Managers in today’s organizations face the challenge of giving appropriate performance-related feedback to employees with various cultural backgrounds. Performance feedback that motivates employees from one culture can frustrate employees from another culture. As organizations internationalize and workforces diversify, performance appraisal in a multicultural context becomes a more important yet understudied area. In this thesis, I investigate the influence of culture on performance-related feedback by examining the mechanism of regulatory focus. Regulatory focus is a person’s goal orientation and is classified as either promotion- or prevention-focused. In this thesis I develop a model of the effect of regulatory focus on performance-related feedback from both rater and ratee’s perspectives. I conducted three empirical studies to test hypotheses derived from the model. Study 1 used a scenario to examine the relationship between regulatory focus and feedback framing from the rater’s perspective in an American MBA student sample and a Chinese employee sample. The experiments that comprised Studies 2 and 3 examined the interplay between regulatory focus, feedback framing and sign from the ratee’s perspective. Both studies used undergraduate student samples. Results showed that promotion-focused people were more likely to frame feedback in terms of eagerness, whereas prevention-focused people were more likely to frame feedback in terms of vigilance. In addition, when promotion-focused people received positive-valence and eagerness-framed feedback, their future performance improved compared with when they received positive-valence and vigilance-framed, negative-valence and eagerness-framed, and negative-valence and vigilance-framed feedback. This interaction was not found among prevention-focused people. The model presented in this thesis examines the impact of culture (a country-level construct) through regulatory focus (an individual-level construct). It provides a theoretical basis for investigating intercultural interactions in the process of giving and receiving performance-related feedback. It also provides practical implications for managers involved in delivering feedback in multicultural organizations.
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Thesis advisor: Thomas, David C.
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