Don't criticize in public

Don’t Criticize Your Employees In Public 6 | 7

You’ve heard us say often that it’s important to praise your employees in public (if they’re comfortable with it) but to always give criticism in private. While there is almost always something for others to learn from an individual’s mistake, criticizing or shaming them in public has been shown to make the person more likely to hide mistakes in the future, hurting them and the company. So how can we separate and honor our concern for the individual with the needs of the team?

Listen to the episode:

Radical Candor Podcast: Don’t Criticize Your Employees In Public

Public praise isn’t just about recognition; it’s a catalyst for learning. When you pinpoint what was exceptional and why, publicly, it resonates more with the individual and enlightens the entire team.

For instance, instead of just saying, “Alex did a great job,” specify: “Alex devised the plan for X and secured funding, boosting our efficiency by 85%. That means less tedious tasks and more exciting projects for all. Thank you, Alex!”

Private criticism is vital for empathy and clarity. Radical Candor isn’t about “front-stabbing”; it’s about delivering feedback kindly and directly in private.

Public criticism can come off as overly harsh. Private feedback is clearer and less likely to trigger defensiveness, making it easier for individuals to acknowledge mistakes and learn from them.

Great leaders avoid public criticism and discourage employees from doing the same. However, they actively welcome public criticism directed at them. Embracing public critique allows leaders to showcase gratitude for feedback and treat it as a valuable gift.

This approach not only saves time but also addresses potential concerns that others may share. Handling criticisms publicly enables a swift resolution for the entire team, making the process more efficient.

Given the limited availability on a boss’s calendar, employees often have to seize the moment as it comes, even if it means addressing issues in public.

Radical Candor Podcast Checklist: Don’t Criticize Your Employees In Public

  1. It’s OK to offer a correction in public. For example, if you notice bias, flagging in the moment, especially if you’re an upstander.
  2. Clarify the difference between criticism focused on personal development and healthy debate, which we want to encourage … personal development criticism should happen in private, debate can happen in public and should be focused on ideas versus people, egos or personality attributes.
  3. Don’t be afraid to talk about mistakes in public when they happen Leaders should not be afraid to own the mistakes on their team if others can benefit from learning about them.

Radical Candor Podcast Resources: Don’t Criticize Your Employees In Public

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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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