On this episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, “Radical Candor” author, CEO coach and entrepreneur Kim Scott matches Kara candor-for-candor onstage at the Optimizely office in San Francisco. The two talk about management miscues in Silicon Valley, where Scott worked at multiple startups, as well as Google and Apple. Later in the show, they take questions from the audience.
You can read some of the highlights from the interview at that link, or listen to it in the audio player below. We’ve also provided a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.
Kara Swisher: Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, executive editor of Recode. You may know me as a brilliant jerk, although not the kind that works at Uber. But in my spare time I talk tech, and you’re listening to Recode Decode, a podcast about tech and media’s key players, big ideas and how they’re changing the world we live in. You can subscribe to Recode Decode at iTunes.com/recodedecode, and while you’re there, leave us a review.
Today in the red chair is Kim Malone Scott, the author of a new book about leadership called “Radical Candor: Be a kick-ass boss without losing your humanity.” Kim previously worked at both Google and Apple, and has advised CEO’s at companies like Qualtrics, Dropbox and Twitter. She and I spoke in front of a live audience a couple weeks ago at the Optimizely Office in San Francisco. Let’s take a listen.
All right Kim, let’s start by talking about your background. I know you want to talk about the book mostly, but your background is really really interesting.
Kim Scott: I’ve been lucky. I’ve had a lot of cool jobs.
So why don’t you talk about where you’ve worked? And obviously Google was probably one of the biggest places.
Google was one of the biggest. Before Google, there were three failed startups, so, Google worked out a lot better. I also started a diamond-cutting factory in Moscow before Google and led a pediatric clinic in Kosovo.
Those are failed startups, or no?
Well, no, but that’s in addition to the three failed startups.
So, talk a little bit about that background, because failed startups are really an interesting thing to get you to a place that is more successful.
Yeah, I mean, I think a big part of the reason why I wrote the book was that I screwed up so often in the failed startups as a manager. When I first became a manager, a friend of mine was joking with me. She said, “You started this company because you hate The Man, and now you are The Man. You hate The Man, you are The Man. It’s even more complicated ’cause you’re a woman!” And I think a lot of managers have that feeling when they first become a boss of some kind ... like, what does that mean? And so, those experiences and the startups, and then seeing it done better at other places. Not always better, but often better.
So what were the failed startups? What were they?
So the first failed startup was, well, probably the biggest one in my mind, was Juice, the one I started. And before that, it was Capital Thinking, which was a commercial mortgage ISP and before that, there was Delta Three, which was a super early voiceover IP company.
And these you founded?
No. I joined the first two and then I co-founded Juice.
What did they have in common in failure? What were the issues?
Bad management. I mean, it was really pretty simple. In the first two cases, it was other people’s bad management, and then I imagined, from those two experiences, that if I were the boss, if I were the CEO, human nature would change, which of course it didn’t. And so, those were where a lot of the early painful lessons came from.
Could you talk about some of that bad? What was bad?
Yeah, so, here’s a good example of badness. So, at Juice I had hired this guy, we’ll call him Bob. And I liked Bob a lot. Bob was funny, he was smart, he was charming, he would do stuff, like we were at one of those management off-sites, where we’re playing one of those stupid get-to-know-you games that everybody hates and nobody dares to admit that they hate.
I dare to admit it! They did a falling game thing and I didn’t catch them.
The trust fall! It’s like, such bullshit. Anyway, but you hate to admit that the trust fall is bullshit, you know, what does that make you? So, anyway, Bob was brave enough to do this. He was like, “This is taking a long time. I’ve got a great idea, we’re gonna go around the table and we’re gonna tell each other what candy our parents used when potty training us.” Weird, but fast, right? Hershey Kisses right here. We all remembered.
And then for the next 10 months ... yeah, if ever I’m grumpy, you know what to give me. For the next 10 months, every time there was a tense moment in a meeting, Bob would whip out just the right piece of candy for the right person at the right moment. So, I liked Bob. It was one problem with Bob.
He was doing terrible work. Absolutely atrocious. I learned later, the problem with Bob was that he was smoking pot in the bathroom six times a day, but I didn’t know. Yeah, hence the candy, exactly. But I didn’t know any of this at the time and I was puzzled ’cause Bob had this amazing resume, like, why was he doing such bad work?
And I liked him, and so, instead of giving him feedback when he screwed up, when he would hand something in that was incoherent, I would say, “Bob, you’re so awesome, you’re so smart, this is a really great start, but why don’t you try a little harder? Come back, I’m sure it could be a little better.” And this goes on for 10 months. Eventually the inevitable happens, and I realize if I don’t fire Bob, I’m gonna lose half my team. And we can’t afford that. And so, when I had the conversation with Bob and explained to him how things stand, he pushes his chair back from the table, looks at me right in the eye, and he says, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
So why didn’t you tell him?
