The “Sandwich Approach” Undermines Your Feedback

Have you ever used the “sandwich approach” to give negative feedback to your direct reports? You sandwich the negative feedback between two pieces of positive feedback. It’s a common method, but the sandwich approach may be undermining both your feedback and your relationships with your direct reports.

First, let’s look at why leaders use the sandwich approach and why it doesn’t work. In my work with leadership teams, the majority of leaders say they have used the sandwich approach to give negative feedback. They offer several reasons:

They think it’s easier for people to hear and accept negative feedback when it comes with positive feedback. When I ask these leaders how they know this, almost all of them acknowledge that they simply assume it. When I ask — or have them ask — their direct reports how they would prefer to receive negative feedback, almost all of the direct reports say they want just the meat — no sandwich. If you give a feedback sandwich, you risk alienating your direct reports. In addition, they are likely to discount your positive feedback, believing it is not genuine.

They assume the sandwich approach provides balanced feedback. These leaders want direct reports to understand that the negative feedback is only part of their performance evaluation. But this balance claim disintegrates when I ask, “Do you also feel the need to balance your positive feedback with negative feedback?” It is important to give positive feedback, but saving it to offset negative feedback delays the value of the positive feedback. The research shows that feedback — positive or negative — is best shared as soon as possible.

They believe that giving positive feedback with negative feedback reduces discomfort and anxiety. Less often, leaders admit that they use the sandwich approach because they’re uncomfortable giving negative feedback. It’s easier to ease into the conversation with some positive feedback, these leaders say. In fact, though, “easing in” creates the very anxiety they are trying to avoid. The longer you talk without giving the negative feedback, the more uncomfortable you’re likely to become as you anticipate giving the negative news; your direct reports will sense your discomfort and become more anxious.

Effective leaders are transparent about the strategies they use when working with others. The sandwich approach is designed to influence others without telling them what you’re doing — it is aunilaterally controlling strategy — in other words, a strategy that revolves around you influencing others, but not being influenced by them in return.

Imagine that you plan to use the sandwich approach with Alex and Stacey, two direct reports who just gave a presentation to your senior leadership team. To understand why you’re reluctant to share your strategy, take the transparency test — a thought experiment with three simple steps:

  1. Identify your strategy for the conversation. Your strategy is to start with some positive feedback to relax Alex and Stacey, then give them the negative feedback — the purpose of the meeting — and then end with more positive feedback so they won’t be so disappointed or angry.
  2. Imagine telling the people your strategy. You would say something like, “Alex and Stacey, I have some negative feedback to give you. I’ll start with some positive feedback to relax you, and then give you the negative feedback, which is the real purpose of our meeting. I’ll end with more positive feedback so you won’t be so disappointed or angry at me when you leave my office. How does that work for you?”
  3. Observe your reaction. Do you find yourself laughing at the absurdity of making your strategy transparent? If you think “I could never say that,” it’s because the strategy is unilaterally controlling: it is an attempt to control the situation without letting Alex and Stacey in on the plan. Unilateral control strategies only work when the other people don’t know your strategy or are willing to play along. And they are less effective than transparent strategies.

You can use this three-question transparency test in any situation to determine whether your strategy is unilaterally controlling.

Avoid the Sandwich: Use an Effective, Transparent Strategy

Here’s an approach to giving negative feedback that is transparent and increases you and your direct reports’ ability to learn from the feedback:

“Alex and Stacey, I want to talk with you because I have some concerns. The presentation you gave to the senior leadership team this morning may have created confusion about our strategy. Let me tell you how I’d like to approach this meeting and see if it works for you. I want to start by describing what I saw that raised my concerns and see if you saw the same things. After we agree on what happened, I want to say more about my concerns and see if you share them. Then we can decide what, if anything, we need to do going forward. I’m open to the possibility that I may be missing things or that I contributed the concerns I’m raising. How does that work for you?”

This transparent approach is more effective than the sandwich approach for several reasons. First, by sharing your strategy and asking them if it will work, you, Alex, and Stacey jointly design the meeting process, increasing the chance that you will all learn from it. Second, because everyone knows the planned sequence of the meeting, everyone can work jointly to keep the meeting on track. Finally, by expressing that you may not have all the information and that you may even have contributed to the problem, you shift the meeting from one in which you’re simply telling Alex and Stacey what you think to a meeting in which all of you are exploring together what happened and planning how to move forward.

This transparent, mutual learning approach doesn’t work better than the unilaterally controlling sandwich approach simply because you are saying different words. It works because you’ve shifted your mindset. That shift means thinking of negative feedback as a way to help your direct reports improve as you learn what you may be missing. It means thinking of feedback as a way for you and others to make informed choices together. Giving negative feedback transparently means respecting your direct reports, not controlling or alienating them; makes both your negative and positive feedback feel more genuine to your direct reports; and lowers your discomfort and their anxiety.

Reposted from Harvard Business Review 

By: Roger Schwarz, an organizational psychologist, leadership team consultant, and president and CEO of Roger Schwarz & Associates. He is the author of Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams: How You and Your Team Get Unstuck to Get Results. For more, visitwww.schwarzassociates.com or find him on Twitter @LeadSmarter.

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Are you miserable at work?

