The Compliment Sandwich Feedback Technique, with Examples

Sandwich Feedback Technique

This article presents the popular ‘compliment sandwich technique’ for giving interpersonal feedback. Tomorrow’s follow-up article will critique this method and discuss three common mistakes that render the sandwich technique ineffective. A third article will introduce an effective feedback technique with pointers for further information.

These discussions and examples focus on manager-to-employee feedback. This analysis is, however, relevant to other interpersonal contexts—between peers or between spouses, for instance.

Managers Often Resent Giving Corrective Feedback

Managers Often Resent Giving Corrective Feedback Feedback is a central component of the manager-employee relationship. Often, managers resent giving corrective (or negative) feedback. They assume employee defensiveness and fear that negative feedback will offend the employee and thus affect their rapport with the employee. Such managers are likely to withhold criticism. They fail to provide timely, relevant feedback in various circumstances—employee tardiness to inappropriate attire (especially if the employee is of the opposite gender.)

Sandwich Feedback & Purported Benefits

The sandwich feedback technique is a popular three-step procedure to help managers who are ill at ease with providing corrective feedback. The sandwich feedback method consists of praise followed by corrective feedback followed by more praise. In other words, the sandwich feedback method involves discussing corrective feedback that is “sandwiched” between two layers of praise.

The purported benefits of this technique are twofold: (1) it “softens” the impact of the criticism or corrective feedback on an employee, and, (2) given that a manager is probably more comfortable with praising the employee, the manager finds it easier to discuss problems with the employee’s behavior if this discussion begins and ends with praising the employee.

Compliment Sandwich Feedback: Example 1

Sandwich Feedback & Purported Benefits Suppose that Andy, a new employee at a financial services firm, attended a week-long, offsite training program in New York. Each night during his stay at a hotel in New York, Andy purchased on-demand movies in his room. He included the corresponding $65 charge in his expense report. Further, Andy dined at very pricey restaurants in New York.

Jean, Andy’s manager, received the expense report for approval. Clearly, the charge for the movies had no business-justification. Jean uses the sandwich feedback technique to decline reimbursement for this expense and instruct Andy to be more prudent about expenses when on travel:

  • Praise: “Andy, I am impressed with your development since you joined my team last month. You have used the skills you learnt during your training in New York to systematically review the accounts of our customer.”
  • Criticism: “By the way, earlier this morning, I was reviewing the expense report from your trip to New York. I notice a $65 charge for on-demand movies. I have to deny this expense since it has no business-justification. I also noticed very expensive meals too. I will approve these charges this time. Given our limited travel budgets, I would ask you to be more careful about your trip expenses. You are probably not aware of our company’s travel policy. I have asked Human Resources to give you a copy of our travel policy booklet that details the acceptable expense report practices.”
  • Praise: “I am glad you were able to use the skills you learnt at this training in New York. I appreciate your hard work and your persistence with this customer. Keep up the good work.”

Compliment Sandwich Feedback: Example 2

Assume Geeta led a brainstorming meeting for an important project. Habitually, Geeta does not circulate the agendas prior to the meetings she leads. After one such meeting, Geeta’s manager uses the sandwich feedback technique to persuade her to be more organized:

  • Praise: “Geeta, we had a very productive meeting. We had the right participants. We did collect all the necessary inputs from other departments. Thanks for your coordination.”
  • Giving feedback is a central component of the manager-employee relationship Criticism: “Did you observe that the discussions were unsystematic? When you do not distribute an agenda prior to the meeting, the participants do not come prepared. During the meeting, they have to go back to their desks to collect information. Additionally, we tend to spend a lot of time digressing from the meeting objectives. How can you avoid this?” A discussion ensues.
  • Praise: “You are doing so well with gathering all the inputs. I am pleased about your diligence in circulating minutes of your meetings and following-up on action items. “

Concluding Thoughts

The sandwich feedback technique enables a manager to restructure feedback so it is easier to deliver, reinforce good behavior and ask for improvements to the employee’s behavior.

Tomorrow’s article will discuss, with simple examples, three common mistakes that defeat the purpose of sandwiching corrective feedback between two layers of praise. In summary, it’s best to be direct when giving feedback, because the compliment sandwiches are easily spotted as inauthentic.


  1. says

    I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Jason Rakowski

  2. says

    I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

    Tina Russell

  3. John says

    I’ve actually taken a few psychology courses and I can see how the sandwich feedback technique works off positive reinforcement to improve the productivity of the team group. Pretty interesting read all together.

  4. Bobby says

    The sandwich technique is horrible, It was done to me and I was confused by the mixwed message and very upset at the ingenuine behaviour from my manager. Dont use it because it teaches people you are deceitful

  5. Eethan says

    This sandwich technique is misleading. I mean If you want to give a criticism, you should give a criticism and give recommendation to the concerned person.

  6. Drew says

    This post was extremely informative.

    I feel you missed the point.

    Keep up the good work.

  7. Sam Chaudhuri says

    The sandwich feedback technique as illustrated in the article can be improved if the criticism stands by itself even though it is sandwiched by praises. Criticism must not be lost in the sandwich by the praises. Criticism should be accentuated because the primary objective of the feedback is to improve his/her ability in doing certain job-related activities.

  8. says

    I have learned that there are sandwich feedback and also the how to give feedback: the simple 3-step sandwich method.

    Moreover, i have also learned three-step process for sharing criticism in a supprtive way.
    Those steps are the following:

    1. Step one: Appreciate the person
    2. Step two: Challenge the behaviour
    3. Step three: Support constructive change

  9. Kevin says

    I notice there seems to be a great amount of discontent from people in regard to using this feedback technique. I, for one, find it to be highly effective, but only when one masters the art of using the praise to create context and build confidence, as opposed to just giving random praise for unrelated behavior, with some unrelated issue we have placed in between.

    A good example of properly used praise sandwich feedback would be:

    “Andy, I just want you to know how fantastic your work has been, especially in the time following your visit to the workshop in New York!

    I just want to point out that some of the expenses you reported from the trip do not meet our travel policy guidelines and unfortunately were not approved. The charges for the pay per view movies will not be reimbursed. Also, some of your meals seemed to be a bit higher in price than our policy allows for; but in this case those have been approved, taking into account that this is your first work-related trip for our organization.

    We will get you a full copy of the travel policy from HR so you know the guidelines moving forward.

    Again, You are doing amazing work and it does not go unnoticed. Your ability to learn new information and policy from this workshop tells me that this too will merely be a learning experience for you, so I am fully confident that future trips will be completely within the acceptable limits in regard to expense reimbursement. Keep up the good work! ”

    The imortant thing to consider and keep in mind is that our ability to create context is always going to be the lynchpin when it comes to delivering critical feedback. We want to come from a place of understanding and solidarity; and our ability to make someone feel empowered that they have what it takes to fix the issue is what will uktimately make the response to our feedback effective, as opposed to deflective or defensive.

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