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    The “BUT” Sandwich Technique and Why it Doesn’t Work – Transcript

    Published November 6, 2018

    The “BUT” Sandwich Technique and Why it Doesn’t Work – Transcript

    By Dr. Kevin Gazzara and Tim Galusha at Magna Leadership Solutions

    You can read this article or see us deliver this here:

    We’re so glad that you’re here to join us for this series of tips from our organization. We can’t wait to share a few of the things we’ve learned over a lifetime of work.

    Starting with a Flawed Assumption

    Let’s talk about the word “but” and how that affects you as a leader. One of the things that I learned early in my career that was taught to us through our HR organization, was that when you deliver a message that you want to use what they call the “but sandwich”. You give them something really good, give them something nasty in the center, and then you close something good so that there was something that was supposed to soften the difficult messages. What we found was that this was absolutely wrong and it never worked! In fact, if you go in and look at any psychological studies that have been done, there is no study that that says using the sandwich technique or what I will call the but sandwich technique actually works.

    Confusing the Listener

    This sandwich approach just confuses the message and we understand why people want to use it. It’s human nature, we want to soften the message, most of us don’t like conflict. We fear that when we deliver that harsh message, or that direct message, that we might injure our relationship. So somehow by softening it up, with a little bit of nice words on either side, then that’s going to make it better. What it really does, is that it confuses the receiver of the message and they walk away thinking, “well I’m pretty good, okay I have two things good and only one thing kind of bad, so why would I need to change”.

    Becoming the Leader

    As a manager you have really missed the opportunity to have the impact that you wanted. Also, if you want to be a great leader, you need to be crystal clear. Your communication is so important when you’re dealing with your employees, particularly new employees or younger less-experienced employees, they’re looking for the clarity from you as a leader. If you start using the sandwich technique it adds confusion, it demonstrates a lack of clarity, and it really lowers your leadership score, and how they’ viewing you as a leader. The truth is, that as the receiver when you’re in a situation where the leader delivers one or more good things and then you hear the pause, you know that the but is coming and all those good things mentioned before the but gets forgotten. There’s an immediate emotional response because you know the next words coming out will be negative.

    The Alternative (Preferred) Approach

    So rather than trying to use the but sandwich technique, we suggest you use a different approach where you deliver the message in a way that’s forward-looking, positive about the future, and not judgmental. This gives you the best opportunity to have a real cognitive problem-solving skill building conversation, rather than one that’s judgmental and evokes that negative emotional response.

    Practice Makes Perfect

    This week, to raise your leadership quotient and begin perfecting your communication clarity, remove the word “but” from all of your communication with any of your staff or with your managers. Replace “but” with the word “and”. This maintains a future focus, rather than a backward focus, and it also doesn’t send a mixed message. i.e. if you’re doing this “but” I don’t want you to do that, the brain sees this as negative and says I’m not going listen to it. If you say, I want you to do this,  “and” we’re going to do that, it encourages listening and it gives the ability to maintain the forward positive results that you’re looking for from your first step. FYI, and don’t try to replace the “but” with “however”, because it’s no better than “but”. So, your goal is to only use “and” this week in your communications. FYI, this works equally as well as it does in the workplace.

    Thanks for watching the video (or reading this transcript), one of the things that we like to do is really help others be successful using the servant leadership model and both Kevin and Tim have been industry practitioners for over thirty years. We’d like to share some of the tips and tricks to help you get to that next level of leadership with your organization so you can be recognized at the level of your full potential and if that makes sense. Please contact us at or click the link in this video and you can set up time for a discussion with us we would love to help you absolutely no sales pitch we’re here to help you be more successful.


    I hope you enjoyed this article useful in learning about why “The “BUT” Sandwich Technique and Why it Doesn’t Work”. You can find more Management and Leadership knowledge on our website We are trusted advisors for executives of small to mid-sized organizations who realize an investment in emerging leaders solves their growth and engagement challenges.

    Dr. Kevin Gazzara – is a senior partner and founder of Magna Leadership Solutions, based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is the author of “The Leader of OZ” He is an international speaker and recognized as a Management & Leadership Expert and an Executive Coach. Kevin is a professor at 5 Universities developing and teaching programs to help others achieve their full potential. You can follow Kevin and Magna Leadership Solutions on our website:, on Twitter: or our Facebook Fan Page at: https://www.

    We would be excited to speak with you about your current leadership challenges. Please Click here to connect with one of Magna Leadership’s advisors.

    If you have any comments, suggestions or ideas, we encourage you to share your thoughts with us and our readers in the comments below.

    Thank you,
    Dr. Kevin Gazzara

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