Radical Candor Podcast: Don't Let a Bad Boss Derail Your Career

Don’t Let a Bad Boss Derail You: A Guide to Thriving 6 | 18

A bad boss can derail your career. Kim, Jason, and Amy delve into the detrimental impact abusive bosses can have on career trajectories. They explore how such leadership styles can suppress assertiveness and hinder professional progression, especially contrasting the experiences of those in superstar and rockstar modes. With insights from the latest studies and rich personal narratives, this episode equips listeners with the tools to understand and navigate the murky waters of toxic management.

Listen to the episode:

Radical Candor Podcast: Episode at a Glance



 How it began …                                                 Toxic work environment …                                                                                 How it ends.

The team shares personal experiences and insights on how to address workplace conflicts and break the silence around workplace abuse. They emphasized the importance of acknowledging the problem, creating consequences for abusers, and offering support for those affected. They also discuss the challenges of navigating career transitions in small organizations and the need to build solidarity and communicate with one’s network.

For any employee experiencing an abusive, bad boss:

  • Document any instances of inappropriate or abusive behavior from a boss, including details of what happened. This can be done through journaling or emailing a trusted friend.
  • Build solidarity with at least one other person at work, or someone outside of work, to discuss the abusive situation and get moral support. Isolating oneself will likely make the situation feel worse.
  • Figure out viable exit options and have an emergency backup plan, such as enough savings to stay with friends/family, in case leaving the job suddenly becomes necessary.
  • Establish mechanisms within an organization to implement checks and balances on leader decisions regarding hiring/firing to prevent further disempowerment and ensure fair practices.
  • Cultivate a culture of “upstanders” by proactively finding ways to support those being harmed, rather than being passive bystanders.

The TLDR Radical Candor Podcast Transcript


@radicalcandorofficial My favorite thing 🧡🧡 #CapCut #RadicalCandor #Feedback #RadicalCandorPodcast #WorkplaceCulture #WorkplaceHumor #booktok ♬ original sound – Radical Candor

[00:00:00] Kim Scott: Hello everybody. Welcome to the Radical Candor Podcast. I’m Kim Scott. 

[00:00:07] Jason Rosoff: I’m Jason Rosoff. 

[00:00:09] Amy Sandler: And I’m Amy Sandler. You know, we talk so much about bad bosses and how they can negatively affect your well-being. Today we’re talking about how having not just a bad, but an actually abusive boss can actually impede the career trajectory of folks in superstar mode more than people in rockstar mode.

[00:00:31] If you have no idea what I’m talking about, go to season four, episode one of this podcast to get the TLDR or is it TLDL, uh, on what we mean by that. But in the meantime, Kim quick summary, rockstar mode, superstar mode, tell us more. 

[00:00:49] Kim Scott: Sure. People who are in superstar mode are gunning for that next job. Uh, they’re eager to invest a lot of the extra energy they have in life to their job and to growing in that job. Uh, either growth can be defined as learning a new skill or getting a promotion or whatever. Whereas people in rockstar mode are great at their job but they’re not necessarily gunning for the next job. They’re usually using that extra energy they have, uh, for something else that is going on in their life. 

[00:01:23] Amy Sandler: Kim, do you think, when you say, especially for folks who are in, uh, rockstar mode, how much of that would, from your own perspective, is related to stability around a paycheck? 

[00:01:34] Kim Scott: It may or may not be. I mean, I think, usually when, uh, at least for me, I mean, I’d love to hear from you, uh, Amy and Jason. When I’ve been in rockstar mode, it has usually been because I’ve, I’ve been in a job a certain amount of time. I’ve gotten good at that job. And, but I don’t necessarily want the next big job. I wanna keep doing what I’m doing and I have something else going on in my life where I have, where I want to, uh, put my extra energy.

[00:02:10] So like when I was working at Google, after I had been there a few years, I started writing a novel. And that was like, I was not gunning for the next big promotion, I was spending my extra energy writing a novel. I mean, there have been other times in my life when I’ve gotten good at a job and I’m just tired, like, I just kind of want to live my life and, uh, maybe take some extra walks.

[00:02:35] Uh, maybe I don’t have some other sort of passion project, but I just want, uh, I want to, I just want to be for a little bit. And that’s also, I think, important. Sometimes we’re in recovery mode when we’re in, uh, in rockstar mode or just, we’re just happy. Maybe we’re content, maybe we get, you know, that happens. That’s a whole other podcast. It’s a thing. 

[00:02:57] Jason Rosoff: Yeah. I talk, I talked to my cousin recently who has a very difficult, uh, job and he said to me, look, every day is basically the same as yesterday, and given how hard the job is, like that’s actually really reassuring. 

