"Praise Sandwich" tastes icky

Robert Watkins comments about insincere appreciation in response to my post on the recognition gap:

A good example is the concept of the “Praise Sandwich”: take one piece of praise, one piece of criticism, and another piece of praise.

…and how he experiences the “praise sandwich:”

When done consciously like this, I find the results are strikingly insincere. I can’t help feeling that the praise was delivered purely to soften the criticism. These days, I almost entirely disregard praise that is delivered with criticism because I feel (rightly or wrongly) that it is there purely to make the “Praise Sandwich”.

I suspect that people use the “praise sandwich” believing that subordinates are more likely to accept criticism when they are feeling good… like right after a compliment. The actual result is closer to Robert’s description.

People who believe this seem to save up all their compliments to use as wrappers for criticism. Hmmm. Why condition people to expect a slap after every positive stroke?

My experience is that people are likely to accept negative 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

I think praise is different from appreciation. Praise says that one person is in a position to evaluate the other; one is up, one is down. Appreciation — at least for me — isn’t hierarchical.

Alfie Kohn has interesting things to say about praise, too.

Addendum 8/26/04: Andy, I appreciate you for pointing out typos in this post.