The Power of Radical Candor

April 15, 2024
Seka Lussier

Communication is an art. We all employ varying communication styles and abilities, sculpted by our personal experiences, affecting how we move through the world and perceive our interactions. This can make communication an unpredictable minefield. Add to this already difficult landscape, remote work environments, and communication becomes more precarious than ever.

What is Radical Candor?

Radical Candor is a concept introduced by Kim Scott in her book – Radical Candor. It revolves around the idea of providing honest feedback while simultaneously caring about the individual’s growth and well-being. Radical Candor encourages open dialogue, constructive criticism, and genuine concern for personal and professional development.

My personal Radical Candor journey

I was introduced to this topic by my colleagues here at PCS, and admit that it has been an unnatural experience to assert my honest and empathetic feedback in the moment. I had been conditioned for so long by capitalist ideologies to quiet the honesty in my feedback and instead only share praise or nothing at all. In my journey through this concept, I have found myself addressing issues as they arise, ruminating less, and challenging myself to question the root of my reactions. This is still a new concept for me, and like anything new, there have been growing pains. At times, I have used Radical Candor inappropriately by not incorporating the empathetic component. Let’s look at some examples.

Examples of Using Radical Candor

Honest Feedback with Care:

Imagine a team member has delivered a presentation that fell short of expectations. Instead of sugar-coating the feedback or avoiding the issue altogether, a manager practicing Radical Candor might approach the individual privately and provide specific, actionable feedback on areas for improvement. For example, they might say, “Your presentation lacked clarity in certain sections, but I believe in your potential. Let’s work together to refine your delivery for next time.”

Recognition and Praise:

Radical Candor isn’t just about addressing areas of improvement; it also involves acknowledging and celebrating successes. Suppose a colleague completes a project ahead of schedule and delivers exceptional results. A Radical Candor approach would involve expressing genuine appreciation for their hard work and contributions. For instance, saying, “I’m impressed by how you managed to exceed our expectations with this project. Your dedication and attention to detail are commendable.” Employing Radical Candor solely for addressing areas needing improvement overlooks valuable opportunities. By utilizing this approach, we not only hone our ability to express our thoughts openly and honestly but also pave the way for it to become a natural aspect of our communication. Additionally, Radical Candor allows us to offer positive feedback, thereby delivering vital positive reinforcement that fosters growth and morale within the team.

Examples of How Not to Use Radical Candor

Brutal Honesty without Care:

One common pitfall is providing feedback in a harsh or insensitive manner, which can undermine trust and damage relationships. Instead of delivering criticism constructively, it may come across as belittling or demoralizing. For instance, saying, “Your performance was terrible. You need to do better next time,” without offering guidance or support.

Lack of Follow-Up or Support:

Another mistake is providing feedback without following up or offering assistance to help the individual improve. This can leave the recipient feeling disheartened and unsure about how to progress. For example, pointing out flaws in a team member’s work without offering guidance on how to address them or providing resources for improvement.

Radical Candor is a powerful tool for fostering open communication, building trust, and driving growth in the workplace.

By combining honesty with genuine care and empathy, leaders can create an environment where individuals feel valued, supported, and empowered to reach their full potential. However, it’s essential to approach Radical Candor with sensitivity and tact, ensuring that feedback is delivered thoughtfully and with the recipient’s best interests in mind. Most importantly, in taking on this new communication style, it is essential that an environment of safe failure is established. There will be growing pains, and there will be trial and error, but by fostering an environment where it is safe to experiment, we can embrace this concept of Radical Candor.

To read more on this by the woman who pioneered the concept, you can check out her website at