[00:03:15] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:03:16] Amy Sandler: That’s so, you know, it’s so interesting. Well, I want to bring in this recent study and see if that changes any of our definitions or ideas around growth and stability. There was a 2023 study in the journal Group and Organization Management. So this was an international group of researchers that was led by The Stevens Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois, Chicago.

[00:03:38] And they were really surprised finding that employees on a steep growth trajectory of career advancement, so Kim, what you would maybe define as superstar mode, these folks were less likely to be assertive after experiencing abusive leadership. Whereas folks on a gradual growth trajectory and in this study, they define that as valuing job security over advancement, were as likely to assert themselves after abusive leadership as they were before.

[00:04:15] So these researchers theorize that people on steep growth trajectories, may begin to assert themselves less with a bad boss because they perceive that person as kind of holding the keys to their career advancement and promotion opportunities. Whereas, you know, on the other hand, those folks who value job security over advancement didn’t feel that their abusive boss had this sort of unilateral power to fire them the way that they might with, uh, promotion or advancement opportunities. What do you think about that? 

[00:04:47] Kim Scott: This is so interesting to me and this may seem random, but stick with me for a moment. Uh, so it’s springtime and I have been filling the bird feeder outside my window and I have noticed that when there is a lot of food in an area, birds fight with each other much more than they do, like, if you look at them, how they behave in a tree where there’s less concentrated food.

[00:05:19] And where I’m going with this, I’ve been thinking about this lately, is that I think sometimes if you are dealing with an, uh, an abusive boss and you’re gunning for a promotion, like, you’re more motivated, maybe, than by greed, than by fear. And so you’re actually less likely to, because you’re, you want that next promotion, you’re less likely to challenge the boss.

[00:05:52] You’re more likely to sort of play the game that, as your boss has set it up, than you are if you are uh, in other words, I think greed is a bigger problem for causing us not to act than fear is. Does that make any sense? I feel like I was not very articulate just there. 

[00:06:13] Amy Sandler: It did make sense. I think what’s popping up is around greed as like the motivating factor for folks.

[00:06:22] Kim Scott: Greed, greed may not seem like a good way to put it. Uh, is that what you mean, Amy? 

[00:06:27] Amy Sandler: Yeah. I don’t know if it’s, I’m wondering if it’s greed rather than a design, you know, that’s why I was curious about sort of superstar versus rockstar. And is it about job security, um, versus advancement, which is what this research study was looking at. Um, and so if advancement and promotion is what’s most important, I don’t know that everyone who really wants to advance or get promoted is focused on greed as the motivator rather than, uh, you know, sort of other sources of motivation. 

[00:06:59] Kim Scott: But let me try a different way of telling the story. Uh, so at one point, I think I’ve told this story on the podcast. I had this boss, and this boss told me that my jeans weren’t tight enough. And then he sent someone out to buy me the tightest pair of pants I ever owned in my life. And so, I don’t know if it counts as abusive behavior, but anyway, it was obnoxious. 

[00:07:23] Amy Sandler: I think it does. 

[00:07:24] Kim Scott: Yeah. I think we can put that in that category. I have to say it felt a little bit abusive. And there was more to the story. But anyway, I did not, I didn’t, uh, I did not challenge him, uh, and not because I was gunning for a promotion at that particular company, but because I knew that if I kind of just went and got another job, I could go quietly.

[00:07:50] And, in fact, I had a, one of, I had two mentors at that time, and one of them told me to sue the company and him, and the other told me, uh, that I should not blow up my life, that I should just go get another job and go quietly. And I took the advice to go quietly. And later in life, I kind of regretted it. And I think the reason I didn’t challenge that boss’s, I mean, I did after I quit, challenge him, but the reason why I didn’t challenge him in some sort of significant way, the reason why I didn’t, uh, you know, decide to sue the company was because I knew that would make it, or I was afraid that that would make it harder for me to get the next job.

[00:08:36] Amy Sandler: Yeah. 

[00:08:37] Kim Scott: And so there was sort of other opportunities and money ahead of me. And it was not my fear of him or that company that caused me to remain silent. It was more, I don’t know, greed or it was a, there was a poor ROI. 

[00:08:56] Amy Sandler: To me, it seems, yeah, it seems more strategic. Like you, you know what your goals are. If your goals are advancement and promotion in this organization and you were, yeah, you were calculating an ROI of different actions. 

[00:09:09] Kim Scott: Yeah. Well, you’re always so kind to me, Amy, but, uh, but, but I don’t, 

[00:09:15] Amy Sandler: There’s greedy old Kim, throwing her bike helmet again.

[00:09:19] Kim Scott: Well, that was the same job. Same. Yes. Uh, so yes, maybe it was greed. Maybe it was just a strategic. But I think ultimately, even if we call it strategic, which is probably, you’re right, a better word to say it, it wasn’t strategic. My silence was not strategic in the end because my silence did two things.

