Why you should NEVER resort to 'sandwich feedback' during employee performance reviews

Karin Iten, Fsp Business, 08 Apr. 2015

Tags: performance review, employee reviews, employee appraisal, employee performance reviews, review feedback, how to give employee feedback, sandwich feedback, feedback sandwich

We've all done it. To counter the blow of telling someone something negative, we throw in a little positivity.

But doing this during an employee's performance review is a BIG mistake.

Read on to discover why this type of 'sandwich feedback' is detrimental to your business' success...


The four dangers of sandwich feedback revealed

Sandwich feedback doesn't work during performance reviews

Sandwich feedback happens when you place negative feedback between two pieces of positive feedback.
And, according to the Harvard Business Review, if you use it, you need to ditch this feedback method right away. 
Here's why:
#1: It alienates employees
'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,' reveals the site. Studies show most employees prefer to receive negative feedback directly – without any 'cushioning'.
#2: It devalues what you're saying
Many managers assume that the sandwich feedback approach is there to ensure your employee's review is balanced. After all, we're taught that negativity isn't very motivating. 
While this is true, when you offset negativity with a positive remark all it does is undermine the value of any positive takeaways. They no longer come across as valuable or true. 
In addition, adds Satoris Culbertson, an assistant professor of Management at Kansas State University, sandwich feedback comes across as downright insincere. This because 'if you're struggling to find positive things to say, two ridiculous positives with one very serious negative may appear condescending and insincere. In addition, it may make a mockery of the overall message that needs to be sent.'
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#3: Managers use it to reduce their own anxiety not their employees
No matter how 'hard' you are, it's never nice to talk about the bad things. And many managers find doing so in a formal setting like an employee review very uncomfortable. But 'easing in' to giving negative feedback fuels your anxiety (you're delaying the inevitable). And, when your employee does receive it, the blow can be much harder to deal with than if you'd been upfront. 
#4: It weakens the significance of corrective feedback
At the end of the day, performance reviews are there to show your employee where he needs to concentrate on to get better results. If you're constantly praising, criticising and praising him, your employee starts to discount the 'you need to work on these areas'. And who can blame him? We'd all rather focus on the good than the bad. 
And remember, feedback is only effective when it's timely, relevant and forthright. If you veil negative feedback with positive, or vice versa, your employees will soon learn to distrust you and your appraisal system. 

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