Before we jump into how radical candor works, I want to write about the “conventional” or adviced method of giving negative feedback. In my previous jobs, we’ve always been trained to manage communication with colleagues, especially when giving negative feedback, using a common technique where you “sandwich” the negative feedback between positive ones, to get your message across but not hurt egos too much. The idea is that this allows negative feedback to be received without demotivating your team.
I find this useful in some cases because it forces you to think about what positive things this person has done, which is easy to forget in the heat of the moment when you are upset about something. When someone is working hard, it’s quite unfair to be focusing on the negatives without recognising the positives.
However, very often when you manage communication, because you soften the negative feedback, it’s easy for someone to believe that it’s not such a big deal, and they can take their time to be better, or maybe even ignore it completely. But if you had made a point to bring it up, it’s probably important right? So why soften it?
Since we introduced “Radical Candor” as one of our values at WOBB (which I can sum up as basically being a straight talker with the goal of helping the person you are giving feedback to), I find it so much more efficient, effective and powerful, not just for you giving the feedback, but also for the person receiving it.
I’m not saying you should not recognise what they’ve done right. You definitely should. But only give it as much recognition as you believe they fairly deserve, nothing more, nothing less. And deliver your genuine thoughts on what they are not doing right, making sure you are saying this BECAUSE you want them to be better for themselves. You don’t have to be mean and nasty, just speak plainly and factually without emotion and constantly engage with the person receiving your feedback to make sure they understand why you are saying these things, and why it helps them.
We’ve practiced Radical Candor increasingly at WOBB, and it’s really helped move the team forward.
If I have one regret in my previous jobs, is that when I was trained to manage communication when giving feedback, I bought in to it too much, because it also made it more comfortable for me when giving feedback.
Don’t try to make it easier for yourself to give negative feedback by softening the message. Be direct with them, challenge directly and just make sure you care personally for them at the same time.