Should You Sugarcoat Your Performance Reviews?

July 19, 2017 | 1,583 views

Should You Sugarcoat Your Performance Reviews?

Should You Sugarcoat Your Performance Reviews?

It’s tempting, isn’t it? You’re face-to-face with someone who could stand to hear a little bit of constructive criticism, but you don’t want to come right out and say what went wrong with his or her performance. So, you choose the sandwich method instead. You tack on something nice to the front end of your statement, throw in the awkward critique in the middle, and then finish up with another nice comment. The goal is to make the person feel good, or sugarcoat the criticism a little bit, so that they’re not demotivated.


Is this the right approach to performance reviews? Or could you get more out of your team if you dropped the sugarcoated sandwich approach? Let’s take a closer look.

How Did You Set Up the Performance Review?

We recommend scheduling a performance review in advance. Never call a person in to receive their performance review without knowing that’s on the to-do list for the day. Doing that will only put the person on edge from the start, making it harder for your message to be heard.


What Does the Person Expect to Hear?

Have you set the person up to hear your constructive criticism? Or will this be the first time she’s told she’s not doing a good job?


If you’re doing your job as a manager, you probably have made mention about the person’s poor performance once or twice. By gently, but directly, reminding her about where she can improve, you won’t catch her off guard but instead, offer up a softer critique that still gets heard and absorbed.


What’s Your Overall Goal?

Sure, you want to get better performance out of your team. That’s why you go through the painstaking task of holding these awkward meetings with uncomfortable conversation. But there’s a bigger goal here. It’s the goal of offering your team the chance to develop their skills for use at your company and beyond.


Approaching a performance review this way takes away the sting. It comes across more like a message from a mentor rather than criticism from a manager. Think big picture for the person in front of you and you’ll have a better response without having to drip your reviews in honey first.


What’s the Worst Way to Deliver Feedback?

No matter how softly you try to deliver your message, if you ever incorporate any other team members into your performance review, you’ve caused damage. Suddenly, the person will go on the defense. If you name names, the person will get even more defensive. She will shut off to all feedback and instead revert back to her old habits. Never name names or loop other people into your review.


A New Approach

Before you schedule your next performance review, consider taking a new approach. Instead of being overly nice and sugarcoating the problems you’re seeing arise in the workplace, try being more directive. State up front the areas where you see room for improvement. Then, be honest with your feedback about how the employee can achieve that improvement.


Although it’ll feel like you’re being blunt (and you are), you’ll get better results from your employees in the long run, and produce more motivated, inspired, and harder working team members as a result.



Author Profile Jon Forknell is the Vice President and General Manager of Atlas Business Solutions, Inc., a software marketing company specializing in employee scheduling software, including ScheduleBase employee scheduling software, and other business software solutions. In the past, Jon has been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Atlas Business Solutions was named as one of Software Magazine’s Top 500 Software Companies in 2004 through 2007 and again in 2010, 2013 and 2014.

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