True stories: The impact of direct feedback in a multicultural environment

True story:
The impact of feedback in a multicultural environment


Feedback has become an indispensable tool in performance management and building healthy relationships in the professional work environment. Whether we refer to direct or indirect feedback, it is essential to understand its dynamics and apply it appropriately in various cultural contexts. In this analysis, we will consider a concrete case to deeply understand the implications and repercussions of direct negative feedback in a multicultural context.

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True story:

Ten female employees brought from India to a toy factory in Intorsura Băzuului painted some wooden toys incorrectly. As a result, the entire batch of toys was sent back from Germany; a considerable loss for the factory. The next day, the production manager came into the factory hall and in his mouth egged and vinegared the Indians. The next day none of them came to work. They were sitting in the house, crying and looking for tickets to return home. After it was explained to them what happened, they returned, but a day’s work of 10 employees was lost.

Direct Feedback versus Indirect Feedback:
A Comparative Analysis

The art of giving feedback is a fundamental key to the harmonious growth and development of a team. By scrutinizing the differences between direct and indirect feedback, this study aims to shed light on how these two approaches influence group dynamics and workplace effectiveness.

From the Netherlands to Japan, from Romania to the United States, cultural variability translates into a diversity of communication approaches and, implicitly, feedback styles. By dissecting the specifics of each type of feedback, we explore the terrain between directness and diplomacy, between crystal clarity and nuanced subtlety.

We therefore follow a journey through the complexity of human communication, evaluating both the advantages and disadvantages offered by each approach. Our goal is to provide a guide to help successfully navigate the often tumultuous waters of feedback in the corporate environment, while ensuring a climate of respect, understanding and productive collaboration.

Direct Feedback

  • Feedback is given in a clear, honest and direct manner often in a strong, threatening tone.
  • Categorical and definitive terms such as “absolutely”, “completely” etc. are used.
  • It can be applied in cultures where transparency and directness are valued, such as in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland.
  • It is preferable in situations where time is limited and quick clarification of issues is required.

Advantages: Efficiency in communication, avoidance of ambiguities, favors a quick resolution of problems.

Disadvantages: Can be perceived as aggressive, can hurt the feelings of those involved, risk of damaging interpersonal relationships.

Indirect Feedback

  • Communication is done in a more subtle and diplomatic manner.
    A more moderate language is used, with expressions such as “somewhat”, “maybe”, “how about”, etc.
  • It is recommended in cultures where politeness and avoiding conflict are prioritized, such as Japan.
  • It may be preferred in situations where there is a strong pre-existing relationship and a high degree of trust between the parties.

Advantages: Favors the maintenance of harmonious relationships, allows more nuanced and complex discussions, sudden negative reactions can be avoided.

Disadvantages: Risk of creating confusion, the process can be slower and take longer to resolve, the possibility of not getting the whole message across.

We observe that the direct approach to feedback had a demoralizing effect on female employees, generating a sense of distrust and creating a tense atmosphere in the workplace. Direct feedback can be perceived as aggressive and disrespectful, especially in cultures where diplomatic tone and indirect communication are preferred.

In this situation, it would have been more beneficial to apply an indirect negative feedback strategy, which would encourage constructive dialogue and the search for collaborative solutions. Thus, the manager could have held a private meeting with each employee to discuss the error committed and together explore ways to avoid such incidents in the future.

Tips for providing appropriate feedback

  • Be Clear and Direct – Use words that make your point clear without leaving room for misinterpretation.
  • Provide Concrete Examples – illustrating the behavior or performance that is the subject of feedback.
  • Promote Dialogue – Encourage the person to respond to feedback and present their own perspective.
  • Use Body Language – Communicate with empathy and understanding, using open body language.
  • Encourage Self-Assessment – Guide the person to identify and recognize their own areas of improvement.
  • Incorporating Positive Feedback – Incorporate positive feedback alongside negative feedback to create balance.

The real story illustrates the importance of a sensitive approach to feedback, especially in a cross-cultural context. Demonstrating that it is necessary to adapt the feedback style to the cultural specificity of the receiver in order to avoid misunderstandings and maintain a healthy and productive work environment. It also stresses the importance of building trust before administering negative feedback, and the need for effective communication in a multicultural work environment.

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