How to evaluate using the sandwich method

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Posted: 
June 26, 2018
Written by: Anvita Saxena

Have you ever evaluated anyone? It isn’t necessary to be in a position of authority (like a team leader, manager or director) to do so. You might have used your evaluation skills in different roles we all play in our lives. As parents, teachers, co-workers or friends, we often are asked for our opinions.

It’s not easy to give your opinion, especially if it involves negative feedback. Even as a manager you want to give feedback carefully, sharing the employee’s positive points first. The goal is to avoid hurting the other person, and to make sure that your feedback is constructive and leads to improvement in the qualities which the employee is lacking.

Times when it’s hard to give your opinion

What if a good friend who’s trying to lose weight asks, “Do I look slimmer now?” If you think the friend hasn’t lost any weight or still has a long way to go, how do you say this and not hurt the person? Supposing you are asked about a dish that your co-worker is sharing. Even if you really don’t like it, can you just say, “Sorry, I can’t stand it”? Your child didn’t pass his swimming level. He might already be sad. It would be wrong to say at that time, “Why weren’t you paying attention to the coach? The others moved to the next level, and you have to repeat.”

Experience with iLEAP

I lead a public speaking group which is like Toastmasters. You could say it was the junior version of Toastmasters, as it’s for kids from ages 6 to 18 years. This group is called iLEAP. Each speech or presentation given by an iLEAP member is evaluated by another member.

In the first session, the members weren’t comfortable taking the roles of speaker and presenter, as they were afraid of being evaluated. They didn’t want someone else finding faults in their work. They thought that the role of an evaluator was to focus on the negative points in their performance. Only when I explained that evaluation doesn’t mean pointing fingers and making fun of others did the members feel comfortable taking the speech and presentation roles.

We teach the members to give their evaluation using a technique called “the sandwich method.”

The sandwich method

This technique is very useful if you’re not comfortable giving negative feedback. You can give constructive criticism without being insulting or rude. This method helps you explain what needs to be improved without rudely pointing out the shortcomings.

In the sandwich method, you start with a positive comment, which is like a slice of bread. Next come the suggestions for improvement, which are more like the meat and veggies in the sandwich. Finally, you try to close with some positive, encouraging comments, which are like the other slice of bread. That’s why this evaluation method is known as “the sandwich method.”

Whenever you’re giving an evaluation, it’s wise to keep the following points in mind:

  • Always start by saying something positive to the person. If what you’re evaluating is a dish, compliment the person on the effort that went into it. If it’s a speech, praise the person for the research.
  • Bring out the negative points gently. Don’t be blunt.
  • Always try to end with a gentle suggestion for improvement.

So you need to begin with a positive, follow with the negative and always end with a positive.

A final thought

Constructive criticism or feedback is important, especially when it means improvement and encourages correction. It’s not the feedback but how it’s given that matters. Giving feedback gently softens the criticism. This method reinforces improved behaviour, ensuring better results in the future.

Evaluation is an art. It’s a skill which is very important in our lives. How you evaluate is your decision; but since we’re a part of society, can we just say anything we think, without caring how the other person feels? Try to use the sandwich method in your daily lives. I’m sure you’ll be much happier, as will others around you.

What approach do you use when asked to evaluate something or someone? Do you think this method will be useful for you? Tell me in a comment.

Disclaimer

The opinions expressed in posts and comments published on the Our Languages blog are solely those of the authors and commenters and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Language Portal of Canada.

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About the author

Anvita Saxena

Anvita has a master's in social work and has also studied human resource management. She enjoys writing articles and leading public speaking workshops for kids. A public servant who believes we should never stop learning, she is very happy to be able to contribute to the Language Portal.

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I am a Water Safety Instructor Trainer (meaning that I train people in becoming swim instructors), and I teach my students the sandwich method all of the time! It helps them not to be as scared to give feedback to their students and especially their students' parents!

Hi, Madison,
That's a great example of a situation where the sandwich method can be helpful!

Awesome job on writing this informative article!! Congratulations, Anvita -:)

Wow, that is a great article. Well done, Anvita!

I totally agree with this article. If someone wants to build a climate of trust and honesty, this is the way. I use the sandwich method at work and at home, and it makes a difference. Thank you for sharing your opinion.

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