Praise Sandwich Tastes Icky, II

Art Petty posted Why I Hate the Praise Sandwich.

Praise sandwich, as you recall, involves buttering someone up with a compliment or praise, stating a criticism, and then fluffing them back up with another bit of praise.

Sounds icky, too, doesn’t it?

Art offers:

5 Reasons Why the Sandwich Technique is a Truly Bad Practice:

It is a crutch that is solely for the benefit of the giver, not the receiver.

It obfuscates the real message.

It confuses the receiver by watering down the key message.

It destroys the value of positive feedback by linking it with the negative. Don’t forget that positive feedback is a powerful tool for reinforcing the right behaviors and the sandwich technique devalues this tool.

It is insulting to the receiver and borderline deceitful. “Bob, you did a great job on XYZ, but… .” It’s like a pat on the back followed by a sucker punch followed by another pat on the back.

I agree. Been sayin’ so for years.

I commented on Art’s post:

I find that many people (including managers) don’t know how to offer feedback in a direct and respectful way. I teach people to use this framework:

Create an opening so you are sure it’s a good time for the person to hear you… not when he’s getting ready for a big meeting or rushing to pick up his kid.

Describe behavior or results. Use neutral language and examples. If the person doesn’t recognize himself in the description or agree with the data, the conversation is over. Labels, comparatives, and absolutes raise defenses.

Describe the impact. If there’s no impact, why are you having the conversation?

Make a request. You may have a specific behavior in mind, or you may want to engage in problem solving. It depends on the situation.

Finally, don’t sell past the close. If the person gets the point after you describe the behavior, zip it. Otherwise, it feels like you are beating a dead horse.

My experience is that people are likely to accept critical feedback when:

1) the giver or source is believed to be reliable

2) the receiver trusts the intentions of the giver

3) the receiver has a chance provide clarifications

4) the process is fair–both the way the feedback was developed and the way the feedback was communicated

Praise sandwich tends to erode trust in the feedback givers intentions, and once that’s gone, there’s not much chance any useful information will get through.