[00:09:41] One was it made me feel like I had a loss of agency, you know, that there was just nothing I could do about this kind of behavior. I just had to, you know, tiptoe my way through the tulips of this kind of bad behavior. And two is that it was, you know, I had at that point a certain amount of privilege and I didn’t use it. And so, I was leaving behind other women who are also going to be, sort of, treated badly by this, uh, by my boss, and indeed they were, and so I felt bad about that as well. So, in retrospect, I mean, I’m not going to give myself too hard a time, I understand, I mean, in the end, he did something wrong, not me. Uh, but in, if I had to do it over again, uh, I think I would have made a bigger stink of it.

[00:10:31] Jason Rosoff: Yeah, I mean, I, I think another way to say that is that you didn’t, your ROI calculation was incomplete. 

[00:10:40] Kim Scott: Yes. 

[00:10:41] Jason Rosoff: Uh, and I think that to me anyway, that seems normal to not have all the factors. But especially in a situation where let’s call it toxic, if not abusive or toxic, behavior, like, you know, it’s,

[00:10:58] Kim Scott: Or obnoxious. 

[00:10:59] Jason Rosoff: Yeah. You know, I would say that the, in all of the examples, the bird example, your example, like there’s a scarce resource that, that if some, if there’s a thing, a being that controls your access to that scarce resource, I think it can be very tempting to try to sort of, politic your way, like be politic with that being that controls your access to that resource.

[00:11:30] Uh, and for you it was like, it was career advancement. Um, I think for the birds, it’s like, normally scarce resource, uh, is suddenly plentiful and now it’s, it’s sort of like a free for all, right? 

[00:11:45] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:11:46] Jason Rosoff: You’re trying to get as much as you can. 

[00:11:47] Amy Sandler: It’s like Best Buy, like, the day before Christmas, with, you know, special,

[00:11:50] Jason Rosoff: Literally before, because the thing that they’re trying to protect against, at least in my model is, Uh, another bigger being coming and preventing them from getting access to it, right? So they’re trying to like stay, they’re trying to like prepare, they’re taking advantage of the situation because the fear is that a crow is going to come down and set up shop at your bird feeder and all of a sudden they’re going to have no access to any of the food.

[00:12:16] Kim Scott: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think the thing that’s interesting to me that I’ve been thinking about is, as I watch these birds on the bird feeder, is that we tend to think that, um, lack of resources and fear causes us to behave sub optimally. But I think abundance and greed also make us behave even worse. And that’s what I’ve been thinking about. Uh, and then, and I mean, look, again, I don’t want to give myself too hard a time for quitting that job and getting another one. Uh, I’m glad I was able to do that. But I think that I did not quite live up to my own, uh, you know, perception of who I am, who I want to become by just quitting so gently. 

[00:13:09] And not, because the problem was, I was actually maybe in a position to create consequences for my manager. And ultimately that shouldn’t have been my job. That should have been my boss’s boss’s job to create those consequences. But I think, you know, from, from a very young age, like let’s go back to school.

[00:13:31] If you get bullied at school, you’re afraid to tell the teacher because you don’t want to be a snitch and, and also because you can’t count on that teacher to create consequences for the bully. You’re gonna, you’re gonna wind up suffering more consequences. So I think a lot of this, like, how this happens starts in, you know, it starts in elementary school.

[00:13:56] Jason Rosoff: Well, I, going back to the original, the theory, just to build on that for a second, I, think the person who values job security, they don’t, maybe the reason they’re more likely to challenge the person who, you know, maybe isn’t, is in our rockstar mode, maybe the reason they’re more likely to challenge is because the bigger threat to their happiness is not addressing the issue. But for the person who’s looking to move on, the bigger threat to their happiness is the lack of ability to escape. 

[00:14:36] Kim Scott: Yes. Yeah. 

[00:14:37] Jason Rosoff: So like if you’re like, oh, and that makes sense from an evolutionary perspective too, right? Like if we think about like the core biological need. If you’re like, I, we can’t move our family, you know, we can’t move our social group from here. Um, and you know, there’s a bear out there. Like we need to chase the bear away. Like we can’t just keep moving camp, uh, because there’s a bear. So we got to chase the bear away. Like I, that makes, anyway, it may, that, the way you described it, you felt like, look, I’m better off like someplace else.

[00:15:13] Kim Scott: Moving on, yeah. 

[00:15:14] Jason Rosoff: Than I am here. And so I think that’s your mindset that makes sense that you’re less likely to the challenge. 

