Don’t give praise in Japan

By Eric Barton via   Article

Why you don’t give praise in Japan

“Traditionally, the Japanese language had no word for feedback because it just wasn’t something that anybody did, says Sharon Schweitzer, CEO of Protocol and Etiquette Worldwide, and an expert on how managers can assimilate in foreign countries. … ‘If you don’t hear from your Japanese manager, you’re doing well,’ Schweitzer says. ‘If your manager asks for an update on your project, that means you’re not doing well.’

Managers in Japan aren’t likely to ask for an update because employees are expected to constantly provide them. It’s a process called hou-ren-sou and it involves subordinates sending their boss emails, all day long, about when they’re going to lunch, the percentage of the project they’ve finished, when they’re taking a coffee break, everything.

For foreign managers, the temptation may be to reply with accolades, congratulating them on finishing 32% of the project. But don’t, Schweitzer cautions. ‘If you reply and tell them good job, you will lose face and they will lose face. Just say thank you or don’t reply at all.’

Thinking like a foreign manager, you might be wondering if the answer is annual reviews. But one-on-one sit-downs with the boss to discuss performance are just not done, says Taro Fukuyama, a native of Japan and CEO of AnyPerk, a start-up offering services to improve employee happiness at work.

Calling an employee into your office for that kind of meeting is likely to elicit panic. Instead, Fukuyama says, the best way to offer an employee feedback is simple: take them out drinking.

In fact, Japan has a tradition callednomikai, where colleagues and their bosses drink, often a lot, and often until late night. Still, any feedback over beers and sake is likely to concentrate only on what went wrong.

The reason for this, Fukuyama says, is that employees in Japan typically don’t move between companies. Since they’re spending their careers in one place, the goal is to get promoted. And the best chance at promotion comes from keeping your head down and avoiding errors.”


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