We give and receive feedback constantly. With colleagues, customers, suppliers. Feedback gives us a common understanding of where we stand, of what is and isn’t working. How do Germans handle feedback?
Germans separate the personal from the professional. Feedback addresses strictly performance. It is given in a neutral and unemotional way. Feedback, whether positive or negative, is not meant personally.
Positive thinking in the German business context is not unimportant. Germans differentiate more strictly, however, between a realistic can-do attitude and overly optimistic, naive actionism. Germans give praise in direct connection with factually demonstrated performance. Praise in front of the team is seldom, however. Official awards are rare, for they could lead to envy and thus undermine team cohesion.
Germans focus on reducing errors. When providing feedback they concentrate on weaknesses, on what is not working. Germans address weaknesses directly, openly and in a neutral, matter-of-fact way.
Sensitive feedback discussions in the German business context are often done in one-to-one talks. There are situations, however, when Germans openly criticize a team-member in the presence of colleagues. This is not necessarily seen as unfair to that individual. In fact, open criticism within the team can be imperative in order to get issues up on the table.
Feedback scores are most effective when they are accurate and realistic. When in doubt, Germans are deflationary. The school grading system is: 1 is sehr gut (very good); 2 is gut (good); 3 is befriedigend (satisfactory); 4 is ausreichend (sufficient); 5 is mangelhaft (insufficient); F is ungenügend (failed).