Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Feedback Sandwich

Experiencing criticism can be a stressful situation, and the common approach to hearing criticism is to prepare a defense. One way to soften another person’s experience of your criticism is to use the idea of a feedback sandwich. Instead of telling people what they are doing wrong all at once, you can mix the negative with genuinely positive comments. It’s important that these are genuine, however, or you can come across as insincere and manipulative and lose any goodwill or trust you might have earned with your employee. Finding a positive thing to say about an employee who needs correction serves an additional purpose as well. Whenever you are angry at another person, a good tactic to help spur your thinking away from that person’s faults is to consider something positive about that person. Having something good to say about your employee can help to put the entire situation into a more manageable perspective.

Following up (versus Badgering)

When you set goals, it’s important that you set a goal that is achievable and corresponds to a timeframe. Similarly, when you intervene, it is helpful to have a definite view of success as well as a timeframe to check back with the employee. This follow-up will work better when it is approached as “how are you doing with this?” rather than “have you done what I told you to?” Furthermore, you should consider avoiding two types of extremes: not following up at all and overdoing your follow-up by continuously returning to the issue. When you initially discuss the issue with your employee, it will be most effective if you both identify a time in the future to schedule a follow-up conversation during which you can check in with each other. If you never follow-up, it erodes your credibility when you do offer constructive criticism because it makes it seem as if there was no real need for criticism. On the other hand, if you continuously come back to the situation that prompted the criticism, you put the employee into a guilt-redemption type drama. If you follow up with your employee at a scheduled time, and that employee has not shown improvement, you can re-assess what needs to be done further and use that time to schedule another follow-up. Keeping your follow-ups structured can help you avoid the pitfalls that can turn following up and being invested in your employee’s success into a form of harassment.

The Importance of Tone

In your role as leader or manager, you will often find yourself in situations in which you have to perform well even when you are not at your best. One truth about effective leadership is that when things go right, you will want to deflect the praise to your team members, but when things go wrong, it’s all your fault. This can put you under constant pressure, and some of your more socially conscious and astute employees might recognize this fact, but most won’t. Nevertheless, employees and supervisors can forgive much when you approach them with the right tone.

Until next time ...


Sheryl Tuchman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

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