Feedback Sandwich Technique
What is the feedback sandwich technique, and its relevance in the workplace today?
This morning while looking up some policies for an organization I do some work with I discovered an interesting set of “visual aids” for training trainers.
This method has also been given in training in the past to managers in many, many organizations around the world.
The actual wording on the visual aid was:
Start with a positive response – Review their actions
Consider developmental needs – If you were to do this again you could…
End with positive remarks – you did really well
This model or theory has been called the “Sh*t Sandwich” or “Feedback sandwich technique”
Why the feedback sandwich technique?
A quick search on the Urban dictionary site will give this definition:
“A way of giving crappy news to someone. The news is dressed up as, first a positive statement then the bad news, and then a positive statement to take the edge off things.”
Lets have a look at giving feedback in practice:
Pat is just about to be made redundant….
Bread – top layer:
Hello Pat, Over the last 15 years that you have worked for us. You have been a valued member of the department. Your commitment to the success of the department has been consistent and highly valued, thank you.
Meat – the filling:
We are operating in difficult times and we need to reduce our costs, so as you are approaching retirement in just 3 years we believe that you would be the best person to start the transition. This would free up some of your time to do things you want to do. You will leave us at the end of next month.
Bread – base layer:
We know you have often talked about going on long trips, that you have not been able to do with our 2 week limit on vacations. The redundancy money will help towards the cost of your travels too. I really envy you Pat.
That’s a “Sh*t Sandwich“……
Use (proven & researched) psychology for giving feedback…
Theory, method and approach….
Let’s think about this
If every time we want to give negative information we hide it between two pieces of other information, what we start to to is to train people.
We start to train them to recognise the positive statement as a trigger for: “watch out here comes some “sh*t” – so they stop hearing the first piece of good stuff. Then often they are so much focused on the negative comment that they do not hear the followup or last positive step!
This strategy does not work. So stop using it!
If we want to give feedback please do not ever use the “sandwich” approach – do this
1) give them SPECIFIC feedback on what they did (the behaviour, attitude & action) and the impact it had on others
2) pause – let the specific feedback sink in about the behaviour NOT them as a person
3) given them recognition that they are a valued human being, and that they are better than the behaviour/action they have done.
BUT ONLY do this when some one is competent and not learning. It is vital to separate the criticism of the behaviour from them the person.
We must be specific and never vague.
The “feedback sandwich” only has value to the giver and not the receiver, think about it.
When handing over the “sandwich” it looks more palatable as all you can see is bread – however to the receiver all they taste is what is in the middle – not the bread.
As for the phrase “KISS-SLAP-KISS” ( or Clap, Slap, Clap!) Well let’s not even go there!
What is a sandwich?
The feedback sandwich has occasionally been called the “Praise sandwich” – Praise, Constructive Criticism, Praise – This is worse, just think about it.
We do not call a “meat sandwich” a “bread sandwich” – so the term “praise sandwich” is not true – it sounds like some soft and uneducated people not liking the word feedback. They appear to be trying to make the whole thing sound positive….it’s not!
Please also see our article on https://rapidbi.com/how-to-receive-feedback-from-your-manager/ and https://rapidbi.com/stopstartcontinuechangemodel/ for an alternative strategy.
The feedback sandwich model or theory is used a lot in management nursing and in teaching/ teacher training. It is not a sound or sensible approach. the sooner it is stopped the better!
Written 28 July 2012 - reviewed Feb 2014 - reviewed May 2015