Insights

Feedback & Diversity.

3 min

re.set - Training

Effective communication in the business environment is key to the growth and development of any organization. One of the pillars of Business Agility is the constant evaluation of progress and continuous improvement, but this cannot be done without clear feedback. Let's not forget that feedback is a driver for creation, innovation, the empowerment of teams and building a good work climate.

In previous articles we’ve given you tips on how feedback should be given, but let's remember some basic principles:

  • It must be clear and unambiguous.

  • It must be honest and direct, but without forgetting empathy, do you remember "Radical Candor"?

  • It must have equal parameters for all teams and employees.

  • It has to be bidirectional, not only giving feedback, but also being willing to receive it.

  • It must be frequent and immediate.

  • It must have a purpose, it isn’t a matter of making a comment for the sake of making a comment. To quote Borges: "Do not talk unless you can improve the silence".

  • Ultimately, it’s not a matter of "scolding" or assessing irrelevant issues such as extending the work day, but of sticking to specific parameters, contextualizing and, basically, not "judging" people, instead assessing their performance.

All this may seem simple if we find ourselves in a homogeneous environment, but many companies are a microcosm of society, where diverse cultures and values converge. In this wide context, the process of giving feedback takes on fascinating and complex dimensions. What happens if we have international employees or if we work in a company where very diverse profiles converge?

How to give feedback at Babel.

In today's globalized business world, the exchange of feedback has become common practice. However, what might be considered constructive in one environment may be perceived as aggressive in another. In this context, we must try to avoid misunderstandings resulting from the customs or beliefs of a particular place.

There are many characteristics of leadership that are universal. However, when it comes to communicating with the workforce, differences can appear depending on the cultural environment.

A Globe 2020 study investigated the relationship between a nation's culture and desirable leadership attributes. They collected data from the USA, Canada, UK, Finland, Sweden, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Among the findings were these very interesting conclusions:

A preference for formal and direct feedback was found in cultures where open communication, greater assertiveness, and expressing one's emotions are encouraged, as well as a low degree of collectivism, such as the USA, Canada and the UK.

In Anglo-Saxon cultures, in fact, leaders are encouraged to give clear and direct feedback, "Say what you mean and mean what you say", but always through the filter of "Radical Candor", which urges leaders to combine honesty and challenge with empathy.

Informal feedback is much less common in cultures where there’s greater collectivism and where there is a tendency to avoid conflict and seek harmony, evading making a bad impression or creating uncomfortable situations. This is the case, for example, in the responses to the study from countries such as Hong Kong and Singapore.

As for the active participation of employees, it was higher in countries where direct communication is encouraged, such as the United Kingdom and the United States. In contrast, in countries where leadership is associated with more vertical structures and there is greater distance from the figures in power, employee participation is much lower and top-down feedback is preferred. This was seen in surveys from countries such as Singapore and Hong Kong.

Lost in translation: to speak of feedback is to speak of ways of communicating.

The “Lewis Model" (1996) also points out differences in the way people communicate and deal with feedback in different countries, establishing these divisions:

Multi-Active Cultures (France, Greece, Italy, Spain):  in these cultures conversation is lively, interaction is rewarded and it’s common for people to step on each other's toes when talking; silence is poorly tolerated and late delivery is acceptable.

This is why at reset we encourage organizations to make feedback orderly, bidirectional and within certain parameters, to prevent it from becoming an endless conversation with multiple interlocutors interrupting each other.

Linear or Active Cultures (Germany):  in this culture, "linear" qualities such as organization, punctuality, planning and implementation are valued. In this case, conversation is preferred to be in an orderly fashion, they speak and listen in turn, and feedback has to adhere to defined parameters.

Reactive Cultures (Japan, China, Korea): hierarchies are highly respected and feedback is usually top-down. Very rarely do they interrupt, preferring a conversation where there is a speaker and the rest listen and reflect.

Learning to Maneuver Between Cultures to Avoid Clashes or Missteps.

In addition to the tips we’ve already given you about what feedback should be like, in situations working with clients from other countries or dealing with multinational companies, we’ll add these others:

  1. Be Informed:

Learn what the social norms are of the individuals/organizations or countries you will be working with. Do they use direct communication? Is it okay to interrupt to ask questions? Is it important for them to take turns? Could a loud tone of voice bother them?

A good tip is to differentiate between what Anglo-Saxons call "Upgraders" and "Downgraders".

In countries where there’s an indirect style more Downgraders are used such as: "maybe", "I wonder if", "it could be that", "sometimes", "I'd prefer that"....

In countries with a more direct style of communication, Upgraders such as: "absolutely", "totally", "always", "never"... are used.

  1. Put the Communication Issue Itself on the Table:

Involve the attendees by sharing any concerns and explaining in what way the feedback is going to be given and if this is understandable and acceptable to all.

  1. Remember the Principles of Radical Candor:

If the discourse is based on honesty and empathy, and focuses on the performance and not the person, you rule out many possibilities of misunderstanding what is being communicated.

Would you like us to help your organization structure feedback as part of your transformation? Call us, we speak your language.

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