Stop Serving Shit Sandwiches in Performance Reviews

September 9, 2014

Many of you have learned that providing feedback to others should be given in the following sequence: Good | Bad | Good.  The first “Good” is a positive affirmation and is used to demonstrate trust and confidence in your reports. Next you raise the issue that is of most concern to you about their performance or behavior. Then, after you’ve delivered that piece of SHIT, you end with more positive affirmations about their performance.

“Just stop this management practice, it truly confusing for the recipient,” says Gil Schwenk, management guru from Bath, England. He believes that “90% of managers do not address poor performance effectively” because they commingle criticisms with positive feedback, and because they don’t respond to poor performance when it’s most meaningful–when it happens.

“If you have someone performing well,” says Angela Walterscheid, expert management trainer, “give that feedback immediately. Don’t wait for a one-on-one. When the feedback is less than affirming, give it direct. I really like to use the philosophy of Difficult Conversations.”

The premise of Difficult Conversations is that during a difficult conversation most people can agree on the situation at hand (what happened). Where people tend to disagree or run into conflict is with how they feel about the situation and how it relates to their identity. We all have multiple identities–CEO, husband, wife, daughter, etc.–and, depending upon which one we feel has been misunderstood or wronged, we behave accordingly (and sometimes perplexingly, from others’ perspectives). The authors encourage people to approach difficult conversations from a curious perspective–with a desire to learn more about the emotions and identities that have come into play.

Walterscheid is also a big fan of Susan Scott’s methodology, as outlined in her book Fierce Conversations. Scott encourages leaders to approach difficult/fierce conversations in the following manner:

  1. Name the issue
  2. Select a specific example that illustrates the behavior or situation that needs to change
  3. Describe your emotions about the issue
  4. Clarify what is at stake
  5. Identify your contribution to this problem
  6. Indicate your wish to resolve this issue
  7. Invite the other person to respond

Stop Serving Shit Sandwiches

Are you among the 90% of managers/leaders who are ineffective at handling your coworkers’ poor performance? Are you still serving SHIT sandwiches during performance reviews? Or are you providing positive and negative feedback when it is most useful and meaningful? When it happens.

Provide feedback in the moment. And know how to manage difficult/fierce conversations in a constructive manner.




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