Five Dialogues:
5. Working Late
Scott is working late again.
Yes, a real workaholic.
I wonder when he has time to enjoy his life, or even see his family.
Trying to impress the boss, I guess.
Five Dialogues: Trainer Analysis
1. Moving Up
This dialogue illustrates cultural differences in communicating negative feedback. In many cul-
tures, such as Yang’s Chinese culture, people are reluctant to criticize the performance or
behavior of other people for fear of causing them to “lose face.”
While this is also true to some extent in Charles’s culture, the way Americans would handle this
situation is quite different from how Yang is handling it. Yang, in fact, does not directly criticize
Charles’s performance in his job; he makes a number of very general observations, all of which
talk around the subject but none of which really say how well he is doing in his position. Then,
when Charles himself raises the issue of his actual performance (“I like to see results”), Yang
quite pointedly does not offer a judgment, but instead asks Charles to assess his own perform-
ance (“How do you see your results this year?”).
Yang is going out of his way not to render an opinion on Charles’s performance, which in
Yang’s culture would be a clear indication that Charles isn’t doing very well. Certainly, if
Charles were doing well, Yang would not be reluctant to say so. Indeed, the first and perhaps
strongest indication that Charles is in trouble is in the first line where Yang says to him: “We’ve
been wondering about your next position.” If Charles is in fact moving up, what would there be
to wonder about? And when Charles then says it himself (“Moving up, you mean?”), Yang
the question entirely (“You’ve learned a lot this year”).
Yang has now had two chances to give Charles some good news about the future; that he has not
is a sure sign that Charles isn’t going anywhere. Why does Charles miss all of this? Mainly
because in his more direct culture, a boss would do more than just hint that all was not well. An
American boss might not relish being the bearer of bad news any more than Yang does, but he or
she would probably be more straightforward about it, saying something like, “You’ve done a
good job this year, Charles, but I think you need to spend a little longer at your present level.”

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