What is Ruinous Empathy?

The Ruinous Empathy® quadrant of Radical Candor is the one that causes the most unintended destruction to relationships. What is Ruinous Empathy? It’s “nice” but it’s not kind.

In fact, Ruinous Empathy is ultimately unhelpful or even damaging. It’s what happens when you care about someone personally but fail to challenge them directly.

Ruinous Empathy Examples include praise that isn’t specific enough to help the person understand what was good, or criticism that is sugar-coated and unclear.

Ruinous Empathy is seeing somebody with their fly down, but, not wanting to embarrass them, saying nothing, with the result that 15 more people see them with their fly down — more embarrassing for them. So, not so “nice” after all.

Watch Kim Explain Ruinous Empathy

Ruinous Empathy is a big problem that affects companies across every industry. The key things to understand about Ruinous Empathy are:

  • It happens when managers and colleagues avoid giving the feedback people need to improve and repeat success because they don’t want to create tension or discomfort.
  • It’s like the well-meaning parent who can’t bear to discipline their kids — they end up inadvertently ruining the employee’s chance of success and the entire team.
  • Praise can also be Ruinously Empathetic when it’s not specific enough to help the person understand what was good.
  • Ruinous Empathy is actually more damaging than being a jerk (Obnoxious Aggression) or backstabbing (Manipulative Insincerity). It prevents people from getting the feedback they need to grow.

Ruinous Empathy is a toxic form of “niceness” that ends up hurting people in the long run.

Learn more about Ruinous Empathy >>