Yeah, it’s a good question, but then he asked another question. I didn’t have a good answer at the moment, I mean, I thought I didn’t tell him ’cause I wanted to be nice to him and not criticize him and now I’m firing him. Not so nice after all, right? Then he asked me another question, and the other question is, “Why didn’t anybody tell me?” And I realized that was even the worst mistake. He says, “I thought you all cared about me. You didn’t tell me.” And, why didn’t I tell him?
I didn’t tell him for a couple of reasons, neither of them that good. One is that I was so worried about hurting his feelings that I didn’t tell him and then the other problem, of course, was that I was ... everybody liked Bob and I was afraid if I told Bob what a bad job he was doing, he would get upset and the whole team would think I was a bitch, right? And I didn’t want that to happen, either.
And so, the meaning of “Radical Candor” is care personally, challenge directly, and when you do both at the same time, that’s good, that’s Radical Candor. When you fail to challenge because you care so much, that’s what I call ruinous empathy.
So that was one mistake I was making with Bob, but then there’s this other, even worse, mistake you can make where you neither care nor challenge because you’re worried about yourself, usually, and that I call manipulative insincerity. So I would say those were my two screw ups as a manager with Bob.
And the worst part about this was that it was too late to save Bob. I realized I had screwed up and because I had screwed up, now I’m firing Bob because of it. And that’s the worst thing about managing people, is that you make your biggest mistakes on the backs of these people who work for you.
Except that Bob was not capable of doing the job.
Well, maybe he would have stopped smoking pot if I had explained to him the impact ... I mean, he could have fixed it, perhaps.
He had the capability-.
Maybe. Maybe not, but at least he could, I mean ...
But you weren’t honest.
I wasn’t. I was not. I was not candid.
Not candid. So, and then the other one? What other thing went wrong with Bob? No, with other people. Bob is fired now. Fuck Bob.
Bob’s okay, by the way.
In Silicon Valley, you fall up, you don’t fall down.
Right. Oh, I know that one. Eric Schmidt is doing great.
Yeah, we’re all okay. We’re all okay.
Oh, sorry. It’s Bob.
I was never in a position to fire Eric Schmidt. Not that I would have fired Eric Schmidt.
You don’t have to say ...
I like old Eric.
Anyway, so, another mistake that people make all the time, especially here in Silicon Valley, is they look around at their team and they think that everybody has to be hyper ambitious all the time. Especially when I was at Google I had this intense, you know, “You’ve gotta be on this super-fast track,” and then when I got to Apple, there was an executive there who said to me, “There’s two different kinds of people who do really well on the team and the key thing to building a high-performing team is to balance the two. You’ve gotta balance your superstars and your rockstars." Like, what the heck is the difference between a superstar and a rockstar?
So I’m sort of scratching my head and she says, “Your superstars are the people who are responsible for growth and change on your team. They want new challenges, new stuff, you gotta make sure they’re getting promotions fast, all that kind of stuff. Your rockstars are the people ... don’t think about Ozzy Osbourne or something like that, think about the Rock of Gibraltar, they’re solid as a rock. And these are the people who are great at their job, and they’ll keep doing that job for years if you don’t screw it up for them.”
And I realized that I had been sort of systematically undervaluing the people who were in rockstar mode for my whole career and that that was not only bad management, it was sort of out of alignment with my personal humanity.
So, example, there’s this guy. We’ll call him Derek.
I like these names.
I know, you gotta love all these names. So, Derek.
I noticed they’re all men who are screwing up, but go ahead.
If you’re gonna fictionalize, you may as well make it all men who screw up and all women who do wonderful work, right? So, anyway, Derek ... Derek, actually, in this case, didn’t screw up, it was me, the woman, who was screwing up, to be fair. So this is a, you know, equal opportunity screw-up situation.
Derek was a customer service guy. Loved doing the customer service work, people sent him baked goods, forget about MPS. When your customers are sending you baked goods, that’s when you know you’re doing a good job. So Derek loves the work and the company’s going well, and eventually we need to grow and so I say to Derek, “Do you wanna lead the team? Do you wanna lead this customer support team?” And he said, “No, I don’t, because what I really wanna do in life is to be on Broadway.” This was a startup in New York. “What I really wanna do is leave work at 5 o’clock and go be in these off-Broadway performances.” And so, I hired this other guy to lead customer support, who really didn’t care at all about customer support. What he really cared about, he wanted to be the CEO. He was the superstar, super-fast-growth trajectory.
