We’ve all heard about this: how to give feedback.
I was always brought up to avoid food fights, (though school raspberry jelly was good for not much else), and recently I was the victim of just such a sandwich flung unceremoniously in my direction.
I wasn’t sure if this was feedback badly done, or whether I really was a complete disaster in the work I’d just completed. In the cold light of a new day, and with my rational hat more firmly on my head, I am fairly sure that it was the former. After all, I know that I can do my job, even if not always perfectly.
So, this got me thinking…..
Just why was I so aggravated by this horrible sandwich? I think it comes down to something really simple: honesty.
We all know that trust and honesty are foundation stones in any relationship and tinkering with these building blocks is going to weaken the whole structure. Don’t get me wrong – we should not be brutal, discourteous, thoughtless or undiplomatic in what we say, but there are ways of getting a message over and there are ways that messages really shouldn’t be delivered.
So, what is wrong with the ‘Praise Sandwich’?
First, the negative feedback, (criticism, or suggestion for change) can get lost in the crusts of the sandwich. When the praise is too much, too gushing or focussing on major parts of a job or role, then this is what we will hear. The critical feedback will be a thin layer of sour jam that gets lost. This is completely pointless and would certainly leave me wondering why I’m suddenly getting all this praise. A bit is lovely, but lots of it? Things that happen anyway, part of the job – why are they suddenly getting a mention? I’m suspicious, confused. Was the criticism the important bit, or the praise? I’m wondering what the hidden agenda holds. Oh, and by the way, was there something you wanted me to do differently? Happy to try but I’m not really sure if it was OK or not….
Second; if the praise is thin, it will not be authentic. Any of us will see through that and head straight for the filling. There’s a double whammy here because not only am I going to be fed up that the job wasn’t right, but the giver of my feedback isn’t being honest. They want to give me criticism but they are hiding it in something meaningless. Why are they doing this? It will make little difference by now if the criticism is constructive or not; the damage to trust has already been done.
We don’t want to write our first novel and be praised for our handwriting on the cover letter. We don’t want to design an amazing new machine to be told it’s a nice colour. Get the idea?
So, next time you are giving feedback, think about this. Identify the elements that really matter and allow for small differences. Respect the person getting the feedback, be kind but be clear. Be honest but positive.