Radical Candor vs. being an asshole

Last year, one of the books that I read on my reading list was Radical Candor, a book about how to build, lead, and inspire teams to do the best work of their lives… while also being honest (while being caring). The main idea is that in order to be a good manager, you need to care personally while also challenging directly. When you challenge without caring, it is called “obnoxious aggression.” When you care without challenging, it is called “ruinous empathy.” And when you do neither, it is manipulative insincerity. This book is considered one of the “it” books across up and coming tech startups. What is sad about that is that while everyone is touting this book, very few to none are actually actively practicing and embracing this.

So if we think about the concept of challenging without caring, that is called obnoxious aggression. And if we really think about it, another thing to call that is just being an asshole. That’s most men in power in tech organizations, and the majority of the time, it’s white men in power). Today, since I was on my way back from Atlanta, I skipped an “Ask Me Anything” session from one of our leaders, when he was supposedly attempting to be “radically candid” about why one of our sales leaders got canned the previous week. I received several messages updating me on what happened this afternoon. There’s a really fine line between being “radically candid” and just being an asshole, and he pretty much failed at the former and succeeded at the latter. And yet, it will all be just dandy because in his position, he can get away with it, and no one will question him. HR is on his side. He’s an Untouchable. For the rest of us mere earthlings, we’d get a massive admonishment from HR if we did even half of what he purportedly said.

There’s the glamour and perks of working at a tech company, and then there’s all the hypocrisy and bullshit. Today was a good example of the latter.

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