[00:15:20] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:15:21] Amy Sandler: And it’s interesting, there was a, uh, 2023 issue of the California Management Review, which outlined the barrier model of destructive leadership. Basically outlining destructive leadership as a systemic problem involving not only the perpetrator and the victim. But also the organization and society at large. And in that piece, they talk about, you know, this is often downplayed because it’s perceived as infrequent. But at present somewhere between ten to fifteen percent of employees are victims of a toxic boss. Um, and just to note that, just because something may or may not be prevalent, although I would argue that ten to fifteen percent of employees is a pretty large number. 

[00:16:00] Kim Scott: It’s a lot. 

[00:16:01] Amy Sandler: Doesn’t mean, 

[00:16:01] Kim Scott: and not that it’s more.

[00:16:02] Amy Sandler: Yeah. Right. So we should still take it ser uh, seriously. And so just sort of at a high view, we could put this in the show notes, but when we sort of look at it from the societal context sort of culture and the economy and the job market, the law. So those are some barriers. I mean, Kim, part of it, you talked about a networking opportunity, but maybe there’s other networking groups, but you’re sort of thinking about, you know, what are my opportunities? So there’s sort of societal context and culture.

[00:16:30] And then in the organization itself. Like what are the organizational policies and practices and sort of the norms around speaking out? What other supports are there in terms of your team and overall corporate social responsibility? And I think it’s interesting. They go on to outline two other areas, barriers due to the abusive relationship, um, that person actually preventing employees from leaving, you know, becoming socially isolated, you know, how do you actually cope with this abusive supervisor? And then barriers within you, like your own sort of implicit leadership theories, like, oh, this is sort of just the way that leaders are, or, you know, your own personality, you know, Jason, you were talking about social identification, like this is just me. It’s more important for me to be part of the group, et cetera.

[00:17:18] So, and in the piece itself, you know, making some equations between actually abusive relationships in the domestic sphere, some of those, you know, why might this person stay similarly to why might I stay in an abusive sort of work relationship? So I’m curious, um, Jason or Kim, anything initially leap out at you as sort of this frame of all of these different pieces, um, these different layers to why we might, uh, why we might not speak up or leave.

[00:17:46] Jason Rosoff: I just, the, I wanted to go back, before we dive in, dive deeper, I want to go back to ten to fifteen percent. If you assume that half of all humans on earth are working age, ten to fifteen percent, uh, is four hundred to seven hundred million people are working for a toxic boss. 

[00:18:07] Kim Scott: That’s a big problem. 

[00:18:09] Jason Rosoff: I just, I, like ten to fifteen percent makes it sound like a very, like very, like it, it diminishes it when you think of it like on a scale of civilization. Now, of course, maybe it’s overstated because, uh, you know, who knows if there were cultural biases in the sample that they took, et cetera, but maybe it’s understated. 

[00:18:28] Kim Scott: Well, also, I mean, most people have more than one boss in their life. And so if you have had, even if these numbers are right and you’ve had ten bosses, you’ve had one, odds are you’ve had one that’s abusive.

[00:18:40] Jason Rosoff: Right. 

[00:18:40] Kim Scott: So, uh, over the course of a career. So I think it is, uh, it’s very common to have an abusive boss.

[00:18:49] Amy Sandler: I think that’s such an important point. And then the other thing I’ll add, and then I want to go back to just your initial thoughts sort of on the model is just, Kim, to your point, even though we might have other bosses, those prior experiences are what we’re taking with us into our new environment. So even if this person is not your current boss, you are still impacted by them. And you might be sort of now bringing that with you and your new dynamics with your boss and coworkers. 

[00:19:14] Kim Scott: This is so important. I was at, um, a meeting, uh, of very senior HR people across, uh, across a variety of different companies. And one of the HR people said, you know, seven out, there was a Gallup study that showed that seven out of 10 managers were bad, were not good managers. And he said no matter what training that he had offered in the course of his career, he was unable to move that number much. And it was, this was like a conversation that left me in a state of mild depression for several days because, uh, I have a feeling he’s right.

[00:19:56] But like, I think that, so I want to say, if you have an abusive boss, it ought to be your company’s responsibility to create consequences for that boss. And if that boss is indeed abusive, that person should be fired from their job, at least as a manager. Uh, they should not, a person who is abusive should not be allowed to manage people. Full stop. 

[00:20:24] Uh, however, I want to acknowledge that is probably not what’s happening in most situations. So I would love to talk about some specific things that I suggest that you do if you have, uh, an abusive boss. And in radical respect, I call this sort of, you know, how to speak truth to power without blowing up your career. So what do you do if you have an abusive boss? You ready? I have several different things. 

[00:20:55] Amy Sandler: I’m ready. Please. 

