Abri is a Quality Editor. Her job is to edit surveys before they go back to a client. She checks for typos and grammar issues and verifies that the scores make sense. Every time Abri completes a project, her manager reviews her work and sends feedback in an email. The manager calls it feedback; Abri calls it torture. Opening those email critiques is painful. She knows they list, in a thick block paragraph, single spaced, the microscopic details of her errors. “It’s all negative,” says Abri. “Am I really that bad?”
Understand, the manager’s emails are meant to help Abri develop her skills. But negative feedback alone cuts people off from the urge to improve. By adding a dose of sugar, the manager will see better results, sooner. Does Abri do anything right? Did she avoid making yesterday’s mistake again today? Did she complete the project early? Did she handle a complex issue in a positive way?
Managers, when giving constructive criticism (or feedback), put your people into a position to accept what you are going to say. First, mention something you value. For example, say, Thank you for getting this done so quickly. Next, the feedback: I noticed you missed three problems so you might want to go more slowly tomorrow. Finally, another positive: you’ve come a long way on these; thanks for the good work.
If an employee truly can’t do anything right, a good manager will help them move on to something more appropriate. But if Abri is, overall, a good employee, someone the company has invested in through time and training, someone they want to keep, then it is the manager’s responsibility to reinforce the positives, helping Abri see both her strengths and her weaknesses.
The Critic’s Sandwich is not a new concept, but it seems to be new to our next generation of managers. Encourage people today, and they will be training others down the road.