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Acting Like a Jerk by Not Caring Personally is a Radical Candor Fail

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. 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 Not Being a Jerk, a Pushover or Passive Aggressive

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.

Because, if you’re not a kick-ass boss, your team likely wants to kick your ass.

Kim Scott

Kim Scott is the author of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss without Losing your Humanity and the co-founder of Radical Candor LLC. A former CEO coach for several tech companies, including Dropbox, Qualtrics and Twitter, she has also managed a pediatric clinic in Kosovo, started a diamond cutting factory in Moscow and authored three novels.