The guy I hired, his opinion was that customer support work was so boring, you had to hire B players or C players to do it. This, obviously, was upsetting to Derek, who came charging in my office talking about Ayn Rand and there are people who are on the fast growth trajectory and those are the architects but you also need electricians in your building and if you want the lights to turn on you don’t need a C electrician you need an A+. You don’t need a C architect you need an A+ electrician. This kind of made sense to me, but Derek wasn’t signing up to lead the team so I just let the other guy do it the way he wanted. Derek quit, and pretty soon everything goes to hell and, you know, the baked goods stopped and the whole team failed. I realized I had undervalued the job that Derek was doing. He was not a B player by any stretch, he was an A+, he loved his job. So, stuff like that.
Then you went to Google.
Then I went to Google.
Where you worked in search, all kinds of places.
Never search. It was AdSense, YouTube, DoubleClick.
So, talk about what that was like, because you did a lot of unusual management style things. It can be radical candor there, it could also be passive aggressive, in my experience.
Yeah, I would say that Google, again, we didn’t talk about one quadrant in the Radical Candor framework. All of life’s problems, of course, can be distilled to a 2x2, so this is all ... So in the bottom right-hand box where you are challenging directly but you’re not showing that you care personally, that’s obnoxious aggression. Also known as the asshole quadrant, right? But we’re not gonna call it that, and we’re not gonna call it that for a very important reason.
The reason is that I don’t want you to use the framework to ... It’s tempting to start writing names in boxes, at this point, right? Who’s obnoxiously aggressive, who’s manipulatively insincere, who’s ruinously empathetic. Don’t do that. We all spend time in all of these quadrants. Use the framework to judge not yourself or other people, but the way a conversation is going and to get it going in a better direction.
Right, and so, the bad quadrants ... ?
So, there’s three bad quadrants. I would say, unfortunately, the ... well, we’re not gonna call it the asshole quadrant, we’re gonna call the obnoxiously aggressive quadrant obnoxiously aggressive behavior-.
“Obnoxiously aggressive” is such a nicer way of saying “asshole.” It’s like, not.
It’s describing behavior, not the person.
You’re not an asshole, you’re obnoxiously aggressive. It’s pretty much the same thing.
You’re being, in this moment, obnoxiously, yeah.
Usually it’s perpetual, but that’s all right. And actually, recently, Arianna Huffington has called it “brilliant jerks” at Uber. We’re gonna get to Uber, by the way.
Yeah, I’m always happy to talk about Uber.
You’re gonna diagnose that ...
The other night I was a little, maybe I had had a couple of drinks and I was feeling like I should only use Lyft but I’m in the habit of saying Uber, so I said, “I’m gonna take a Luber home.” Don’t make that mistake.
All right, I won’t.
We’re gonna take a quick break now, we’ll be back with more from “Radical Candor” author Kim Malone Scott soon, after a word from our sponsors.
So, Google. Talk about that, because that was an unusually managed company.
Google was awesome.
Tell me, what was that?
So, I’ll never forget, shortly after I joined, watching Matt Cutts and Larry Page have this argument about something, I don’t even remember what. But I really liked Matt, I had gotten to know him, and he starts yelling at Larry, and I was just looking at Matt and listening to what he was saying, and I was starting to worry, “Oh my gosh. Matt’s gonna get fired!” And then I looked at Larry and he’s just got this big grin, his whole face is lit up. It was just such a productive way to have arguments that it was sort of inspiring.
Not always yelling. In this case, challenging and being willing to challenge authority and the authority sort of welcoming it. There was another time where I was in a meeting about the AdWords front end and since AdWords is how Google makes 90 ... not all, 99 percent of its money. A big percent.
Yeah, those balloons are really killing it.
So anyway, AdWords is important to Google, we can agree on that. And, so there was a big change and the team wanted to do one thing and Sergey wanted to do another thing. Sergey said, “Okay, I understand why you wanna do that thing, but why don’t you put a few engineers on this idea, on my idea?” And the team was having none of it, and Sergey at some point kinda bangs his fist on the table and he says, “If this were an ordinary company you’d all be doing it my way! I just want a couple of you to try it my way!” And he didn’t even get that, you know, but he was frustrated. He was genuinely frustrated. But you could also see he was smiling, proud of himself for creating an organization that would stand up to him, and that was inspiring.
So, the concept that you’re trying to push with the book is that it is important to allow this kind of ...
