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Is Feedback A Sandwich?

How to provide effective feedback to improve performance.

Dr. Lee Kang Yam

Chief Learning Curator | Flame Centre

How to provide effective feedback to improve performance | Performance Management

I often asked managers and supervisors whether they have attended a training on providing effective feedback to their people and I am often surprised that many have not. It is quite surprising that while managers and supervisors are expected to provide feedback to their people, they are not properly equipped to give effective feedback.

However, everyone knows the ‘sandwich’ feedback method, which is something like a ‘bad news’ wrapped around two pieces of ‘good news’. While ‘sandwich’ feedback seems to appear ‘constructive’, it can be perceived as insincere and worse people may only hear the good stuff confused by the ‘good news’.

Have you ever wondered why you give feedback to improve performance?

Is it to tell people what you think about them? Why? What is the purpose of doing that? Is it to get ‘it’ off your chest?

The primary purpose of feedback is to improve performance. Giving feedback for the sake of feedback is pointless if it does not improve performance.

Providing Effective Feedback Has Three Components

State the:

  1. Context

  2. Behaviour or action of the staff

  3. Impact of the person’s behaviour

Example 1

I observed that in a project meeting, one of our staff did not answer a question from another department and when the person repeated his question, our staff was not looking at him while answering the question. Using the above feedback method, I structured my feedback statement into the following:


“Yesterday, in our interdepartmental meeting”


“I observed that when the colleague asked a question, you did not provide a reply at first. When he repeated the question, you answered the question while looking away.”


“I am concerned that our colleagues might perceive that you are not interested in his question or that our department is arrogant.”

When giving feedback, do not immediately use the ‘why” word or use judgemental words.

Example 2

“Why were you rude yesterday?”

That can trigger a defensive or aggressive response. Instead, state the facts, the actions and possible impacts that may result from the person’s behaviour. The aim of the feedback is to understand the reason(s) for the behaviour and let the person be aware of the impact of their actions.

We can problem-solve using the ARMS model:


Is it a lack of ability or skills?


Is there a job role misfit?


Is there a lack of motivation?


Is there a lack of proper systems or structure?

Example 3

In the above example, I found out that the reason for the behaviour was because the staff felt inadequate to provide a clear answer to the colleague’s question and tried to ignore the question in order not to look ‘bad’ in front of his superiors. When I found out that it was a lack of knowledge and ability to answer ‘difficult’ questions, I coached him on how to structure effective replies.

What feedback method are you using?


If you find this useful, check out our Performance Management tools and how we can help managers and organisations manage appraisals to align, inspire and empower high performance.

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