[00:20:55] Kim Scott: Alright. Step number one, document what is happening to you. Even if you have no intention of filing a lawsuit. Documenting what is happening will really help. And in radical respect, I have some examples of what document, documentation does, it can be just journaling, or it can be just sending an email to someone who you trust, not on your work computer, by the way, like, do it from a personal device.

[00:21:23] Uh, and just so that you can go back and have a record if you need it, but also even in the moment, the thing that document, documenting will do for you is it will help you realize it’ll help dispel gaslighting. You know, the problem is not you, it’s them. 

[00:21:43] Amy Sandler: Kim, can I ask, and I know you’re not a lawyer, um, and Jason, just to let you know that we had a conversation without you where we were, um, expressing our lack of legal skills. But is there a value when you do this, writing it down? You mentioned about an email, not on your work device, but actually having some actual measure of the day in which you’re doing it. Or is just handwritten in a notebook fine from your experience? 

[00:22:11] Kim Scott: Hand, handwritten in a notebook is fine. But I think a lawyer, and Jason you should jump in, you probably know more about this than I do, a lawyer would tell you if, uh, an email to a friend is better because then you build a contemporaneous record. So if you do wind up suing, if you’ve sent an email to a friend, the lawyer for the other side can’t say, well, she wrote that or he wrote that, or they wrote that after the fact, uh, because you can prove that you wrote it on the day that it happened or a couple of days after.

[00:22:44] Jason Rosoff: I think that’s probably right. My understanding is that it’s hard to get a journal with dates in it excluded, like to, completely eliminated, but it can be called, it’s more easy to call into question the, like, uh, for the exact reason that you’re describing. 

[00:23:03] Kim Scott: But again, your first goal in,

[00:23:06] Jason Rosoff: Is not preparing for a lawsuit. But it’s like, make sure that you don’t lose your mind as you go through that process.

[00:23:11] Kim Scott: Yes, exactly. Uh, so that’s the benefit of documenting. I think also building solidarity. There’s so much evidence that shows, if you can find even one person who you trust at work, that you have a better experience at work. And if you can’t find someone at work, find someone outside of work to talk to.

[00:23:33] I think solidarity, going through these things alone is it, you, is, you’re going to get re traumatized and re traumatized and building solidarity can help kind of create, um, some healing from all that trauma.

[00:23:49] Amy Sandler: I think, you know, just, I think just to really amplify that because so much of the lack of agency and whether it’s gaslighting. But this feeling, there is a power imbalance.

[00:23:59] Kim Scott: Yes. 

[00:24:00] Amy Sandler: And so building solidarity not only helps on an emotional and also potentially like kind of cognitive reframing. But just literally trying to level the playing field of like, it’s not sort of, it’s like a team, you now have more of a team that you don’t feel like you’re isolated. I think that’s important.

[00:24:17] Kim Scott: Yeah, and the other person who you’re building solidarity with may know of another job that they can help you get. They may actually be able to offer you not only moral support, but practical help. Um, so document, build solidarity. Um, and then I think the, once you’ve done that, you want to, or maybe you want to start here, you want to locate the exit nearest you.

[00:24:43] You want to figure out what, you know, if you quit tomorrow, what are your options? Um, do you have enough savings to go stay on somebody else’s couch? Uh, can you get another job? Uh, can, you know, what’s the downside of just saying, basta, uh, I’m out of here. And, uh, I think, uh, I want to acknowledge that sometimes we are well and truly stuck. But certainly we also often feel more trapped than we in fact are.

[00:25:20] Amy Sandler: Jason, do you have anything more to add on that in terms of, um, especially for folks who might be at smaller organizations where they feel like there’s not as many, you know, maybe interdepartmental or different parts of a company if one area might feel more toxic than another. 

[00:25:39] Jason Rosoff: Yeah, I mean, I wish I, I wish I did. I think it really depends, I think Kim’s suggestion of building solidarity of finding someone at work that you trust is even more important in a small organization. Um, because in a large organization you might have the option to move, you know what I’m saying, you might have the option to move someplace else, um, that you might not have in a small organization. Um, but I would venture to guess, uh, although I don’t know this for certain, I would venture to guess that in some ways it can be harder to leave a small organization than it is to leave a large organization because small organizations like start-ups and things like that don’t necessarily have the same sort of like resume or credentialing impact that a large like well branded organization does.

[00:26:26] And so there’s probably a bit more risk that’s inherent in trying to find the next thing if you’re in that situation. So I think is, Kim is talking about finding your nearest exit, I think that would probably factor into your calculation of like, what does my exit actually look like? And you may need to give yourself more runway, uh, right? More time to figure out what your exit looks like in that situation. 

