The “Sandwich Method” is a tool used to reduce employee defensiveness, anger, and closed-mindedness when giving constructive criticism to a direct report. The key to this procedure is honesty. You begin by sharing what you truly respect about the individual. It has to be real or don’t use it.

The Sandwich Method Recipe

Bread 

The first slice of bread should be a quality, work habit, or character trait you truly appreciate about the person. It could be their dependability, hard work, dedication, enthusiasm, diligence, responsibility etc. What if there’s nothing you appreciate about the individual? You may not know them well enough to complete the critique, so consider getting to know them or have someone who knows them better complete the critique.

Meat

The meat is the critique. The critique should be specific and based on objective criteria or observable behavior. It shouldn’t be based on personality, and should never be an attack or fear-based. It should include expectations, a plan of activities and consequences, and a commitment from the employee to change the behavior.

Bread

The bottom slice of bread can be repeating the quality you appreciate, mentioning another admirable trait, or asking if they understand why you’re critiquing them. If you’ve supported your direct reports, both with your words and actions — they’ll know you’re trying to help them.

Building a Better Sandwich

The keys to a sandwich method that works, that helps your teammates and reduces anger and defensive, is to be straight forward, unemotional, honest and the most important ingredient is to come from help. You’re not there to critique or confront you should be there to help. When you come from help your direct reports know it, and eventually some of your teammates will be come true followers, even advocates of your leadership. If you follow the recipe you can make a perfect sandwich. When done correctly, the sandwich method works.