Mark Murphy has a great short article titled “Don’t Make Constructive Criticism so Soft That People Miss Your Message.”
In it, he criticizes the feedback sandwich, which I learned long ago in Toastmasters. It’s simple: when you are giving feedback, first tell something positive, then something to improve, then end with something else positive.
This method is very effective in a Toastmasters setting, where the #1 priority is to keep everyone motivated and enjoying the experience. In Toastmasters, you are not responsible for anyone else’s improvement. You give suggestions for improvement because everyone in the room is there to improve, and suggestions are part of the program.
But I can see that it would not be particularly effective in a managerial setting, where you are responsible for your team members performance. In those cases, you need to be more direct.
What interested me most is that he linked the method to the serial effect: you remember the first and last things you hear the best. In Toastmasters, that needs to be positive. In business, the need for improvement may be the thing you need to remember!
Again, the article is here.