[00:26:50] Kim Scott: Although, you also may not. I mean, I’ll never forget. I, one of my first jobs out of college, I was in a situation where I was being underpaid and I had been, sexually assaulted by not one, but two men at the organization. It was like really rough. And when I finally quit and got another job, uh, there was someone I knew, uh, in an adjacent industry who, when they heard that I had quit and gotten another job, said, why didn’t you talk to me? I would have hired you a year ago. Like, I can’t believe, he was mad. He was actually sort of annoyed that I hadn’t reached out to him and said I was thinking of leaving.

[00:27:32] And I’ve never forgotten that. I’m like, oh, I should, you know, if I am unhappy, I should start talking to other people immediately about whether or not they might hire me. Because I had no idea that he would have hired me. No idea. 

[00:27:46] Jason Rosoff: I think we’re saying the same, I think we’re saying the same thing, actually, Kim. What, I mean is like the, if you’ve worked all your life at small companies, your network isn’t as extensive, uh, isn’t necessarily as extensive. But I feel like this is sort of abuse one oh one, which is like, you kind of have to ask for help. And you don’t know who’s willing to, until you ask, you don’t know who’s willing to help, and often, you find that people are very willing to help. In fact, people are often excited, uh, to help. Not, they’re not excited by the situation, but to your point, that person is like, I would have loved to have hired you. I’m sad that I missed out on the opportunity to hire you a year ago. 

[00:28:25] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:28:25] Jason Rosoff: Um, uh. 

[00:28:26] Kim Scott: Yeah. Like he thought I would have been doing him a favor to tell him I was looking and I had just never thought about it in that way. So like, I think when it comes to locating the exit nearest you, remember, people are really eager to hire. Hiring is hard and people are really looking for talent. And so you’re doing people a favor to put the word out there to let them know that you may be available to be hired. Like you’re not asking for help, you’re offering help.

[00:28:56] Amy Sandler: Can I ask on that? And you know, it’s just to acknowledge how challenging that situation was, and a lot of time has passed, but that doesn’t take away from the impact of those episodes. For our listeners who things, these things might be happening more either in present day or more recent, what would you advise about their response to a, why are you leaving? Or how much do you, are you building solidarity with someone in a potential next hire so that they understand this is why there’s some urgency there. I’m curious when you had that conversation with that person, um, how much you would want to share of what was actually going on, especially given just the personal sensitivity on that.

[00:29:40] Kim Scott: Yeah. I mean, I didn’t share any, he had no idea, any of it. Uh, I didn’t, I’m not saying I shouldn’t have shared any. He just knew that I had, was in one job and took another job and I hadn’t asked him to hire me before I took the other job. That was all he knew. I mean, and I’d seen him, I had gotten to know him socially. Like I’d been at dinner parties and stuff with him. That was how I knew him. Um, but I just hadn’t thought of him as someone who might be able to hire me. 

[00:30:09] Amy Sandler: You know, as you’re saying that, Kim, it’s reminding me of, um, a previous conversation where we had someone who said that they thought that they had fired someone or they thought they’d had the career conversation or asked for feedback and it happened, hadn’t happened. 

[00:30:22] Kim Scott: Yeah.

[00:30:23] Amy Sandler: And so it might be helpful if you are the person that has been sought out or is trying to be helpful, even maybe naming it. Hey, you know, Kim, there’s some really great opportunities out there. And I’m going to introduce you to this person and actually kind of naming that because they might assume you’re smart, of course, you know, it’s possible. But when you’re in those situations, I think part of it, that mix of gaslighting and shame and what could be possible. 

[00:30:48] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:30:48] Amy Sandler: Just being really clear of like, hey, there are so many more opportunities available, um, because you might not being a place to really pick up on those cues that are more subtle.

[00:30:58] Kim Scott: Yeah. Yeah. And you know, it’s interesting. I was, um, talking to someone who had been in definitely an abusive work situation and somebody else had offered to really help them out in a big way. But the person who had been harmed just didn’t, she didn’t feel comfortable accepting the help, but she really needed it. Uh, and, uh, and so, but I couldn’t persuade her to go back to this other person. And say, actually, I want to take you up on that. So I went to the other person and said, can you please reiterate your offer more explicitly? So I think you’re exactly right. Uh, it’s important to be really clear with someone that you, you know, you hate what is happening to them and you want to help. And, uh, and their willingness to accept help is like, makes the world feel like a slightly better place. 

[00:31:57] Amy Sandler: Yeah. And I mean, to me, it sounds like it’s another way of being an upstander is really advocating for that other person at a time when they might not be able to fully advocate for themselves. 

[00:32:07] Kim Scott: Yeah, because it’s hard. It’s we’ve all been there. 

