Giving Your Staff Feedback: Sugar and Sandwiches

FeedbacksmallerThe ability to get and give feedback is a practice that can propel your organization to reach new heights. However, there are many ineffective methods that leaders implement when trying to get and give feedback.

Here are a couple for you to consider. It’s kind of funny that they both have to do with food – sugar and sandwiches!

I’ll share with you the ineffective method of sugar coating first. Many times, leaders with their big hearts say to themselves: “Oh, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings so I won’t be as blunt as I should be” or “Today is not a good day to share that information because of the way she will react.” It’s important to understand that although your intent is good when you sugar coat feedback – - it is a dangerous style of communication, especially if there are behavioral issues that NEED to be addressed. When you sugar coat things, the employee gets the impression that everything is wonderful and dandy. And in the back of your mind you’re thinking, “Oh, my gosh! I wish they would change this. I wish they would do this differently. Why can’t they stop this?”

There are also potential legal issues that you have to be careful of. Imagine a situation where you have an employee who really needs to make behavioral changes. You provide them with feedback. You don’t quite want to tell it to them like it is, so you sugar coat it. That’s documented. Then later on, things get worse and worse and worse. You keep sugar coating until one day you just fire the person. There have been law suits filed against employers where there’s not proper documentation in place to show that this employee was exhibiting poor behaviors and then given the opportunity to make constructive change happen. So be very careful with the nature of your conversations and how you’re giving that feedback. Think twice before you sugar coat things. Also remember, when you sugar coat, you’re also cheating your employees out of the opportunity to make constructive change happen.

Now let’s move on to sandwiches. The other thing I’d like to caution you about when looking at giving feedback is the Sandwich Technique. Do you know what this is? The Sandwich Technique is a method of communication. You start off on a positive note, put the constructive stuff (negative feedback) in the middle and then finish on a positive note. On one of our audio programs at the Leadership Connection, Dr. Aubrey Daniels joined us. The issue was titled Positively Reinforcing Staff. He shared how the Sandwich Technique can really leave people feeling confused. They may walk away not really knowing if your message was positive or negative and unclear about the change you’re recommending. This means when the Sandwich Technique is used to provide feedback, the message that we need the person to hear isn’t heard.

Ease up on sugar and sandwiches and not only will you lose weight, you’ll also take a load off of your mind through communicating directly and giving your staff the feedback that they need to hear to make constructive change happen.

3 thoughts on “Giving Your Staff Feedback: Sugar and Sandwiches

  1. jackie says:

    Sugar coating can also cause problems when someone comes in to take your place. We had a housekeeper once that was trouble with a capitol T. Our old director always gave her a good evaluation because she did not want to take her on and she knew she (the director) would not be here much longer, so when our next director came in it was really hard to control her because even though her behaviors were the same her evals were always good so he had problems, it took around 2 1/2 years to get her moved. So like you said everyone loses, she did because her behaviors were tolerated so I know she will have a hard time adjusting to the new department, we suffered because we had to put up with it.

  2. Vicki Doehrer says:

    Hi Julie!
    I have been meaning to send you something – I’ve been an ECE trainer for a long time and I love your articles! (I’ve also been a Director of Employee Development and a District Manager on top of the usual parade of ECE roles before that! So I can really appreciate the ‘Motivate Teachers’ theme)
    I LOVE this article – what I find helpful too, are some specific phrases that my Directors can use… Perhaps you have that somewhere on your site already?
    Thanks for all you do & share with this great field of people!

  3. teachersblog says:

    Thank you for your comments! I will work on an article about specific phrases you can use in the near future.

    I love to hear from you. Thank you for all you do.

    Julie Bartkus

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>