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What Is The Best Way To Give Feedback In A Cross-Cultural Team? 

Written by: Liu Liu, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Liu Liu

Whenever I travel to visit different projects in various countries, there is often a set agenda item at the end of the visit, which is to give feedback to the team. I am always mindful of what I say, and more importantly, how I deliver it depends on the country and culture I am in a the time. Similarly, when I need to give feedback to team members and colleagues, the same cautious approach applies.

Businessman and woman showing business report

Generally, there are 2 types of feedback

There is the formal type like objective reviews and appraisals, some companies also ask for 360-degree feedback from colleagues. They are of a serious nature, they underscore your performance and sometimes link to decisions about whether you should carry on the job, get promoted, or be demoted. On the other hand, this type of formal feedback could be treated as a tick-box exercise where nothing meaningful was said.

The other is the informal feedback. Such as comments from your boss or colleague after you have done a presentation or a task. They tend to happen right after the event happens and there is no plan or agenda, it just happens.

Whether it is formal or informal, you can guarantee you will always get positive or negative feedback at some point in your work life. Now, let’s have a look at how feedback is viewed and delivered by different cultures.

Task-oriented culture

In task-oriented cultures, feedback is often seen as a management tool to ensure that employees are performing as expected. It is viewed as a necessary task for managers to provide guidance and direction to their team members. Feedback is seen as a means to improve performance and achieve organizational goals. In this context, the focus is primarily on results and efficiency.

For employees in task-oriented cultures, the saying "No feedback is good feedback" is often prevalent. This means that if they are not receiving feedback, it is assumed that they are meeting expectations and performing well. Employees may interpret a lack of feedback as a sign of satisfaction with their work. They may not actively seek feedback unless it is explicitly requested or required.

Relationship-based culture

On the other hand, in relationship-based cultures, the organization or company is seen as another social network or community that individuals belong to. It is a place where they seek support, encouragement, and a sense of belonging. In these cultures, the emphasis is on building and maintaining relationships, and feedback plays a role in preserving harmony and positive relationships.

In relationship-based cultures, people tend to avoid giving negative feedback if it is not necessary. This is because they prioritize maintaining harmony and avoiding conflict within the social fabric of the organization. Negative feedback may be seen as damaging to the relationship and may be avoided unless absolutely necessary. Instead, feedback may be given indirectly or subtly, focusing on strengths and positive aspects rather than criticism.


Every time I look at this chart, it makes me laugh. Not just because of how it is written, but it is also true when I think of my interactions with British colleagues in various settings. I would encourage you to come up with one set based on your own culture.

Giving feedback is just like this, you need to know how to use the “coded” language depending on the culture and know how to “decipher” what others are saying.

Top tips for giving feedback in relationship-based cultures

Build a personal connection

In relationship-based cultures, it's essential to establish a personal connection before diving into feedback. Take time to discuss non-work-related topics and build rapport.

Indirect communication

Many relationship-based cultures prefer indirect communication. Be tactful and use a softer tone, focusing on the impact of the behavior rather than directly criticizing it.

Use politeness and respect

Politeness is highly valued in relationship-based cultures. Use respectful language and express your feedback in a way that preserves the individual's dignity.

Group settings for positive feedback

Positive feedback can often be given in a group setting, highlighting the individual's contributions and reinforcing the sense of belonging to a supportive team.

Provide context

Offer context for your feedback, explaining how the suggested improvements align with the overall goals of the team or organization. This helps individuals understand the bigger picture.

Top tips for giving feedback in task-oriented cultures

Focus on results and efficiency

In task-oriented cultures, the emphasis is on results and efficiency. When giving feedback, highlight how the suggested improvements contribute to achieving goals and meeting objectives.

Direct communication

ask-oriented cultures often value direct communication. Be clear, and concise, and get straight to the point when providing feedback. Focus on specific actions and outcomes.

Individual recognition for positive feedback

Positive feedback may be better received on an individual basis in task-oriented cultures. Recognize and reward individual achievements, tying them directly to performance metrics.

Provide actionable steps

Task-oriented individuals often appreciate actionable steps for improvement. Clearly outline the steps the individual can take to address the feedback and achieve better results.

Separate personal and professional

Task-oriented cultures may be more comfortable separating personal and professional aspects. Focus on the specific task or behavior rather than delving into personal characteristics.

Common ground for both cultures

Balancing positive and constructive feedback

Regardless of cultural orientation, balance positive feedback with constructive criticism. This helps maintain motivation while promoting continuous improvement.

Encourage open dialogue

In both types of cultures, encourage open communication. Make it clear that you are available for discussions, questions, and clarifications, fostering a culture of transparency.

Recognize both individual and team

Recognize both individual and team contributions, finding a balance that aligns with the cultural preferences of the group.


Be adaptable in your communication style. Individuals within a culture may vary in their preferences, so be attentive to cues and adjust your approach accordingly.

Remember, these are generalizations, and individual preferences may vary. It's essential to observe and adapt your feedback style based on the specific cultural context of the person you are working with.

Related Brainz articles on giving feedback

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Liu Liu Brainz Magazine

Liu Liu, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Liu Liu is a coach and manager with decades of experience, as a Cross-Cultural Intelligence Coach who specializes in helping international organizations and businesses to improve communications and cooperation among staff for better individual and team performance. He coaches managers and leaders working in a cross-cultural context to build trust, communicate effectively, and deliver results. He also coaches people on management, leadership, and career development. He is someone who helps you to imagine a greater possibility for yourself and supports you in achieving it.

As a senior manager in an international relief and development organization, he has worked with people in over 30 countries over his two-decades-long career. He uses a coaching approach to manage cross-country teams and complex programs to deliver results and impacts.

He is also an experienced trainer and facilitator who has delivered training on management-related and other subjects in over 30 countries.

With a cross-country marriage, developing a career in a second country, and working in an organization that has a reach of 50 countries, Liu Liu understands the importance and pitfalls of working cross-culturally and developing a career in an unfamiliar environment.

Liu Liu is an Associated Certified Coach(ACC), a member of the International Coaching Federation (ICF), and an Executive Contributor to Brainz Magazine.

He holds a BA(Hon) in International Studies and an MSc in Development Management.



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