Task-oriented cultures and relationship-oriented cultures give and receive feedback differently. A culturally competent manager is aware of these differences and can adjust communication accordingly. When giving performance feedback across cultures, always keep in mind, “What type of feedback will this person be most receptive to hearing? What is the most effective way to get my message across?”
LAY IT ON THE LINE: Feedback for task-oriented cultures
Low context cultures, such as American, are task-oriented. The person and the task are viewed separately. The task, process, and result are critiqued, not you. Feedback is direct, specific, and quantifiable. It is expected that the person receiving the feedback will engage in discussion, rather than sit quietly. American managers giving feedback across cultures may need to encourage participation, questions, and discussion on the part of the recipient.
READ BETWEEN THE LINES: Feedback for relationship-oriented cultures
High context cultures, such as Asian and Hispanic, are relationship-oriented. The person is not seen as separate from the task. Feedback on work is taken personally, and saving face becomes important. Direct negative feedback leads to a loss of face, and therefore performance feedback is often indirect. In relationship-oriented cultures, my mistake is a loss of face, and my success belong to the team. Calling attention to individual contributions may be viewed negatively.
In relationship-oriented cultures, the recipient does not typically participate in or discuss the feedback, but only listens. Managers provide face-saving feedback by looking at options, alternate scenarios or “what ifs”, rather than discussing the employee directly.
Giving feedback to non-native speakers of English
If you are giving feedback to someone who is not fluent in English, adjust your feedback accordingly. Speak in shorter sentences. Check regularly for comprehension by asking questions, avoid idioms or jargon, and provide both spoken and written feedback. Sending a follow up email summarizing your feedback gives the person a chance to clarify any misunderstanding.