When delivered well, and with positive intention, feedback can become a super power bringing many benefits: 

  • Transform and shift undesired behaviors
  • Increase creativity and productivity
  • Reduce costs
  • Enhance relationships
  • Improve employee development and retention

 Conversely, if delivered ineffectively, and without cultural sensitivity, feedback can generate negative outcomes:

  •  Harm relationships
  • Create conflict and a culture of blame
  • Reduce productivity and contributions
  • Result in the need to deliver more feedback
  • Scare employees into blind compliance

Performance management across cultures – PART 1 dealt with the art of delivering praise in a culturally relevant manner. Let’s look at the other side of that coin and how we deliver criticism. There are many excellent reference materials providing insights related to the best ways to deliver constructive criticism, but how effective are you at flexing your feedback style in order to address cultural preferences?  

 Managers who are not aware of their own feedback tendencies, nor strive to understand the cultural preferences of their individual team members, are at a higher risk of incurring negative outcomes.

 Should I be direct or indirect? How harsh? Should I ‘sandwich’ my critiques between statements of praise? What reactions can I expect in return? Will they argue back or be silent? How should I check for understanding?  Is it the cultural norm to use up-grader or down-grader language modifiers? How are my own feedback tendencies viewed by other cultures?

Let’s look at a real example: 

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How did Cultural Intelligence (CQ) make a difference ?

CQ Drive – By appealing to the intrinsic and extrinsic benefits the teams would gain through more effective partnership

CQ Knowledge – By seeking to create a shared understanding and appreciation of their cultural differences and preferences

CQ Strategy – By challenging existing assumptions, suspending judgement and helping the teams plan for the impact of culture value differences

CQ Action – By knowing when and how to adapt and react to the individual needs and preferences in a culturally sensitive manner

 In my experience, performance management efforts are exponentially more likely to achieve desired outcomes when working with culturally diverse teams if the principals of cultural intelligence are observed.

Two cautions

 (1) The definition of culture goes far beyond where we are from and/or grew up. Culture comes from many aspects of our lives, including our age (generation gaps) career choices (role, industry), family and social networks, religious affiliations etc.  Beware considering only ‘nationality’ when you reflect upon and explore cultural preferences.

 (2) Cultural Intelligence (CQ) offers us a framework to apply what can be considered “sophisticated stereotypes” when striving for a culturally intelligence performance management strategy and approach. Use these as a starting point only, as you carefully check and adapt your assumptions related to each unique individual and situation.

Feedback truly is a gift!

Although each of us may have unique cultural preferences for giving and receiving feedback, it can always be considered a gift if provided with authentic, positive intention. By applying your CQ capabilities, you can ensure this is how your feedback will be received.

 – Tina Merry, Senior Director/Consultant, CQ Certified Advanced Professional

 References and additional resources:

Business Insider: how to give people criticism all over the world (2014)

Performance management across cultures – the art of praise

What is CQ and why should the Games Industry care?

Cultural Intelligence Center (research links)

Original article on linkedin

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