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Learn a better way to give constructive criticism

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

When it comes to giving criticism, many managers have been taught to use the “sandwich” approach: Start with a positive statement, present the problem or concern, then finish with another upbeat sentence or bit of praise. But because the technique is so familiar, workers often view such conversations as insincere. They’ll ignore the “bread,” even if the complimentary statements are true, then walk away feeling defensive and hyperfocused on the negative “meat.” 

As an alternative, some experts prefer an approach called the “open-faced sandwich.” In this variation, a manager specifically states the problem, explains how this behavior creates a challenge, then asks for the desired change and offers support. Presenting the criticism in a straightforward manner keeps the listener from questioning your honesty. Your willingness to listen helps reinforce that you value the person and want to see him or her succeed. Coupled with the following tips, you have a recipe for success:


Don’t procrastinate because you fear unpleasantness. “Sometimes we wait to offer criticism until we’re irritated,” says Joseph Grenny, co-author of Crucial Conversations. “That’s a bad idea because in spite of our best efforts to mask our emotions, the way we offer criticism inevitably changes. Our goal is no longer to be constructive; it’s to punish.” 

Focus on facts 

Use nonjudgmental and objective terms to describe behaviors that create problems rather than label others, which makes them defensive. Present a verifiable statement, such as “The report was not on my desk at 5 p.m.” rather than “You’re a slacker who doesn’t care about the company.” 

Invite dialogue 

After sharing your concerns, encourage the other person to share his or her perspective. “If your goal is to be constructive, you’ll want to know where your data is wrong, limited or unfair,” Grenny says. “Encourage a healthy discussion. The result of your openness will be a greater openness on the part of the other person.”



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