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I love feedback, suggestions for improvement, advice, help moving in the right direction…whatever you want to call it.  Particularly when its honest, meaty and meaningful.  This is the kind of feedback is where real growth happens.  The kind of feedback that makes you go…ouch!

Feedback provided in a real honest way is always better than feedback that is caged in mystery or cotton wool.  Feedback is personal and it often hurts.

The “ouch factor” in feedback is real and will always be there, because we’re human.  I’m sorry to burst that bubble…even in the workplace when we’re often told to leave our problems at the door and just be ‘professional’.

We’ve been fed a bunch of bull about how we should just accept feedback and not be human about the fact that someone has just called our performance into question.

Giving feedback is the best gift you can give to someone, however it is an artform. Here are some suggestions of what not to do when giving feedback…I call them the “feedback insults”.

“Don’t take it personally…”

Urggg, what are they thinking?  If you ask me there are no worse words to hear, because guess what… I don’t know about you but my work and particularly my work performance is personal to me!

If feedback is not personal then it dismisses the time, effort, blood, sweat and tears that you have put into doing your work.  It dismisses the pride and passion that you have for your craft.  It dismisses the personality that you pour into what you do.

Your work performance is absolutely personal so don’t allow someone to take that away from you.  And don’t take it from someone else.

A better way is to say something like… “You have been working on X and you should be proud of your effort, and there are a couple of things that I believe could be improved.  Can we talk about them?”

Give the other person the ability to accept that the feedback as theirs…personally… or how will they grow?

“You need to behave professionally when accepting feedback.”

Another beauty.  What is professional to me, maybe different to what is professional to you.  Generally this kind of statement comes from the feedback giver (or some other well meaning colleague) because you’ve shown that you were upset by the feedback you have received.

I’m not talking about Hulking out and smashing stuff…just the normal everyday, “ouch that hurt” or “I’m confused” kind of upset.  If you are human and someone criticizes you then its going to hurt and you are going to react to that hurt.  Unless you have mastered the art of being a robot your humanness will react with emotion.

I’ve known many passionate people when receiving feedback find this statement really tough to swallow.  They are being professional by reacting with emotion…it shows you that what you have said is important to them.  Someone less ‘passionate’ may focus on the financial outcomes, profit, technical achievement of the feedback but that doesn’t mean that they are more professional or less hurt…they are just able to be more focused on practical stuff.

Emotion is not a problem in feedback, however the reaction you have to the emotion may lead to a problem.  Personally I’d be more concerned with someone who received feedback and they say “Ok, thanks for that, I’ll make that improvement.”  Skip to the loo my darling...  There’s a word for this kind of reaction and its not professional…its denial.

A better way is to accept that if you are giving feedback to a human (or you are receiving feedback and you are a human) that emotion will be part of the deal.

If there’s no emotion I’d question whether they have taken what you’ve said seriously.

“You’re so amazing, but you suck at this, but you’re amazing at that other thing…”

How do I count the ways in which the ‘feedback sandwich’ sucks?  There’s now another name for this sandwich that I’ve heard being used which I think describes it perfectly… I won’t say it here because you maybe reading this over your lunch break and don’t want to hear about body functions.

This method of feedback was taught to people in management training in the 80s and 90s, and is still taught to young professionals by their managers.

The sandwich was taught as a way of lessening the ‘blow’ of feedback.  My opinion is that if the feedback is so awful that its going to feel like a blow, then no matter how much you tell me I’m amazing at X I’m only going to hear the ‘blow’ anyway.

Thinking about feedback as a judgement or as ‘you know what’ degrades it. We need to ban the sandwich and look at accepting that focusing on growth and honesty is harder for us and puts dignity back into managing performance.

Feedback is a gift…I know that can sound a little kitsch but if you think about feedback in this way it takes it to a whole other mindset level and you will deliver it with the care it deserves.


Feedback is an essential part of life, not an insult.  People deserve to know the truth about how they are going at work and in life.  Give the gift to them and then let them decided what to do with it.

Focus on compassion, kindness and helping someone grow and you will relish not resist feedback.

#feedback #leadership #nofeedbacksandwiches

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