To encourage. One story I heard last night, I was having dinner with Susan Wojcicki and Carrie Farrell was there, we were talking about women’s, you know, we’re talking about Uber and different things. And apparently at one point, when they didn’t have enough women engineers, he just stopped hiring. They just wouldn’t let them hire until ... and it moved a lot of people into the diversity group, you know, if you don’t have enough diversity, then we need more people in the diversity group, which is interesting. Not that they still don’t have issues, they have major issues.
But they’ve really tried hard.
Tried, yeah. Alan Eustace really tried hard, and he tried hard in significant ways like the hiring process, taking a look at how they promoted, and making sure that the data was out there so women knew when it was time.
So, what are the things you’ve learned at Google and took away into the book in this idea of ... You radically can move into just ...
Not just, it’s not necessarily mean, but, you know, “Shut up. Stop talking,” kind of thing. Everybody has an opinion and nobody has a decision-making process.
Yeah, Google was interesting, it was a fast-moving consensus-based organization, which I would have said was impossible until I was working there.
So, fast-moving consensus-based? It was a very cohesive group of people, even if people didn’t like each other, they were cohesive.
Yeah, it was, and I think that radical candor was part of what held it together. So what do I mean by that? A simple example is, again, shortly after I joined Google, I had to give a presentation to the founders and the CEO about the AdSense business, and, you know, you walk in and there’s Sergey. Pretty much all of you have worked at Google, right? In his toe shoes on the treadmill in the corner of the conference room, and Eric staring into his computer like his brain is attached, and you think, how am I gonna get these people to listen? Why am I even here?
And, like any normal person, I felt a little nervous in the situation and luckily, the AdSense business was on fire and when I said how many new customers we had added, Eric’s head jerks up out of his computer and to the extent you can screech to a halt on an elliptical trainer, Sergey does, and Eric says, “What do you need to keep this going? Do you need more engineers? What resources?” And I’m thinking, “You know, this meeting went okay.” In fact, I’m kind of feeling like a genius. And as I walk out — my boss at the time was Sheryl Sandberg — and I’m expecting a high five or at least a pat on the back from Sheryl, and instead she says, “Why don’t you walk back to my office with me?”
I think, “Oh boy, I screwed something up and I’m sure I’m about to hear what it was.” and so, she started out focusing on the good stuff, and not in a feedback sandwich kinda way, but seeming to mean it. But this wasn’t bad. It was badder than that, trust me. But anyway, all I really wanted to know was what I screwed up, and so, eventually she says to me, “You said ‘um’ a lot in there.” Now I breathe a huge sigh of relief. If that’s all I’ve done wrong, it’s no big deal. And I kind of make this brush-off gesture with my hand. And she said, “I know this great speech coach and Google would pay for it. Do you want an introduction?” And I make this brush-off gesture. “I’m busy! Didn’t you hear about all these new AdSense publishers we just added?” And she stops, she looks at me, and she says, “I can see when you do that thing with your hand that I’m gonna have to be a lot more direct with you. When you say ‘um’ every third word, you sound stupid.” Now, she has my full attention, right?
And some people might have said that it was mean for her to tell me that I sounded stupid, but in fact, it was the kindest thing she could possibly have done for me at that moment in my career, and kind for a couple of reasons. One, because she knew me well enough and she was paying enough attention to know I was blowing her off, to know she had to sort of move out on that “challenge directly” dimension of Radical Candor, but also kind because I had been giving presentations my whole career, and if she hadn’t said it to me just that way, I wouldn’t have gone to see the speech coach and I wouldn’t have realized that she wasn’t exaggerating. I really did say “um” every third word. It was like I had been going through my entire career with my fly down and nobody had the courtesy to tell me, “Hey! Your fly ...” I mean, I could zip it up if you’d tell me that it’s down, and that really made me think, “Why had nobody ever told me that I had this problem and what made is easy for Sheryl to tell me?”
And I think that, at Google in general, with Sheryl especially, everybody who worked for her knew that she really had their back, that she really cared personally about them. But she also didn’t let her concern for our short-term feelings get in the way of saying what she needed to say for our long-term success.
So, how do people learn that? First of all, talk about what the problems are to getting that. It’s, why don’t people behave like that? One was being too nice.
Yeah, being too nice. I think the problem on the challenge directly, which also, I think, is the sort of willingness to piss people off dimension of Radical Candor. You really do have to be willing. You’re good at this. Maybe we should ask you about why.
Honestly, I don’t give a fuck what people think of me, but go ahead.
