“Thanks for the wonderfully written report, Mark! Your summary of the project gave us a really good insight about its progress and what we can expect in the coming months.”
“Lina, great job with your presentation this morning! You got all your facts right and you delivered with such poise and confidence. Keep it up!”
“Well done everyone! The project is finally complete, and we’re ahead of schedule! Thank you to all who have been involved and we look forward to working together again.”
When was the last time you received similar praise from your Malaysian boss for a job well done? Did you have to think hard to recall that occasion? How was the commendation given, formally or informally? Do you identify best with option 3? Or perhaps…you could not recall a proper occasion of personally receiving motivational feedback at all?
Motivational feedback occurs when you give someone praise or approval for their behaviour as a way of reinforcing that behaviour. While Anglo cultures may be more accustomed to commending employees when they’ve done a good job, we don’t usually find praise to be so forthcoming in a Malaysian working environment. Why is that so?
For one, our education system has shaped our thinking into one that prioritizes getting things done right on the first try as far as possible. So accomplishing your tasks as required is not something to shout about; it is what you ought to have done. Additionally, many of us may have grown up with parents who felt that if they praised us too much, the opposite will become true. While it’s a superstition common among Chinese households, those who don’t believe it sometimes think it’s safer to err on the side of caution anyway and refrain from giving commendation. Also, Malaysians as a collectivistic society place more emphasis on harmony within the community so singling out individuals for praise is quite uncommon.
As a result, when our cultural upbringing translates into the workplace, many Malaysians feel uncomfortable and finds it unnatural to freely give praise or good feedback. Instead, there’s usually an obligatory allocated time for praise (e.g. at the end of a project or during annual assessments) and everyone would usually receive the same degree of praise for their contributions.
In today’s growing global economy, however, research has shown that employees feel valued, show better performance, and strive to work harder when they receive positive feedback from their managers. If you aspire to lead or communicate more globally, what are some ways you can adapt to incorporate motivational feedback into your communication style and still remain comfortable doing so?
Firstly, look for opportunities to give praise. Since it doesn’t come naturally, try to make it a habit to be on the lookout for opportunities to commend someone for making a good contribution to the team. Keep in mind Malaysians are a face-saving culture, so the manner in which praise is given should be done respectfully and at the right time. Secondly, be specific when giving praise. Highlight what exact action, words or initiative that was particularly outstanding and convey that to your subordinate or colleague. Good feedback that is tailored to an individual and sincere will really hit home and motivate that person to continue demonstrating good performance. Thirdly, graciously accept praise yourself. Receiving praise can also make us uncomfortable, and often we might dismiss it with a smile and a wave of our hand, or we might say “I was just doing my job.” To set a good example, graciously accept praise thrown your way with a “Thank you!” and you may find those around you learning to give and receive praise with more comfort and ease.
Providing motivational feedback that is appropriate to the Malaysian working environment is just one of many skill sets that managers should learn to develop and display at work. To benefit from further insights into the Malaysian perspective of effective leadership and how you can motivate your Malaysian team to give their best, join our Public Program on the 27 and 28 of September 2017.
By: Boleh Blogger