I recently received an email from a client that instantly reminded me of how I used to deliver “Poop Sandwiches” to my own employees. The staff member had always shown a desire to manage his team of Techs from behind the desk, but this time he got out on the trucks and was instrumental in observing both good and bad behavior. The end result? He improved the team’s results the very next week.  

The happy owner though delivered to this person a poop sandwich via email. It pointed out the good work from getting on the trucks and making a positive change. It then pointed out that he should have been doing this all along instead of plopping himself in his chair like an immovable object. And it ended with a “keep up the good work!” This is what’s known as a poop sandwich.  

It’s when we deliver a compliment at the beginning, a criticism in the middle and we end with a compliment. Yes, it’s a sandwich!  

I now see this being done by too many owners and managers who don’t separate the times they criticize poor behavior from the times they acknowledge good behavior.

Reasons why we do this

The reasons can be as simple as:

1. Observing behavior too infrequently so both the good and bad behaviors are stockpiled.

2. Time being so precious that the good and the bad get rolled into one encounter.

3. Fear to hold people accountable for foul-ups when it’s needed so it’s saved up until it can be sugar-coated with compliments.

Stop stockpiling all of it!   Oh, while we’re at it, I hate the term “constructive criticism.” Like “jumbo shrimp” these two words just don’t fit together. When we criticize or take disciplinary action there should be some observed behavior that is inappropriate based on the known and documented systems.

There’s no need to sugar coat it especially if you employ what I call the “Steps of Discipline.” It gives staff members the opportunity to get with the program or to get gone. No one should ever be surprised that they are getting a raise, moving up the ranks or in trouble.Frequent short feedback sessions are the trick.

Stop delivering "poop sandwiches"

Another reason we mess up on mixing praise and criticism is we forget the basic tenet of good employer-employee relations. We discipline in private and compliment in public.  

Okay, here’s a really good example of what delivering a poop sandwich is:  
    “Bob, you’re doing a fantastic job as warehouse manager at straightening out the warehouse operations. It’s never looked better! The replenishment of the Techs materials is so much faster and better and the assembly of the big ticket install jobs has really improved. The flow of materials in and out is so good now that we can really track the jobs so much better. That’s why you’ve earned a $2.00 an hour raise in pay which starts effective today.  

    But, I do want to remind you that the Purchase Orders are not being turned over fast enough to the Accounts Payable department. And you’re two months behind in the physical count of actual inventory. Also, just last week I saw a Tech wandering around the warehouse on his own because you left the warehouse gate open.  

    Okay, keep up the good work and congratulations on the raise!”
 
Now, I’m sure Bob will appreciate the raise and he might have even heard a little of the praise at the beginning. However, I’m betting he’s more focused and/or upset about all the dumping done during the middle of this.  

It’s in our DNA to lock on to criticism. Most of us don’t like it since the time we were kids. And although there are definitely times we do need to provide feedback, we do have to criticize in private and point out what must change and leave it at that. Just like there must be plenty of opportunities to find staff members doing good things that we can make a big deal about to them and in front of others.  

If it’s a compliment, keep it all a compliment. If it’s a complaint, keep that interaction all about the complaint.  

Or, you can ignore me and continue delivering poop sandwiches. The problem is they’ll continue to be no fun for your staff to swallow and they make a mess all over you, too. Poop sandwiches are messy for all!

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