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Why You Shouldn’t Use the Feedback Sandwich With Millennial Employees

In the media, ‘snowflake’ often refers to the term Millennial. But why? The term snowflake refers to someone’s inability to handle difficult situations and easily becoming offended.  Major media consistently points out moments where Millennials get offended popularizing the description. With this stereotype, many managers struggle to provide constructive feedback to younger employees. As a response, managers adopt new measures delivering feedback in a ‘softer’ approach such as the feedback sandwich. This feedback technique consists of giving positive, constructive, and finishing with positive feedback mimicking a sandwich- the meat is the constructive feedback and the positive feedback are the buns. With the negative feedback surrounded by the positive, the hope is to soften the blow of constructive feedback.

The Current Approach

Whether or not this prevalent stereotype has truth, I argue that the feedback sandwich is not a very effective method in the workplace. In the cartoon to the left, the man stick figure provides a perfect example of the feedback sandwich: ‘I like your hat’ (positive) ‘you’re face is ugly’ (constructive), ‘But your top is nice’, (positive). In this satiric example, we can see that providing positive feedback does not seem to help the heavy constructive feedback. In a surreptitious way, the negative feedback seems to undermine and hide the positive feedback. Since positive feedback often outweighs negative feedback why do manager’s still use it?  The answer-  the ‘snowflake’ stereotype- someone’s inability to handle constructive feedback.

If feedback the common feedback sandwich is not helpful, what other approaches could work to help deliver constructive feedback?

One Minute Manager Technique

Kenneth Blanchard PhD and Spencer Johnson M.D. in their book, The One Minute Manager popularized an effective substitute for the feedback sandwich called the One Minute Manager technique. The technique they provided is simple and yet highly effective. Simply split feedback sandwich from both positive and negative into separate discussions. When an employee makes a mistake, a manager should as soon as possible pull aside the employee and give them a ‘one minute reprimand’. On the other hand, if the employee does someone well, the manager should soon as possible pull the employee aside and give them a ‘one minute praising’. Essentially, breaking the feedback sandwich into different conversations to ensure that reprimands does not overshadow the praise.

But how does this help in terms of handling feedback for the long term? The self-esteem of an employee can be analogous to a glass of water. Each employee starts out with a glass of water, the water in the glass is the amount of self-esteem that the employee has. When criticized, water drops pour out. When praised, water pours back in. If someone consistently experiences criticism, the water runs out and the employee burns out. Depending on the individual and the severity of the feedback, water is poured out at different rates; just as if praise is given, that will influence the individual based off their ability to receive praise and the magnitude of the praise. Unfortunately, managers often forget to pour water into the glass which leads to it running out consistently. Essentially, using suing the feedback sandwich which has a tendency to overshadow the positive with negative.

Additional Benefits to the One Minute Manager Method

 

  • Annual reviews are no longer a surprise because a manager gives feedback consistently.
  • Feedback loops are faster. Millennials have been known to ask for this in management.
  • Positive feedback stands out more giving Millennial’s a better sense of accomplishment and direction.
  • 1v1 meetings don’t need to focus on a Millennial’s mistakes and instead they can have a more career development focus.

Moving Forward

Hopefully this helps you with giving feedback in the workplace. Giving feedback to someone who is very sensitive is a very tricky thing, but if you are consistent with your approach, they will realize that you see them for their good and where they need improvement, leading to a healthier culture and outlook on their career.

Jeff Butler

Jeff Butler Internationally respected speaker and consultant, Jeff Butler helps bridge generational gaps between Millennials and companies looking for their talent and patronage. Butler has quickly built his reputation as a memorable presenter with tangible solutions for attracting, retaining, and engaging Millennials as employees and customers. Within just the past three years, he has spoken at two TEDx events and multiple Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Amazon, and LinkedIn.

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