At Social Fabric we live the term ‘diversity’ – we have a truly intercultural team, and that brings with it many rich opportunities for co-creation and idea exchange. It also brings some challenges that arise from different cultural expectations in the workplace. In order to overcome these challenges, we are having monthly meetings on various different topics, and this month’s meeting was on the theme of ‘giving and receiving feedback’. There were seven of us at the meeting, from seven different countries, and here is what each person had to say:

Helka, from Finland – In Finland, there is no word for ‘please’. Feedback is given very directly, and honesty is valued highly, so it is even considered dishonest and impolite to not give one’s honest opinion about a topic. This can be considered rude in many other countries, including Switzlerand.

Denise, from Switzerland – In Switzerland feedback is often given indirectly, in order to avoid causing offence, or giving too much criticism. Sometimes this leads to confusion and lack of clarity, though, as people don’t know how they’ve done, or what they need to improve.

Heather, from Canada – The feedback culture in Canada is similar to that in Switzerland. Politeness is highly valued, and criticism often comes with an apology.

Cisse, Ivory Coast – In Ivory Coast, it’s not acceptable to question feedback given by the boss. The boss decides how things should go, and employees have to respect the boss.

Bijoux, Congo – In Congo, there is mutual respect between employee and boss, but there is a clear hierarchy between boss and employee. The employee can give feedback to the boss, but in the end, the boss decides, and should communicate expectations clearly to the employee. Also, being polite is important.

Stoyanka, Bulgaria – In Bulgaria, the boss rarely gives feedback to the employee. Rather, he / or she gives feedback to the friend or colleagues of the person in question, and that person passes along the feedback. This is considered to be a gentler way of delivering criticism. Only in extreme cases (i.e. when the employee is at risk of being fired), does the boss delivery feedback directly to the employee.

At the end of the conversation, we discussed what kind of feedback culture we want to have at Social Fabric. We decided that feedback should not be one directional, but should be given both by and to the leadership team. Feedback should be given in a timely manner, and directly to the person in question, in a polite and respectful way. Of course there will be some trial and error as we move forward, but we think these are good basic guidelines to get started, and we will try to live by them at Social Fabric.