The Unhelpful “Compliment Sandwich”
Though it has many names, “the compliment sandwich” has been encountered by virtually every person in the professional world, and it refers to the process by which criticism is layered between compliments and positive feedback. The problem in using this model to give constructive criticism is that the criticism is overshadowed by the positive feedback in a thinly veiled attempt to lessen the blow of the criticism. Many of us are afraid of stepping on someone’s toes and would prefer to dance around anything with the slightest negative connotation– conflict avoidance at its best. Rather than trying to walk on eggshells, we should welcome both the receipt and dispersal of constructive criticism.
In her article “Stop Using the ‘Compliment Sandwich’ to Give Feedback,” Jane Burnett describes why this form of constructive criticism is not an effective form of communication, and recommends a direct approach instead.
Your positive feedback will have more meaning if you aren’t using it to smother negative feedback, and your constructive criticism might be taken to heart if it’s not hidden between compliments.