Are You Blunt Enough With Your Employees?

BY Kathy Crosett
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Managers know they must give feedback to employees to help them develop their skills and confidence. In most cases, managers are also careful about how they deliver feedback when it contains more criticism than praise. This strategy may be especially pervasive when managers are coaching younger employees who are accustomed to receiving praise. Another method of providing feedback, Radical Candor, is gaining acceptance. Could it be right for your company?

A post on Sapper Consulting recently outlined how the Radical Candor method works. In a nutshell, Radical Candor is all about providing blunt feedback, on the spot. Startup clothing retailer Thread uses the strategy and gave an example of feedback the CEO might offer an employee. “We often have moments in conversations where you quickly say your point, then stop abruptly and look at me nervously, bracing yourself and trying to perceive my reaction. It makes me feel uncomfortable. It makes you seem less confident.”

Analysts believe Radical Candor is especially effective at fast-​paced startup organizations like Thread. In these environments, all employees are working long hours, often under tight deadlines. Managers can’t or won’t allocate the hour a week typically allocated to coaching team members during one-​on-​one meetings. They find it more efficient to deliver feedback, especially to young inexperienced employees, on the spot.

Not everyone will take well to this style of feedback. To be sure you are fair when using Radical Candor, deliver feedback that you believe will help an employee grow. For example, after an employee finishes a presentation, you might be tempted to say, “You should stop using up-​speak when you end your sentences.” That kind of comment sounds too much like a personal attack and doesn’t offer much substance. A better alternative might be, “When you use up-​speak, you sound like you’re not sure of yourself. Is that the impression you want to give to your audience?”

Using Radical Candor can also make team members feel like you are singling them out for correction. Since everyone can benefit from direct feedback, dole out feedback to all team members on a regular basis.

If you find that employees are not changing their behavior after you mention something you find problematic, it may be time to try a new tactic. A little tough love in the form of Radical Candor may make a big difference in your employees’ performance.