Establishing Radical Candor in Your Business: An Overview

Managers may feel hesitant to provide honest feedback to employees in fear that it might hurt their feelings. Practicing radical candor in the workplace means giving this constructive input to employees in a way that challenges them to improve. Learn more about what radical candor is, discover the benefits of radical candor, view examples of it in the workplace and follow tips for implementing it.


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What is radical candor?

Radical candor is the act of caring personally about your employees while challenging them directly. Though it’s regularly practiced primarily by managers, many different employees are often encouraged to use radical candor in the workplace. Radical candor focuses closely on caring enough about an employee to provide them with valuable feedback regarding their career performance, whether it’s positive or negative. 

Kim Scott, a former Google employee and current advisor for Qualtrics, Twitter, Shyp and other well-established companies, created this practice. She believes radical candor emphasizes the importance of giving, receiving and encouraging guidance in the workplace, even if your guidance contains feedback that’s difficult for employees to hear. 


Benefits of radical candor

Radical candor is a great way for your employees to take comments, criticisms and encouragement and apply them directly to their work performance. Common benefits of radical candor include: 

  • Shows you care about employees: Giving employees only positive feedback even if they have clear problems they need to improve on often demonstrate your lack of wanting to better their work performance and help them improve. With radical candor, you’ll provide honest, but helpful feedback to employees shows you want them improve, even if it hurts their feelings. 
  • Encourages open communication: Radical candor in the workplace encourages yourself and other employees to provide open, honest and constructive feedback to both employees and managers, while still remaining respectful. This helps your team experience a more open, collaborative and trusting workplace. 
  • Challenges team members to improve: Employees who receive radical candor will feel challenged and pushed, essentially making them a better employee who knows which skills and abilities they need to improve. 

Related: Making an Organizational Structure for a Business


Examples of radical candor in the workplace

Here are common examples of what radical candor looks like in the workplace: 


Giving negative feedback in private 

Caring personally for employees means respecting their privacy and avoiding public humiliation. For instance, if you have any constructive or negative feedback to provide your employees, give this to them in private. Saying it out loud in front of their peers embarrasses employees and feels less encouraging than a one-on-one meeting. Share positive praise in public in front of their team members to boost morale and the employee’s self-esteem. 


Providing feedback once or twice, then moving on 

It’s important to ensure you’re giving feedback to employees and providing time for them to work on it. If they continue to make the same mistakes, but less often, give them time to improve upon it and acknowledge these mistakes themselves. Radical candor doesn’t involve criticizing them constantly and consistently reminding them that they made a mistake. 


Challenging employees to succeed and improve 

The most important goal you’re aiming to achieve with radical candor is challenging your employees to better themselves as an employee. Find ways to tell them what they’re doing right and what they could improve at to help them become a more successful team member. This shows that you care about their career and want them to move up in their role to reach more achievements. 

Avoid giving them negative feedback with no followup notes regarding how they can fix these problems. This makes employees feel like their managers don’t want to see them succeed, which is the opposite of what radical candor aims to achieve. 


Accepting input from employees 

Radical candor doesn’t only consist of managers giving feedback to employees. Show them that you’re willing to improve yourself by encouraging and accepting input from employees. This helps you learn your strengths and weaknesses as a supervisor to help you more effectively lead your team

Professionally listening to and accepting feedback also makes your employees feel more comfortable communicating with you and it demonstrates how they should professionally take and apply the constructive input they receive. 


Remaining professional when being direct and honest 

Radical candor emphasizes the importance of being direct and honest with employees so they can better understand their work performance. When doing so, make sure you’re still remaining professional, courteous and compassionate. Using radical candor involves avoiding brutal honesty that could potentially hurt and negatively affect your employees. 

The feedback you offer should be straightforward, while also suggesting ways to work on these challenges. Your employees should leave the discussion with a clearer understanding of their performance and a comprehensive plan to help them improve it.

Related: Creating Tactical Plans: Examples for Your Business


Tips for leaders implementing radical candor

Implementing radical candor in your workplace involves caring deeply about your employees and helping them improve and advance in their career. Follow these tips to help you effective establish radical candor:


Begin with positive feedback 

When you sit down with employees to provide them with your honest input, share their qualities and skills that impress you the most. This starts the meeting off on a positive note, which better prepares them for additional input regarding what to fix. Use strong leaderships skills to explain what they need to work on, while also keeping it positive by building steps and strategies to improve. 


Look at the situation from different perspectives 

Having empathy when using radical candor is important, as it allows you to view their situation from their perspective to understand how what you’re about to say might make them feel. Keep this in mind as you provide them with honest feedback. Make sure it outlines what they need to fix, without sounding too harsh that it puts them down. Your input must still motivate them and make them feel hopeful of bettering themselves. 


End the discussion on a positive note 

Similar to how you started, the meeting should also end with positivity. After providing constructive criticism, explain again how much you appreciate their hard work and that you believe their dedication to improving themselves will make them a better employee. This gets them excited to grow and implement the changes you suggested, rather than leaving the discussion feeling put down or unmotivated about the negative feedback. 


Teach employees how to practice it with each other

Having an office that provides each other with open feedback is essential to a collaborative environment. Meet with employees beforehand to instruct them on how to practice radical candor in a kind, encouraging and professional manner. Observe your team members to make sure they’re practicing this correctly and are steering away from brutal honesty that isn’t respectful.

Establishing radical candor in the workplace is a great way to help your employees understand their strengths and where they could use some work. Make sure you’re staying positive, motivational and encouraging when giving this constructive criticism to your team members. 

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