If you had some negative feedback to impart to a colleague, we were told to dress it up with something pleasant. So, you would find a couple of positive elements and then sandwich the negative comment in between.
Imagine you thought a team member’s presentation was pretty good but that the slides they had created for their presentation were busy. This made them difficult to read and you spent so long trying to read the numbers in small font that you didn’t really hear what was said.
A “sandwich manager” might say …
“Mike, that presentation was great – you really looked the part up there; you were obviously in charge.
There was a problem with the slides though; they were very busy and difficult to read. Next time you need to take some of the tables out as we couldn’t read the numbers, which detracted from what you were saying.
Overall though I think the client was happy with the outcome”.
There are several issues with giving this layered feedback and these are dependent on the way you deliver the message.
- Dwell on the positives for too long … the recipient will leave the conversation thinking “two out of three isn’t bad, I did a pretty good job!”
- Dwell on the negatives for too long and they won’t hear the positive comments, or if they do, they won’t feel any positivity about them.
- Or maybe even worse, they will just leave the conversation confused. Unsure whether you were pleased with the presentation or not.
And, of course, deliver the message without any conviction and they will probably ignore everything you say, whether positive or negative.
So, what do you do when you want to give feedback?
Firstly, your posture and voice tone are critical when delivering praise or criticism. Stand or sit positively so that you have credibility and authority. You need to look as though what you are saying is important to you as well as them.
Split the feedback. Feel free to give praise at the time you think about it. After the meeting you might say:
“Mike, well done! I think the client was happy with the outcome of that presentation – you really looked the part up there; you were obviously in charge.”
Then and preferably a little later you could say, “Mike I’ve had some thoughts about how that presentation of yours could be even better, can we book in 10 minutes?”
When you are both prepared and have time for the conversation it will be easier to address the negative feedback.
Mike, I wanted to talk to you about the slides you used for your presentation. What did you think of them?
(Get Mike’s input) – Mike may already be ahead of you! If he’s not …
“I wasn’t keen on the slides; they were very busy and difficult to read. Next time you need to take some of the tables out as we couldn’t read the numbers, which detracted from what you were saying.”
Then give an example of one of the slides you found most difficult to read.
This way the praise is heard in full and the negative feedback can be heard and changes made, preferably in collaboration rather than in conflict.
Try it and let me know what you think.