June 11, 2021

The Feedback Sandwich Method in Digital 2021: pros and cons

You can find a variety of assessment methods, feedback, and interaction between management and employees. However, this is one of the well-known (for many decades) and most debated methods. We think it has as many opponents as supporters.

The Feedback Sandwich method is when you open your feedback with positive comments, followed by the main message, and then some final positive comments.

It's a longstanding way of communicating constructive criticism. But some critics think it mutes the message or overprotects the recipient. Let's explore it in more detail.

The Sandwich Feedback method example for IT and Digital Domain:

“You delivered an excellent startup presentation today! I'm sure the coverage of your speech was solid, and you provided fantastic cases and instances to prove the points you were making.

Still, it seemed to me that core pitch slides could have been improved a bit. In the future, try to use a branded pitch deck that our designer created to personalize your slides and make them more appealing, with more air on each slide.

To repeat, overall, it's a really amazing job. Once you improve the pitch deck visuals, I believe the audience will be really excited about it.”

Let's arrange this feedback approach in a burger

  • Top slice of toast: The initial positive note, telling your colleague that the presentation was insightful and there were great instances in it.
  • Meat: Kind and constructive critical remark, giving the clarification that the deck should be more individualized and captivating.
  • Bottom piece of toast: A final word confirming the positive message that your colleague has done an excellent job.

The Pros of the Feedback Sandwich method

  1. Reduces the effect of criticism.
  2. Facilitates the feedback.
  3. Allows feedback session to end on a good note.
  4. It lets team members become more receptive to criticism.

The Cons of the Feedback Sandwich approach

  1. Feedback can be confusing to the employees.
  2. The trigger word "but" (or similar ones) can compromise all the positive messages. Providing good news immediately before bad news negates the good news.
  3. You don't take constructive feedback as a compliment.
  4. Receiving criticism after being praised, can make the "hit" a bit harder than intended.
  5. Most employees prefer to begin with bad news. So it's frequently used simply for the convenience of the manager.
  6. This approach makes people just passive listeners.

We ran a short poll in the Make it in Ukraine Community about how IT and Digital Specialists felt about this approach. Here's what we found out.

  • 30% feel positive about it
  • 25% believe it depends on the work situation and the particular person
  • 10% consider this method confusing for employees

7 tips to make your feedback better

1. Always communicate face-to-face.

2. Assess and involve in dialogue the people you are giving feedback to. Ask them questions, clarify their attitude.

3. Do not hurry to run past negative.

There is a temptation to hurry towards something more neutral or positive, like providing reassurance or centering on the good points, but explaining the mistakes, or what can be done better is just as important, or even more so, then the good things that have been done. The employee's reaction, or lack of it, will tell you how to proceed with the conversation, go into more details or move on to solving the problem.

4. Adjust the feedback to the desirable results.

Before you begin your performance review, ask yourself whether your objective is to assist the employee emotionally to cope with the downsides, or to take specific steps to improve the situation.

5. Be creative, provide kind and generous compliments.

Psychologists believe that 3+ positive comments may overcome the power of just 1 negative comment. In addition, the more surprising or original the praise, the more likely it is to be memorized and appreciated. 

6. Positive information after negative one is more likely to be received, utilized and respected.

7. Another perspective always comes in handy.

An outside look can easily reveal a potential pitfall that you may not have noticed because of your familiarity with your colleague. It's just about an unbiased view.

We hope your company has a feedback system built equally well in the current HR / Talent Acquisition processes as well as in the early stages of the recruitment process.

If you need help and advice in recruiting, providing clear and correct feedback to candidates, we are happy to help you with this. It only takes 15 minutes to get your recruiting process off to a strong and breezy start. Feel free to contact us.

(This piece is based on sources: Russell Weigandt @ Medium, Fellow App Blog, The Hired Guns)

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