Sometimes when Westerners work with Japanese they can be frustrated by the lack of feedback from their Japanese managers.
Why is it sometimes difficult to get feedback from Japanese managers?
There can be many reasons why there is no feedback.
A Japanese boss may be simply not conscious of the need to give feedback.
The task may be being performed correctly, in which case a Japanese boss doesn’t have anything to say (or, more specifically, no complaints on how the job is being performed).
It could be that the Japanese boss has no input from Japan either so it is hard to give additional information on how the task is being performed.
For Japanese managers, it is important to know that Westerners are used to being evaluated on the individual task and that helps them improve. Therefore, providing regular feedback not only helps them understand what they need to do to improve but also encourages them for a job well done. Without feedback, Westerners can sometimes lose motivation and engagement in the tasks that they are assigned. It is a matter of recognition of the work that has been done.
So what can Westerners do to get that all-important feedback?
It is good to know a few tips on how to “break the silence” and get the necessary feedback to improve your job performance. Although all situations are different, we propose the following:
Ask directly for feedback. The best approach is to explain that such feedback is important and will help improve the quality of job performance.
Ask your Japanese boss to explain clearly what management/the Japanese HQ is expecting. This is most effective if framed by saying it will help you to have a clearer understanding of the expectations.
Another alternative is to ask for feedback on a one-to-one basis. The best time to approach a Japanese manager is in an informal moment. For example, a bit later on in the evening when most of the staff have left (this also gives a good impression because most Japanese managers think that staying late in the office is a sign of dedication), or away from the office entirely, at a restaurant over lunch or dinner.
A final tip is to remember that requests for feedback will be much more successful if approached humbly, for example as if you are worried about giving the right performance or information. If you are good at your job, the Japanese manager will respect you even more if you are humble! Usually, asking for feedback makes a great impression. The Japanese will think that the asker is serious about his/her job and willing to learn.