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Hey Bosses: Forget the Compliment Sandwich, Try the Happy Hour Rule Instead

Forget the compliment sandwich, try the happy hour rule instead
Forget the compliment sandwich, try the happy hour rule instead

Oh, goodness gracious. Can we eliminate the compliment sandwich once and for all? I mean, it’s not even a good metaphor, unless that sandwich is a nasty baloney sandwich on stale bread. Then it works great. Your compliments are lackluster at best, and your criticism goes down like a piece of baloney.

If you’re not familiar with the phrase, allow me to give you an example:

“Hey! Let’s talk about your performance. First of all, I like your shirt. What a great color. You need to make sure you come to work on time. If you can’t make it by 8, you should switch your routine so you’re leaving the house earlier than you do. By the way, your desk is always clean, so that’s nice.”

It always falls a little flat, doesn’t it? As if the compliments are contrived simply to diffuse what the person is really trying to say?

That’s because they are. Someone really wanted to tell you that it’s unacceptable to show up at 8:15, and instead of coming out and saying that, they tried really hard to find things they liked about you.

It isn’t fun to hear, and that’s why you should stop doing it.

In fact, there’s a much better way to deliver constructive criticism, and it goes by the name of my favorite hour of the day.

It’s the Happy Hour rule, and it’s called that because happy hour is often 5-7 pm. So, the rule says you should give someone five to seven compliments for every piece of constructive criticism you give them.

And not all at the same time, either!

Why This Works

Our brains are hardwired for negativity (sucks, doesn’t it?), and as such, we hear and remember negative feedback at a higher rate than we absorb and understand positive feedback. So, the compliment sandwich fails because we very rarely hear the good things (and the good things are very rarely good!) and we focus on the negative.

However, if you can give positive feedback without the negative edge, and remember the ratio, your coworkers will know that you value them and will take the feedback better than if you simply came out with criticism, or sandwiched it between two white-bread compliments.

Also, it feels like we don’t get enough positive comments in our lives, so why not start now?

Even if you don’t have something critical to say, start complimenting your coworkers. Look for the positives. Give electronic high fives when something goes well. Tell someone how much you appreciate them.

Not only will that lay the foundation for you to be able to say, “Hey, can you let me proof that before you send it out?” but overall, it makes for a better work environment.

Since we spend so long at work, it’s in our best interest to make work as positive an environment as possible.

Image by earl53

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