Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Feedback Sandwich--No

Photo by Victoria Shes on Unsplash
Yesterday, I was again in a training event where I was told how great the feedback sandwich is. For those who don't know what a feedback sandwich is, it is a method used to address performance issues with employees that ostensibly saves their feelings and helps performance. Basically, you tell the person something they are doing well, then tell them the thing you would like to see them do better, then end with something they are doing well.

Although there are times when the feedback sandwich may be a useful tool, over time I have become convinced it is a tool for a lazy supervisor.

Look at the hotdogs on the left. I am not a hot dog fan. I don't eat them often, but when I do, I load them up with a lot of other ingredients (more than you see here) so I don't taste the hotdog. That's really what happens with a feedback sandwich. The good things surrounding the area for improvement, which is usually why we are having the conversation to start with, cover up the "meat" of the feedback. Consequently, our employee doesn't get the true flavor of the sandwich.

But you say, "The sandwich helps keep a person from feeling bad and ensures they know I see all of the good things they are doing as well as the bad." In truth, if you have a person that has a lot of angst over negative feedback, they will generally ferret out the negative, regardless of how small, and fret over it anyway. Most other people will focus on the first and last and treat the middle as a minor issue if they hear it at all.

We all want our people to perform at an optimum level. We all want our employees to be motivated. And no one likes to be an ogre. So how do we give feedback correctly?

First, we work hard to create feedback culture. Much of the reason people freak out over negative feedback is because they don't get much feedback at all. The feedback we give them isn't done correctly.

I don't want to make this post too long so I will not go into details on how to deliver feedback; I'll just say we need to give a lot more of it, most of it positive. We look at feedback as a negative thing. Instead, as leaders we should look at feedback as a critical leadership tool. A person cannot improve without feedback. Failing to give frequent feedback, both good and bad, is cheating our employees. We are holding them back from reaching their potential.

Regular, honest feedback, good and bad, helps people grow and to perform better. The more feedback people get, the more they look at feedback as part of the work culture and expect it. If feedback is done properly, it doesn't feel like a personal attack, it feels helpful, because it is.

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