Death to the Feedback Sandwich

I got an email from a colleague the other day at the place I volunteer. We have parallel roles — she heads up one organization, and I head up another. The first paragraph was filled with praise about how she admired my work and my parenting (really). As I read this, I knew what was coming next: a criticism.

I was not disappointed. The second paragraph was about what I was doing wrong, and how she would change it if she were me.

In true feedback sandwich style, paragraph three was glowing praise for me again.

Now, in theory, this feedback sandwich — bad news sandwiched between the Wonder Bread of praise — is how you are supposed to do it. It’s supposed to soften the blow of the bad news. Instead, it made me cringe. Now, if this woman had regularly sent me emails praising my parenting, it would have been fine, but she doesn’t.

To keep reading, click here: Death to the Feedback Sandwich

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4 thoughts on “Death to the Feedback Sandwich

  1. Now I’m wondering about the relationship between the feedback sandwich and micromanagement…

  2. Years ago, too many to count, well, maybe like 16, I had a manager who was a firm believer in this, but unlike Wonderbread, she just used weak, stale “BREAD” from the White Label brand. “I love your shirt! But your feedback during that operations meeting missed the mark. You need to be more focused, direct, and not afraid to speak up. But you really are very nice.” On one occasion my feedback was, “If you want to compliment me, then compliment me. If you want to chastise me, then chastise me. But don’t mix it because it weakens both messages.”
    The feedback sandwich and constructive criticism belong in the bin or landfill because neither is helpful. Hear me out; think about the phrase, “constructive criticism.” When was criticism ever constructive/helpful? It’s not. The second the phrase is uttered, walls and shields go up. It’s a way for a person to tell another, “I know better than you.” “You’re doing it wrong.” “You’re not doing it my way.” I’ve found it to be far more helpful to say things like, “Let’s talk about it,” or “Why do you think that?” or “Our practice/policy says to do it this way . . .” that way you’re taking on a truly constructive means of discussing an issue rather than focusing on the person.
    That’s just what I’ve found to be helpful. Mileage may vary. Not applicable in all areas. Check with your carrier for additional information, etc.

  3. As a complete skeptic my initial thought would be to wonder about the motivation of who conveyed this message to me. Soon I would ask directly, face-to-face, and in an adult way. I would soon find out if there is meat to the criticism or if the other party merely had a different opinion. I have thick skin and can easily accept constructive criticism if my corrective action leads to a better result for the group or organization.

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