Employee Feedback: Make the Compliment Sandwich Work

Is there a more effective way to deliver constructive criticism? asks Cindy McNaughton

As any boss or business owner will tell you, things don’t always go to plan. At some stage, and for a variety of reasons, you will be faced with giving an employee negative feedback. The ability to do so in a constructive, positive manner should be in any boss’ toolkit.  

It can be difficult to criticise an employee or get the balance right if there’s been a significant issue or incident. Being excessively critical can have a negative impact on an employee’s motivation and even their self-esteem, which is not something any good boss wants.  

Whatever part of the beauty industry you’re in, the key to delivering negative feedback is in how the message is conveyed and one commonly-used technique is the compliment, or feedback, sandwich. Much like a regular sandwich (bread + filling + bread), a compliment sandwich comprises negative feedback in between two slices of praise. It’s designed to soften the blow to the employee, and can also make it a little easier on the employer too. 

Divided opinion 

Opinion is divided on just how beneficial the compliment sandwich technique is, however. The University of Newcastle, for example, suggests it as a tool for giving helpful feedback, but elsewhere the thinking is that it’s just not all that beneficial.  

While the compliment sandwich can make the delivery of criticism easier for the employer – and even though you think it’s helping your employee – it may not be the most productive technique.  

For one thing, it’s confusing and can leave the employee unsure as to whether they’re doing a good job or not. According to a survey by management software company PerformYard, your employee might miss the point entirely.  

While 55% of respondents said the negative feedback within the compliment sandwich was the most important takeaway, 41% focused on the positive feedback (26% on the first ‘slice’ of positive feedback, and 15% on the second one.)  

Clearly this is not ideal; it doesn’t help to address the issue the employer wants to get across – and does nothing to ensure the issue isn’t repeated. 

So while the compliment sandwich remains popular, it seems that being clear and straightforward is more beneficial in the long run. Ditching the sandwich and getting straight to the point with your employee doesn’t mean the feedback has to be harsh – nor should it be. Getting your message across and encouraging a positive conversation is important, not just for your employee but yourself and your business too.  

Clear and specific 

“Your feedback should be clear, specific and to the point,” advises Dee McCormick, who is an accredited counsellor. “The emphasis needs to be solution focused and come from a growth mindset. Perhaps there is a skill deficit that could be addressed through training or perhaps the employee needs more support with certain aspects.” 

Empathy is vital in employee feedback, McCormick explains. “There could easily be extenuating circumstances or personal struggles underlying performance issues so it’s important to be mindful of that. 

“When employees feel overworked and under appreciated, they lose motivation and stop caring about their performance. Burnout can become contagious within the team if issues aren’t addressed and communication is poor so it’s important to keep this in mind.”  

Whatever approach you take when dealing with employees, it should all be about balance. Focus on the sort of constructive criticism that gives your employee lots of space for feeling positive and seeing a clear path to improvement. It will be to your benefit.  

If you want to post your job to our Professional Beauty Job Board, get in touch today.  

And if you’re more interested in exploring your career potential, browse all the open positions waiting for your application.

This article was produced in partnership with Jobbio.

Read the current issue of our digital magazine here:

Have an idea for a story or want to see a topic covered on our site and in our pages? Get in touch at info@professionalbeauty.com.au.

Back to top