Are you miserable at work? Do you never feel good about getting up and heading to work on Monday? Do you feel unchallenged, unhappy, or not in control? Is your boss the worst? Do your coworkers engage in unjustifiable complaining all day long? Is no contribution ever good enough? If you continue to participate in any of these situations, you will ensure that you will continue to hate your job. And, hating your job is the centerpiece for a miserable life. Why go there?
• Participate in the conversations of or hang out with people who are always finding fault with the company, the management, the customers, their coworkers, and more. Legitimate concerns, that are actually addressed aside, If you wallow in misery and unhappiness, and listen to unhappy, difficult people, it cannot help but bring you down. Unhappiness and criticism are contagious. Move on to avoid catching the bug.

• Stay in a job that is unchallenging, unexciting, and unrewarding. Day after day, year after year, you are numbing your mind and your heart with work that doesn’t fulfill you. You have options. See a career counselor at your local community college, technical school, or adult education program. Find out about other job opportunities; find ways to use your current skill set differently, and take tests and talk with the counselor to identify work you might find more exciting. If you are a college grad, keep in mind that your college career services office may be able to help you, regardless of when you graduated.

• Fail to take responsibility for your own development. You can wait forever for a non-communicative boss to give you feedback about areas to improve and your personal and professional growth and development. In fact, in some organizations, you can wait years for a performance appraisal or performance feedback. Why wait on someone else? Why not take responsibility yourself? No one will ever care as much about your personal and professional growth and development as you do. And, no one else has as much to gain from continued growth.

• Continue working for a bad boss. Bad bosses, whether abdicators of responsibility, or just plain nasty acting people, rarely change without some life transforming event occurring. The event may happen, but how long are you willing to wait around complaining about how unhappy you are at work?

• Work for a company that has business practices you disrespect. Work for a company that lies to customers? Makes promises to employees that are never kept? Bail as quickly as you can. The culture that enables those practices is a tough one to change – if any of the leaders even want to change the culture. Since executives and the founder largely drive the culture, don’t hold your breath. There are better, more ethical, companies where you can seek employment.

• Work in a company that is constantly in danger of going under. I’m not suggesting that you leave a good company that is experiencing temporary woes. But, a company that is constantly operating near bankruptcy can wear out your optimism and enthusiasm. This is especially true if you are not in a position to have a large impact on the company’s budgeting, spending, or financial performance.

• Stay in a job in which you feel stuck. There are many reasons why you may feel stuck. Your company is small and there is nowhere to go. You’ve been passed over for promotionbecause of a lack of education, experience, or mentoring opportunities. You’ve sought additional responsibilities and an expanded job to no avail. You’ve talked with your boss and the problems appear to be insurmountable. If you are ambitious and want to expand your knowledge and career, it’s time to go.

• You try to make contributions and come up with ideas to improve the work or work environment, but your ideas are never implemented. Worse, they go into a dark hole and you never hear a response to your suggestions at all. Staying in a work environment that fails to respond to employee suggestions will eventually make you question the value of your suggestions. Any environment that promotes you questioning your value or your contribution is toxic to your self-esteem and self-confidence. Find a more supportive work environment.

• You are tired of living paycheck to paycheck. Your current job is never going to pay you more than minimum wage; you’re not willing to wait years to hit $11.00 an hour. Average raises are in the three to four percent range annually, so you can look at your current payand easily predict where it will be, with no changes, in the future. For how much money and how long are you willing to work? You have options. Explore a better paying future.
You want to live your life as if the glass is half full, not half empty, so consider each of these described situations carefully. Are you settling for less than you can have or be? If so, you may want to consider other options.

Reposted from: Stop Being Miserable at Work
You Don’t Have to Be Unhappy at Work if You Follow These Recommendations By Susan M. Heathfield, About.com Guide

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Beautiful Inside out!

Beautiful Inside out!

A night with Margeurite Evans: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” -Proverbs 31:30

“About Marguerite: Marguerite’s personal testimony of freedom from low self-esteem and devalued self worth and life growing up without her father brings hope, freedom and breakthrough. Her story is one of the power of God’s transformational, unconditional love and destiny. In God truly anything is possible!”

Visit her at http://margueriteevans.com

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Jose Abad Santos Day in Pampanga – May 7 2013

The Filipino Scribe

The nation will commemorate the 71st death anniversary of Jose Abad Santos, former Chief Justice and World War II hero, this May 7. The day, which falls on Tuesday, is a special non-working holiday in the province of Pampanga, including Angeles City. This is by virtue of Republic Act 8815, which was enacted into law in 2000, during the time of then-President Joseph Estrada. RA 8815 can be accessed here.

There remains a dispute about the exact date of Abad Santos’ death, with some historical accounts indicating that the San Fernando, Pampanga native was in fact executed on May 2, 1942. At the sidelines of last year’s commemoration, San Fernando mayor Oscar Rodriguez argued that the argument over the date of Abad-Santos’ death should not eclipse his heroism.

Abad Santos could have avoided his execution but he refused to pledge allegiance to the Japanese oinvaders. One…

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Noynoy Aquino in Time 100 most influential list – AND SO?

The Filipino Scribe

United States-based Time Magazine released today their annual list of the 100 most influential persons in the world, and included this year is Philippine President Benigno Aquino III. Other world leaders recognized this year includes United States President Barack Obama, Argentinian-born Pope Francis, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. See the complete list here.

In his write-up, Time news director Howard Chua-Eoan said Aquino “quickly began making his own name” after winning the presidency in 2010 mainly by relying on his parents’ legacy. The author described the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. as the “Philippines’ most famous political martyr” and former President Corazon Aquino as the country’s “most beloved President” (so much superlatives, eh?).

“The sputtering economy stabilized and became hot,” the writer added. Chua-Eoan credited Aquino’s courage in pushing through the contentious reproductive health law even if the Philippines is a “fervently Catholic nation.” The magazine also…

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