[00:32:10] Amy Sandler: Uh, Brandi, you know, I think on a previous podcast, you’ve shared about how you spoke up in a full company meeting talking about some of the things that the CEO had done and people afterwards really thanked you for doing that. And I’m curious, you know, we have a podcast on speak truth to power meetings. We’ll put that in the show notes. But what was it that enabled you to have the courage to do that? When you think about that frame from the research of sort of stability, job advancement versus, uh, promotion, um, you know, what weren’t you worried about that maybe your colleagues were more worried about?

[00:32:48] Brandi Neal: So at that point, I, my, uh, I’m a job security person, so I’m always, always, always worried about security. Because I don’t have a couch to sleep on or a family that would support me. So, the workplace had gotten so toxic that my desire to leave finally overrode the need for security and what allowed me to speak up was that I didn’t care if they fired me, unfortunately. And other people who weren’t speaking up hadn’t gotten to that point yet. 

[00:33:25] Kim Scott: Brandi, can I say one thing? 

[00:33:27] Brandi Neal: Sure.

[00:33:27] Kim Scott: You have not only a couch, but a whole guest room anytime you want it. Um, so, uh, it’s, and I think, uh, people out there who are listening to this, you probably do too. Uh, there are people who really, uh, who really care about you out there who, uh, you may not want to sleep in my guest room I can understand that. But it’s there, it’s there. 

[00:33:54] Brandi Neal: I appreciate that. And yes, I will say at a time when I had no resources and was unable to pay my bills, I was working at a shoe store making nine dollars an hour, and one of my colleagues, she had five kids, so she would pack six lunches and bring one for me because I didn’t have money to buy lunch.

[00:34:15] Kim Scott: Wow. 

[00:34:16] Brandi Neal: And this was like after, I mean, I had a college degree, I just couldn’t get a job, and she also gave me like pots and pans, and she was just so lovely to me, while my own family could not have cared less. 

[00:34:30] Kim Scott: Hmm. I’m so, I’m sorry. That is a hard situation, and thank goodness for her. 

[00:34:35] Jason Rosoff: Yes. I think I have been the person who people come too late in their process to ask for help a few times in my life. And I’m always like, of course, what do you need? Like borrow my car, sleep in my guest room. Like how, like I’ll any, anything I can do. And then people are always like, oh, but you’re, you know, like, I didn’t think to talk to you cause you’re so busy. And I’m like, but I’m, this is, I’m actually happy to help. Like it, it fills my heart with joy to know that I can be of service. Like I can be of help to you. Um, And I, I feel a little, it’s not a job, but I feel a little bit like your friend, Kim, who’s just like, I’m sort of sad that you didn’t ask me sooner.

[00:35:21] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:35:22] Jason Rosoff: Because I would have been happier sooner, because I would have been helping you. 

[00:35:25] Kim Scott: Yeah. 

[00:35:26] Jason Rosoff: Uh, the, anyway. So I think there are people who feel like they’re in impossible situations and, uh, And I understand that. But part of the problem of being abused is to make you feel isolated and like you have no help and there’s no one who can help you. 

[00:35:43] Kim Scott: Yes.

[00:35:43] Jason Rosoff: That is one of the impacts of being abused. And it makes people much more reluctant to reach out to connect, to, um. And so hopefully these stories are encouraging someone who’s in that situation right now and listening to the podcast. Like reach out to a friend or a colleague, someone you may not even know that well, and talk to them.

[00:36:06] Amy Sandler: And actually what I’m really taking away from all of this and Brandi, thank you so much for, for sharing, and I think your sharing really is so helpful. And I think one of the things on my mind is, from this, is actually how can we create more conversations around what would help look like for you, you know, with the people that we work with so that we can prevent some of those, oh, but I didn’t think I could go to you for help. And, you know, so actually starting to have those conversations, um, to make oneself even more available so that that person doesn’t feel like what they’re asking is such a huge lift. 

[00:36:43] Brandi Neal: Now that I am not in that position anymore, I make it known to my friends that I’m here to help. I can help and I will offer it before they ask because I know how hard it is to ask, especially when you’re in that situation. And if I can help, I’m happy to. 

[00:37:04] Kim Scott: Yes. And I think that, uh, one of the things that is important to acknowledge is how hard it is to ask. And how sometimes, not just hard, but impossible it feels to ask. Uh, and, uh, you know, I don’t know what we sitting here can say to help it, make it feel more possible to ask.

[00:37:29] Uh, other than that, you’re not necessarily, one of the things I, when I was reluctant to ask for help, I had a mentor who said, you’re not asking for like a handout, you’re asking for an investment .And, uh, and I think part of, at that time in my career, what made it so hard for me to ask for an investment was that I felt so bad. I didn’t feel like I was worth investing in. 

[00:38:00] And I had to overcome that feeling in order to start asking. But you are worth, every single person listening, you are worth investing in. You’re awesome. 

