Manipulative Insincerity

What Is Manipulative Insincerity? Radical Candor Coaches Share Their Epic Feedback Fails

We’ve all been there at one time or another — too tired to care or argue. Hanging on by a thread with no craps left to give. This is how folks often land in the Manipulative Insincerity quadrant of the Radical Candor Framework.

Manipulative Insincerity

Manipulative Insincerity is what happens when you fail to both Care Personally and Challenge Directly.

It’s praise that is non-specific and insincere or criticism that is neither clear nor kind.

It’s the kind of backstabbing, political, passive-aggressive behavior that might be fun to tell stories about but makes for a toxic workplace, ruining relationships and work.

People give praise and criticism that is manipulatively insincere when they are too focused on being liked or they think they can gain some sort of political advantage by being fake, or when they are too tired to care or argue anymore.

Listen to our Radical Candor Stories podcast episode >>

Manipulative Insincerity often starts as Obnoxious Aggression — what happens when you challenge someone directly but don’t care about them personally.

It’s being clear, but not kind; praise that doesn’t feel sincere or criticism that isn’t delivered kindly. Obnoxious Aggression is also called “brutal honesty” or “front stabbing.”

In the videos below, our Candor Coaches share stories of Manipulative Insincerity as well as stories about how easily Obnoxious Aggression can devolve into Manipulative Insincerity, and how quickly a front stab can turn into a stab in the back.

Talking Smack Behind People’s Backs


Candor Coach Aaron Dimmock shares a story about a time he behaved with Manipulative Insincerity by talking behind a team member’s back rather than giving the person he was frustrated with direct feedback.

Eventually, the dynamic became so uncomfortable that Aaron left the team.



Candor Coach Becca Barish shares a story about a time she behaved with Manipulative Insincerity by talking behind a team member’s back after a meeting rather than approaching the person directly.

This created an “us versus them” mentality and polarized a team that was supposed to be working collaboratively.

From Obnoxious Aggression —> Manipulative Insincerity



Lead Candor Coach and Podcast Host Amy Sandler shares a story about a time she behaved with Obnoxious Aggression by kicking up.

Instead of talking to them directly, she cc’d a colleague’s bosses on an email to vent her frustration with said colleague’s performance on a technology project they were both working on.

Not only did this behavior reflect poorly on Amy’s colleague, but it also made her seem like a jerk.

When a new team came and took charge of the project, Amy was the lone member of the original group, and she was so over it.

Rather than bring the new team up to speed on what had already been done, she moved swiftly from Obnoxious Aggression to Manipulative Insincerity.

Amy didn’t share any information with the group and instead adopted a “good luck with that” attitude.

What’s Your Story?

Send us your Radical Candor stories by emailing them to


Need help practicing Radical Candor? Then you need The Feedback Loop (think Groundhog Day meets The Office), a 5-episode workplace comedy series starring David Alan Grier that brings to life Radical Candor’s simple framework for navigating candid conversations.

You’ll get an hour of hilarious content about a team whose feedback fails are costing them business; improv-inspired exercises to teach everyone the skills they need to work better together, and after-episode action plans you can put into practice immediately to up your helpful feedback EQ.

We’re offering Radical Candor readers 10% off the self-paced e-course. Follow this link and enter the promo code FEEDBACK at checkout.

Watch the Radical Candor Videobook

We’re excited to announce that Radical Candor is now available as an hour-long videobook that you can now stream at LIT Videobooks. Get yours to stream now >>



A professional writer, editor, storyteller and content strategist with more than 15 years of experience, Brandi Neal is the director of content creation and marketing and the podcast producer for Radical Candor. Some of the stranger things she has done include walking on fire (twice), hiking to the top of an active volcano in the middle of the night, hanging from the wing of an airplane (and letting go) and participating in an impala dung-spitting contest, which is just as gross as it sounds. In a movie of her life, she wants to be played by Stana Katic.