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Criticism & Obnoxious Aggression

Obnoxiously Aggressive criticism is often referred to as “front-stabbing”. It’s when you criticize without Caring Personally.

A couple months after joining Google, Kim had a disagreement with Larry Page about his approach to an AdSense policy. She wrote an email to about 30 people, including Larry, which proclaimed his approach to be against his own mission and implied that he was recommending the policy because he was focused on increasing Google’s revenue rather than doing the right thing for users.

If Larry had worked for Kim instead of the other way around, she would never have sent such an arrogant, accusatory email. So why did she behave this way? Because she didn’t really think of Larry as a human being. She saw him as a kind of demigod who could be attacked with impunity. Kim didn’t get the full story to understand his stance, and her criticism wasn’t humble, helpful or in private.

It’s important to remember that Obnoxious Aggression, like the other quadrants, is a behavior, not a personality trait. Although Kim gave this type of feedback, it does not mean Kim is an asshole. Nobody is a bona fide asshole all the time. But all of us are Obnoxiously Aggressive some of the time.

More about this story and others is included in “Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity,” published by St. Martin’s Press. Learn more

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