On this episode of the Radical Candor Podcast, Kim, Amy and Jason discuss how to make work less like junior high by implementing something Fred Kofman — Kim’s coach at Google — calls clean escalation. Clean escalation dictates managers not allow people to talk about one another to them behind each other’s backs and not engage in office gossip.
Listen to the episode:
Radical Candor Podcast Episode At a Glance
When someone tells you about something great a colleague did, urge them to also share that feedback directly with the colleague who did the great work.
This will develop stronger relationships between peers, allow for more praise to be shared (again, you don’t want to be a feedback bottleneck), and provide more perspectives on what’s going well and why.
When there are issues, insist that people communicate them directly. Remind them that Radically Candid criticism is kind and clear. It’s kinder for them to tell their colleague about the issue that needs to be fixed than to report that issue to the boss.
They’ll also be able to be more clear because they have details and context of the issue you lack.
The flip side of this is that if people come to you criticizing a colleague, don’t give them a chance to bring you into a triangle of complaining, name calling, or backstabbing.
Talking with the person on each side of an issue individually may seem like being a good listener, but it usually means you’ll get one-sided, biased and incomplete stories plus hurt feelings.
You are not being empathetic, you’re just stirring the pot!
Remember, the opposite of clean escalation is Manipulative Insincerity — talking about people instead of talking to them.
When you triangulate, you end up creating politics. Each side becomes suspicious that you’re talking behind their back (which you are).
The two begin to distrust each other and a toxic relationship develops. You can avoid this by simply asking them to talk to each other directly.
If they still can’t resolve the issue, and you’re the manager, set up a three-way conversation. This builds trust between the two parties and shows them how sharing criticism directly leads to a better outcome for everyone.
Radical Candor Podcast Checklist
- Don’t engage in office gossip. When you triangulate, you end up creating politics. Each side becomes suspicious that you’re talking behind their back (which you are). Encourage people to talk directly and if they still can’t resolve the issue and you’re the manager, set up a three-way conversation.
- You are not a diplomat; you’re more like a marriage counselor. Talking with the person on each side of an issue individually may seem like being a good listener, but it usually means you’ll get one-sided, biased and incomplete stories plus hurt feelings. Talk to both people at the same time.
- If there is a power imbalance, you can ask for help. Ask your manager to speak to the other person with you to have your back during the conversation with that other person. But don’t ask them to speak for you. Because when we do that, we wind up in dirty escalation land which leads to hurt feelings and often unresolved issues.
Radical Candor Podcast Clean Escalation Resources
- How to Escalate Disagreements Cleanly – A Coaching Conversation
- CLEAN ESCALATION, Resolve Organization Conflicts as One Team – Fred Kofman
- Conflict resolution / About Fred Kofman
- Imbalance of Power: How Factoring in Power Works – ADR Times
- Radical Candor Podcast: How To Encourage Feedback At Work
- 5 Easy Ways to Encourage Feedback Between Others at Work
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The Radical Candor Podcast is based on the book Radical Candor: Be A Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott.
Episodes are written and produced by Brandi Neal with script editing by Amy Sandler. The show features Radical Candor co-founders Kim Scott and Jason Rosoff and is hosted by Amy Sandler. Nick Carissimi is our audio engineer.
The Radical Candor Podcast theme music was composed by Cliff Goldmacher. Order his book: The Reason For The Rhymes: Mastering the Seven Essential Skills of Innovation by Learning to Write Songs.
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