Why Is The Feedback Sandwich Bad? And How To Give Better Feedback

The feedback sandwich, a popular technique and it is commonly used method for delivering constructive criticism. It involves starting with a positive comment (compliment), followed by the critical feedback (criticism), and concluding with another positive comment (compliment). This technique is intended to soften the impact of criticism by framing it with praise, with the goal of making the recipient more receptive to the feedback. However, it often leads to confusion and mixed messages, as the critical point may be overshadowed by the surrounding compliments.

Effective feedback is essential for growth and improvement, but when delivered incorrectly, it can do more harm than good. Here’s a look at why the feedback sandwich falls short and how you can provide feedback more effectively.

It Can Mask the True Message:
The main critique. When critical feedback is sandwiched between praises, the key message may be lost, leaving the recipient unclear about the improvements needed.

It May Come Across as Inauthentic:
Questioning sincerity. People often perceive the positive feedback in a sandwich as insincere, merely a setup for the negative, which can undermine trust.

It Can Create Anxiety Around Positive Feedback:
The anxiety trigger. Over time, recipients might begin to dread positive feedback, anticipating the negative that is likely to follow.

It Dilutes the Importance of Positive Feedback: Diminishing the good. Similarly, genuine accomplishments may be undervalued when they’re consistently paired with criticism.

How To Give Better Feedback: Instead of using the feedback sandwich, consider these strategies for more effective communication:

  • Be Direct and Specific: Clarity is crucial. Offer clear, concise feedback that focuses on specific behaviors or outcomes, avoiding vague or generalized comments.
  • Separate Positive and Constructive Feedback: Maintain integrity. Give positive feedback independently to celebrate successes. Deliver constructive feedback separately to address areas for improvement.
  • Focus on the Behavior, Not the Person Behavior-oriented. Center your feedback on the behavior or the work outcome, not the individual, to avoid personal defensiveness.
  • Encourage a Two-Way Dialogue Open conversation. Feedback should be a conversation, not a monologue. Encourage questions and discussion to ensure understanding and mutual agreement.

Moving away from the feedback sandwich to more straightforward, honest feedback respects the intelligence and capabilities of your team members and can lead to more significant development.

Lead From Within: Effective feedback is the cornerstone of development and performance. It should uplift, clarify, and guide, not confuse or discourage. Choose your words with the intent to build, not to dismantle.


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Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

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