Opinion: The Big Contradiction at the Heart of the Tech Downturn Read Now

Illustration by Mike Sullivan

What Comes After Radical Candor

By  |  March 23, 2021 9:01 AM PDT
Photo: Illustration by Mike Sullivan

When I published Radical Candor, I joked that it was a guerrilla feminist text—even if all the feminism was buried in the subtext. Embarrassingly, I failed to notice the irony here: that I had encoded a clandestine message about equitable work environments in a book about candor. I was not living in accordance with my personal philosophy.

Radical Candor did a great job painting a picture of how things ought to be at work: we get more done and we like each other better when we care personally and challenge directly. When you both care and challenge at the same time, it’s radical candor. When you challenge without caring, it’s obnoxious aggression. When you care without challenging, it’s ruinous empathy. And when you neither care nor challenge, it is manipulative insincerity. Eliminating these three behaviors, each toxic in its own way, was my goal.

But I couldn’t create BS-free zones at work if I was in denial about the nature of the BS. And here was the thing I didn’t want to admit, even to myself. Radical candor worked. But it didn’t work equally well for everyone.

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