I thought I’d heard it all on the topic of entitlement but it seems I missed out (or shall I say our kids missed out) on what a colleague recently referred to as the “Feedback Sandwich.” While our kitchen was known for the Day-After-Thanksgiving Sandwich and the Snow Day Grilled Cheese, this other mysterious sandwich never made it to our special’s board.

No one can argue that our generation of parents isn’t creative and embellishing; focused and driven when it comes to the betterment of our children. I’m all for positive reinforcement and I’m the first to say that if we can help our children thrive in areas of aptitude and interest then why not? But this feedback sandwich is one dose of nutrition I’m glad we missed out on.

The reference to this “sandwich” was made in the context of a problem with entitlement that is rocking the business world. Because the feedback sandwich recently found its way into the work force, managers are being trained on how to deal with scenarios like this one: A twenty seven year old man made an appointment with his boss to complain about his first evaluation with Human Resources. The boss was surprised since he expected the evaluation to be, overall, positive. Apparently Entitled Eddie could stomach a little criticism, but found its presentation hard to swallow. He explained (and I think this would have been an ideal opportunity to show some humor and humility) that he was used to receiving feedback in the form of a sandwich: A criticism tucked between two compliments. Seriously! He requested that future criticisms come in this more digestible form.

I imagine that Eddie’s boss was as confused as I was. Hum. Is this the Fifth Grade Play or a job on Wall Street? Perhaps upon hearing this, the boss imagined scenarios like I did: A college soccer coach yelling, “Kara, I love those cleats. Cover the left post! Great job at practice yesterday;” or a pilot correcting his co-pilot, “Did you lose weight?  Not that button! Your wife makes a damn good apple pie.” I hesitate to imagine a world in which all criticisms come this loaded.

Maybe I should apologize to our children for telling it like it was. Compliments were more plentiful in our home than criticisms but none were served up like Oreo cookies. We live in a world where some things need to be said and heard in a timely manner and everybody can’t come in first place all of the time. It’s obvious to me that couching every criticism interferes with the development of coping skills and resourcefulness. Since I’m from a big Italian family I typically yell things like, “We’re out of milk” or “We’re going to be late.” As a result, our kids learned early on not to take ”tone and delivery” personally.

Circling back to Eddie’s expectation that he be spoon fed suggestions for the rest of his life. The best thing we can do for our child is help him develop an inner sense of who he is and how he’s doing. That way he’s less likely to be attached and reactive to the opinions of others. That said, it should come as no surprise that I don’t like coddled eggs and I think Eddie’s feedback sandwich is full of bologna.

Illustration of Feedback Sandwich by RJ Pasquale


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