Feedback Sandwich: Delivering Negative Feedback

delivering negative feedback

Feedback is one of the greatest and often misused tools in management. When done right, it supports, facilitates, encourages and challenges employees to achieve higher levels of success. When done wrong, it can cause dissension, low moral and decreased performance. The purpose of this post is to briefly run through the three main types of feedback (none at all, positive and negative), explain a method of delivering negative feedback (feedback sandwich) and briefly comment on the importance of knowing how people respond to feedback.


None at all

  • Keeping employees in the dark about their performance creates anxiety and distrust.
  • Not knowing how you are performing does not facilitate growth and can cause issues to linger.
  • Mangers who do not let employees know if they are doing well or poorly are doing their team a great disservice.


Positive feedback

  • Positive feedback can motivate, encourage and reward.
  • Use positive reinforcement when appropriate for the level of accomplishment.
  • Refrain from overuse for as it can lose value and impact.


Negative feedback

  • Negative feedback is used to correct behaviors, actions and to relay poor performance.
  • It should always be presented objectively to the employee and never as a direct affront to the employee’s ability or person.
  • It should be give immediately, well before a performance review so the employee can improve.
  • The method of feedback that I have found most beneficial when delivering negative or challenging feedback is the feedback sandwich.


The feedback sandwich consists of three parts (good, bad, future good):

  • Good – Tell the employee what is going well and what is working. Give some highlights.
  • Bad – Give the negative feedback objectively as possible letting the employee know where they are lacking.
  • Future good – This is where you and the individual discuss and jointly agree how to solve the problem so they can meet their goals and objectives. The key is to end the conversation creating a vision of the future. The vision can be either good or bad, but I have found that reinforcing the positive usually leads to better results.


Looking forward

In essence, this method of delivering feedback softens the blow of negative comments, supports what is going well and gives the employee a direction. When I first received this style feedback, it felt very different. As opposed to getting hit with a brick, knowing I was in trouble and leaving the conversation disgruntled. I left the discussion knowing I had to improve, but with a sense of ease that I was on the right track in certain areas and had a roadmap moving forward.

As a Director of Infrastructure, I used the feedback sandwich often to good results. This method is not always called for when delivering negative feedback, but when used both parties leave discussion in a better space and the employee usually responds positively.

This is one way to deliver negative feedback, it would be great to learn some more. So please share your thoughts.

Derek Lauber
image courtesy: byo5com
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