[00:38:10] Amy Sandler: I so appreciate that, Kim. All right. So let’s talk about tips to start putting Radical Candor into practice. 

[00:38:18] Kim Scott: Tip number one, recognize barriers to confronting abuse. We can’t fix problems we refuse to notice. Acknowledge that abusive leadership is a systemic issue affecting both individuals and organizations and also the people who just are bystanders, observe it. It is very depressing. Despite its perceived rarity, bullying and abusive behavior impacts a significant portion of the workforce, causing serious harm.

[00:38:49] Amy Sandler: Tip number two, cultivate a culture of upstanders, folks who proactively find ways to support people being harmed, not passive bystanders who simply watch harm being done, perhaps feeling bad about it, but not doing anything about it. Instead, upstairs show solidarity with the person who’s being harmed and that acknowledgement that something is wrong here is invaluable. And start proactively seeking out the folks you work with to let them know that you are there for them and that you do want to be helpful. 

[00:39:23] Jason Rosoff: Tip number three, implement checks and balances. If you’re a leader in an organization, it’s important for you to establish mechanisms to prevent disempowerment by other leaders. You want to create systems where decisions regarding hiring, firing, and promotions, compensation, uh, all involve input from a team of people allowing for checks and balances to ensure fair and just practices. 

[00:39:46] Kim Scott: Tip number four, if we go back to starting out in elementary school, like, we are told starting in elementary school, just ignore bullies, just ignore bullies. And, uh, and I think that’s bad advice. So, uh, in addition to ceasing to tell our children, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Let’s also tell them that it is our children, let’s tell our children that is our, it is our responsibility as adults to create consequences for bullying and to create a safe environment for them.

[00:40:19] And that if they come and tell us about bullying, we will make sure, we will do whatever it is in our power to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Um, and, and that may mean, you know, expelling more kids. I don’t know what we need to do, but certainly we need to give those people who indulge in bullying feedback that that’s not going to be tolerated. And if they can’t accept that feedback, there’s got to be consequences. 

[00:40:45] Uh, and you can tell your story publicly. I think that, you know, we have one of the, one of the reasons I think why I often didn’t respond when I was in experiences with abusive bosses or abusive people is that I felt like a victim, and we have such a complicated attitude towards victims. But I think sort of realizing like shit happens and sometimes shit happens to you and it’s actually cathartic and helpful to talk about it.

[00:41:18] Uh, and it’s not only helpful to you, it’s helpful to other people who are maybe experiencing what you experienced. Telling your story publicly can help you build solidarity with people you never would have met otherwise. 

Radical Candor Podcast Checklist

@radicalcandorofficial Ever had that moment where you just felt unseen and uncomfortable? That’s exactly how Kim felt during this situation. And you know what made it worse? Despite all the people around, not one person came up to check in on her. This is why being an upstander is important. We can’t just stand by and watch; we have to be upstanders, not bystanders. In her upcoming book, “Radical Respect”, she speaks about how to recognize, attack, and eliminate workplace injustice―and transform careers and organizations. Pre-order the book in our Linktree! #Awareness #Action #Transformation #RadicalRespect #RadicalCandor #BookLaunch #PreOrder #WorkCulture #Equality #LeadershipJourney #FYP #BusinessBooks #Storytime #BookTok ♬ Storytelling – Adriel

  1. Recognize barriers to confronting abuse. We can’t fix problems we refuse to notice. Acknowledge that abusive leadership is a systemic issue affecting both individuals and organizations and also the people who just are bystanders, observe it. It is very depressing. Despite its perceived rarity, bullying and abusive behavior impacts a significant portion of the workforce, causing serious harm.
  2. Cultivate a culture of upstanders, folks who proactively find ways to support people being harmed, not passive bystanders who simply watch harm being done, perhaps feeling bad about it, but not doing anything about it. Instead, upstanders show solidarity with the person who’s being harmed and that acknowledgment that something is wrong here is invaluable. Start proactively seeking out the folks you work with to let them know that you are there for them and that you do want to be helpful. 
  3. Implement checks and balances. If you’re a leader in an organization, it’s important for you to establish mechanisms to prevent disempowerment by other leaders. You want to create systems where decisions regarding hiring, firing, and promotions, compensation, uh, all involve input from a team of people allowing for checks and balances to ensure fair and just practices. 
  4. We are told starting in elementary school to ignore bullies. That’s bad advice. In addition to ceasing to tell our children, ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,’ let’s also tell them that it is our responsibility as adults to create consequences for bullying and to create a safe environment for them.

Radical Candor Podcast Resources 

Radical Candor Podcast: Don't Let a Bad Boss Derail Your Career

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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.

Radical Candor podcast

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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