How to Use a Compliment Sandwich Correctly? (For Feedback)

compliment sandwich

When it comes to sharing performance reviews, managers and team leaders need to ensure constructive criticism and feedback — covering both the “good” and “bad” parts of the performance.

But, how can they do this better in order to make the feedback more effective?

To achieve the goal, a huge majority of the managers and team leaders make use of a “Feedback Sandwich,” a concept that allows them to share positive and negative feedback, at the same time, without the recipient feeling bad.

In this post, we will go through the concept and figure out everything you need to know about implementing the Compliment Sandwich or Feedback Sandwich strategy at your workplace.

Let’s get started!

Table of contents
What is a compliment sandwich?
What are the benefits of a compliment sandwich?
What are the cons of using a compliment sandwich?
How to use a compliment sandwich correctly?

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What is a compliment sandwich?

A compliment sandwich or feedback sandwich is essentially a method of providing both positive and negative feedback to the recipient in a manner where the positive feedback acts as a cushion.

To be specific, the team leader or manager will use the feedback technique to first pass positive feedback followed by critical or constructive feedback while closing the review with positive feedback.

If you are a manager who has to deliver constructive feedback on a regular basis, this is an excellent tactic as it helps you and your team members to end the review on a good note and maintain a healthy relationship.

sandwich feedback, praise sandwich, development feedback

What are the benefits of a compliment sandwich?

Now that you know what a compliment sandwich is, let’s figure out the core benefits of implementing the feedback-sharing strategy —

1. Softens the impact of negative feedback

When sharing negative feedback, managers have to be careful because each of their team members will have egos.

Communicating negative feedback while cushioning it with positive statements clearly shows that you want a positive outcome out of the conversation and want the employee or member to grow.

It helps remove friction and confusion.

2. Makes it easier to share negative feedback

Managers will find it easier to share corrective feedback as the method helps turn it into constructive criticism.

What this method does is it alleviates the anxiety and allows for a more positive feedback approach to negative feedback sharing.

The cushion of positive feedback makes the feedback giver feel comfortable and in control when giving negative feedback.

3. Helps end conversation on a positive note

As we mentioned earlier, we want the conversation or feedback session to end positively.

The compliment sandwich method allows managers to ensure the session ends productively and that the communication ends on a positive note for the parties involved.

This is possible as the corrective feedback is followed by positive feedback.

feedback technique, developmental feedback, employee feedback

What are the cons of using a compliment sandwich?

The benefits of a compliment sandwich are quite tempting. But there are some cons too! Let’s discuss the disadvantages of using the compliment sandwich method of feedback sharing —

1. Tension and confusion

As a manager, you don’t want to leave a conversation with the other party confused.

Compliment sandwich is a technique that feels like a defense mechanism as no one wants to share negative feedback directly.

If not properly administered, this method can create tension and confusion, which would not be the case if the communication is clear and direct.

2. Lacks cultural inclusiveness

Not all cultures are receptive to receiving or giving feedback, let alone negative feedback. If not properly communicated, the compliment sandwich method can cause friction, especially within companies with a global workforce.

If the recipients fail to decipher the feedback, it might cause trust issues and might impact their feeling of belongingness and psychological safety.

3. May cause anxiety

Feedback-sharing sessions can be quite stressful for employees.

Trying to alleviate the stress through the compliment sandwich method can cause more anxiety as they can sense your uneasiness with sharing negative feedback.

We suggest you lead with empathy in order to reduce anxiety and make the session more productive.

4. Might not be effective at all

A feedback sandwich or compliment sandwich is entirely a form of indirect communication where you are beating around the bush, i.e., you are not sharing the negative feedback directly.

This can promote bad listening habits in your organization and employees might think that everything is going great.

sandwich feedback method, positive feedback, provide feedback

How to use a compliment sandwich correctly?

In this section, we will discuss in detail how you can use the compliment sandwich or feedback sandwich method effectively.

So, here are the three steps you will have to go through to successfully execute the compliment sandwich technique —

1. Start positively with positive feedback (Top slice)

Be genuine with your approach to feedback sharing. Share praises that are unique to the person and acknowledge their strengths. Put more focus on their recent achievements. The start is important so make it positive.

2. Provide constructive feedback or critical feedback (Filling)

When sharing constructive or negative feedback, make sure you are specific. Share the specific areas that need to be improved. Couple that with clear and actionable instructions, insights, or suggestions to help the recipient grow.

3. End positively (Bottom Slice)

Lastly, use this opportunity to strengthen your relationship with the person. End the session by reinforcing positive aspects of the employee’s performance and showing confidence in their ability to improve.

To summarize, here’s what you want to do when using the sandwich method. You should be expressively appreciative of the recipient’s performance and work.

You should try to list out the positives in their work and be specific and sincere when delivering positive compliments.

Being generic in this situation will not help as it will give rise to confusion within the recipients’ minds. You will then have to move on to the main feedback message, which can be negative.

The feedback can be improvement-oriented or might be course-corrective.

As you share tough feedback or constructive feedback, you should avoid blaming or accusing the employee.

The best way to go about this is by using sentences with “I” statements. You should share with the employee the impact and consequences of the issues and how they can go about resolving the problems in the specific area or behavior.

At the end, you’d want to close the conversation with positive statements and support. Offer guidance and show intent to improve the recipients’ performance.

As you will be giving feedback with optimism and confidence, it will be easier for recipients to figure out the issues and be receptive to the solutions you suggest in the compliment feedback conversation.

Final thoughts

So, are you ready to start using an effective feedback sandwich technique to boost employee performance? We know it’s tough to deliver critical feedback effectively.

But, now you have a tool that you can use to coach your team members properly and provide the necessary feedback.

However, we suggest you use the trick appropriately as your feedback will work only if the recipients trust you.

They must be primed for the bad news because, at the end of the day, we all are humans. And it can be hard for us to hear bad news or bad performance reviews. Did you find this post helpful? Stay tuned for more informative posts in the future.

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