The MasterChef Judges Have Mastered the ‘Compliment Sandwich’, But Is It Effective?


Ah, the old compliment sandwich. Say something nice, insert constructive criticism and then end on a high.

Also known by its colloquial term as the “shit sandwich”, this form of delivering information is widely used by management in varying industries. But there’s one place that this type of feedback is highly evident and it’s on the set of Junior MasterChef.

Before we continue, if you haven’t been watching, I urge you to put up your feet at 7.30 pm from Sunday to Tuesday, pour yourself a glass of wine and marvel at the talent that these incredible little chefs have. A fair warning though, there will be times when you zone out and reevaluate your own life choices, but I digress.

Apart from the unbelievably advanced cooking skills, the judges of the MasterChef kitchen have mastered their own talent. That of the “compliment sandwich”.

Jock Zonfrillo is the key keeper of this gift, and often is seen praising the kids, adding in a little bit of criticism and then ending with a, “but, well-done mate!”. It’s a brilliant tool to soften the blow when dealing with children, but what about adults?

I asked Dr Jo Lukins, a “psychological Indiana Jones” with a PhD in Psychology about the pros and cons of the ‘compliment sandwich’.

“Humans gravitate to ‘the negative’, in fact, we are inherently biased towards it,” she said in an interview with The Latch. “Therefore we need to ensure that we bolster feedback with helpful, positive and honest feedback to help people to improve and grow.”

This type of feedback is also a realistic way to help someone as there is usually always something good to be found with an effort.

While it can be constructive, there are a few complications — specifically, people can see it from a mile away.

“People know the ‘compliment sandwich’ method and can see it when it’s coming and therefore can discredit the positive feedback,” she said.

However, if you want to keep up the morale (like Zonfrillo does) it’s the perfect tool.

“Mood is contagious and if we don’t find the good and encourage what goes well, its unlikely to be recognised,” Dr Lukins added.

“I have spent my career advising people that success leaves clues, so if you don’t recognise what goes well you are unlikely to continue emulating it.

“The key element to delivering it well is to be authentic and honest. People can smell BS, so don’t say something you don’t mean.”

What a fabulous way of looking at it. Although we must take note of the cons, it’s an excellent tool to use in the future!

Dr Jo Lukins spends her day inside the heads of individuals, teams and organisations – seeking to understand what makes them tick and assisting them to reach their potential.

You can find her at Dr Jo Lukins.

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