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Ditch the Sandwich, Slice it Thin: A Fresher Approach to Employee Feedback

The “feedback sandwich,” that well-worn staple of performance reviews, feels as comforting as stale bread these days. We layer compliments with criticism, hoping the good stuff buffers the blow. But instead, it often undermines the impact of both praise and critique, leaving employees confused and deflated.

So, let’s throw out the stale bread and get slicing with a sharper, more effective approach. 

1. Ditch the Double Dip:

Separate praise and criticism entirely. Give genuine appreciation where due, in separate conversations or moments, so it can be fully savored and owned. Then, when addressing areas for improvement, focus solely on that, with clarity and actionable steps. Two bites, not one.

2. Focus on the Future, Not the Past:

Dwelling on past mistakes isn’t helpful. Instead, frame feedback around future opportunities for growth. Use specific examples to illustrate the impact of current behaviors, but always point towards achievable steps for improvement. Forward motion, not rearview mirror gazing.

3. Make it a Conversation, Not a Dictate:

Feedback isn’t a one-way street. Encourage open dialogue, actively listen to their perspective, and co-create solutions together. This fosters ownership and commitment to change. A duet, not a solo.

4. Action, Not Ambiguity:

Vague platitudes like “be more proactive” leave them hanging. Be specific about desired actions and behaviors. Offer resources, support, and check-ins to ensure progress. Clear roadmap, not a treasure map with X marks the spot.

5. Empathy, Not Edict:

Remember, you’re not giving feedback to a machine. Consider their emotional state, communication style, and receptiveness. Deliver feedback with respect, honesty, and a genuine desire to support their growth. Caring chef, not drill sergeant.

Bonus Tip: Ditch the formality. Feedback doesn’t need to be a quarterly ritual in a conference room. Give it in real-time, in the flow of work, with positive reinforcement woven into the process. Make it a continuous conversation, not a big scary event.

By focusing on actionable steps, open dialogue, and a touch of empathy, we can make feedback a powerful tool for growth, not a dreaded chore. Remember, employees aren’t hungry for stale sandwiches. They want fresh feedback, served with a side of support and a commitment to their growth. Let’s give them the nourishment they deserve to truly thrive.

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