t use both praise and negative feedback at the same time, it only increases the chances of confusion. If you are providing praise just do that, it you are providing negative, or improvement feedback (as we call it) just provide that. If you provide improvement feedback, the secret is to then follow up and when you see them doing it right, praise them.

It sounds so simple and it is. Providing praise takes about 7 – 10 seconds and improvement feedback takes between 15 – 25 seconds. Both work brilliantly on the job.

So next time you are contemplating using the sandwich method, keep it under wraps and either provide praise or improvement feedback. Your team will love you for it.

Roger Simpson – CEO, The Retail Solution and Author of “The Ultimate Retail Sales Experience” With over 35 years’ industry experience, Roger Simpson is recognized as Australia’s #1 Authority on customer ROI in the retail industry and as a global expert on staff coaching, customer service, and selling skills.