Criticizing – the sandwich

Criticizing somebody in the US is a very delicate matter for a European (and probably others as well).  The rather open and blatant critique that is widely used in many European countries is considered rude here.

Criticizing somebody in a business setting is an art in the US, pic: © Fallenangel |

Here in the US to deliver an effective critique – one that people are willing to listen to and take seriously  – needs to be “sandwiched”.  Let me explain: assume you hire an American to do some work for you, e.g. developing a marketing campaign and the final product is not at all what you had hoped for.   You still don’t say this flat out – unless the work is so bad that you want to fire the guy on the spot –  instead you’ll say something like:

“George, I really liked the first part where you do the high level analysis.  We’ll need to work on the second part, the competitor analysis , I would like to see more (whatever it may be) there and then use that analysis to come up with a unique positioning.  The concrete marketing mix that you have proposed is very useful, we just need to tweak it a bit in some place.  Overall a really great start.”

So first something positive, then the critique  – in a very mild and nonthreatening format – and then ending on a positive, upbeat note – sandwiching the critique between two big juicy slices of positiveness makes it more palatable.

Who has time for that?  How inefficient! I hear everybody sigh – but this is how it is done here.  I agree, it might not be the most efficient way but people are trained in the art of reading or listening between the lines and get it – without being offended and becoming defensive.

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