What makes Radical Candor radical is that it’s a deviation from the norm, which tends to fall somewhere between acting like a jerk and avoiding confrontation altogether. The purpose of Radical Candor is to create a new normal where guidance is both kind and clear, not to reinforce bad behavior. This means that if you don’t Care Personally about the person you’re delivering feedback to, you’re exhibiting Obnoxious Aggression, not Radical Candor.
Ever since the book Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity was released, Radical Candor has become a bit of a buzzword, which is exciting. However, it’s often being used incorrectly, which leads to a misunderstanding of the true meaning of Radical Candor.
Case in point, a recent Wall Street Journal article that depicts obnoxiously aggressive internal tactics at Netflix as Radical Candor, as well as the Silicon Valley episode and Dilbert comic that do the same.
Let’s get one thing clear, Radical Candor is not brutal honesty. It’s not an invitation to act like a jerk, and just because you preface something with “in the spirit of Radical Candor,” if you fail to Care Personally, then you’re actually being obnoxiously aggressive — not radically candid. You’re acting like a jerk.
Obnoxious Aggression Means You’re Acting Like A Jerk
In short, Radical Candor means saying what you think while also giving a damn about the person you’re saying it to. This means you have to Care Personally while also being willing to Challenge Directly.
If you don’t challenge directly, you’re displaying Ruinous Empathy, and neither Obnoxious Aggression nor Ruinous Empathy are Radical Candor. In order to practice Radical Candor, you need to do both. If you neither care nor challenge, you’re engaging in what we call Manipulative Insincerity.
Radical Candor Is Both Kind & Clear
As people toss around the phrase Radical Candor more and more, it’s important to remember that if you don’t care about the object of your candor, you’re doing it wrong. I’m not saying command and control can’t work, it works especially well in a totalitarian regime or a baboon troop.
But in a radically candid workplace common human decency is something we owe to everyone. We try to find the best people for the job, and we respect all the people and all the jobs. If you want to learn more about what is Radical Candor and what isn’t, this is required reading.
- Radical Candor is NOT Brutal Honesty
- What to do when you’re being Radically Candid but everybody thinks you’re a jerk…
- Feedback: Don’t dish it out till you prove you can take it
- On Receiving (and Truly Hearing) Radical Candor
- Keeping It Real
Because, if you’re not a kickass boss, your team likely wants to kick your ass.