That’s good, but that’s an important part of Radical Candor. I’ll talk about that in a minute. So, I think for a lot of us, it starts because we have a parent. How many of you had a parent who said to you, as you were learning to speak, like you’re 18 months old or something like that, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” Right? And now all of a sudden ...
Well, good on your parents. They did you a favor. I have 8-year-old twins and they really, they come out with some zingers, and it’s the House of Radical Candor at my house. Anyway, cause I don’t tell them that, right? So we’re sort of taught from the time we learn to speak that it’s dangerous to say that you really think. And now all of a sudden you become a manager and it’s your job to say it. And it’s hard. It’s hard to undo training that’s been beaten into your head since you were 18 months old.
And then on the care personally dimension, I think a couple of things get in the way. I think the big one happens when you’re about 18-19 years old, you’re just at that moment in your life when your ego is extremely fragile but your persona’s beginning to solidify, and right at that moment you’re told, “Be professional.” And I think for an awful lot of people, that means, “leave your emotions, leave your real self, leave your humanity, leave the very best part of you at home and come to work like some kind of, I don’t know, drone or something.” And that is not a good way to move up on the care personally axis. I mean, it doesn’t start like “I don’t give a shit about people so I’m gonna be a great boss.” That’s not how it starts.
Right. So, one is don’t say things. Two is essentially edit yourself.
Yeah, well, edit yourself in two dimensions. Edit your humanity and edit your brain, right?
And it happens, definitely, with women more than men, too. Correct or no?
Yeah, well, I think that ... here’s how I see it. I think that a man managing a woman is more likely to be ruinously empathetic with that woman than with the other men on this team.
Not giving them enough feedback. I was actually just talking to Megan about this. She said, “Ask him about that,” because men are often nervous to give feedback to women or people of color sometimes.
It plays out ... it’s hard to be radically candid with someone who looks just like you. It’s even harder to be radically candid with someone who looks different from you. And so I think that men managing women ... my twins are — one’s a boy and one’s a girl, and I see this from the time they’re 4, 3. There’s so much pressure on my son to pull his punches with my daughter and the other little girls, and in fact, Tim, who’s back there, has a great story, I hope you don’t mind if I tell it, this story.
So, Tim told me a story about being ... it’s a great story, because it’s both literal and figurative at the same time. So Tim’s on the company softball team and this woman on the team starts yelling at him for throwing the ball more gently to her than he is throwing the ball to the guys on the team and it’s causing the team to lose. And Tim, who doesn’t have a misogynous bone in his body, he’s a wonderful man, was chagrined to realize that he had done this.
I don’t think that the tendency to pull punches when giving feedback to women on your team if you’re a man stems from some sort of character flaw, it’s just, again, this training that’s been beaten into you since you were a little boy, so forgive yourself, but give the women the equal feedback. I think it’s harder for a woman to be radically candid. If you’re a woman and you’re being radically candid, you’re much more likely than a man is to be accused of obnoxious aggression. You know, this is kind of the abrasive problem, the competence likeability problem. But it’s even more painful than that, because if you’re a man who’s unjustly accused of obnoxious aggression, you’re called an asshole, but if you’re a woman, you’re called a bitch. And I don’t have data on this, but I’m pretty sure it hurts more to be called a bitch than an asshole. So, it’s hard.
And it’s tempting, as a woman, especially as a young woman, to back off your challenge, to move in the wrong direction, and I think it’s really important to have extra strengths to hold your ground to continue challenging.
How do you do that? And then men managing men tends to be easier?
Management is never easy.
How do you, then, change these behaviors?
I think that if you are a woman and your boss is a man, I think it’s really important that you demand criticism. If you’re a man, just be aware of the fact that you might be pulling your punches and don’t do it. She can take it, I promise. There’s a lot of thoughts on fear of tears that men often have. My first thing I would say is that, maybe this says more about me than anything else, but my experience is that men cry just as often as women in my office, so men cry too is the point. So don’t over index on that, and the worst thing you can do, I think, as a man who’s afraid of tears, which is not, I mean ... women are afraid of tears, too, it’s no fun to have somebody crying in front of you, nobody that I know likes that. I think a few things are important. One is, don’t say you can’t cry. I once had a boss who told me, “You just can’t cry in front of me.”
This was before you cried? He was pre-crying you?
Yeah, and then I started crying! He would come walking down the hall and I would tear up, you know. Guaranteed that I was gonna cry when he said this to me. It’s like, Tolstoy’s brother once played this mean joke on him: He said, “Go stand in the corner and don’t leave until you stop thinking of a white bear.” And then he couldn’t stop!
So don’t do that to people, don’t say you can’t have a particular emotion. If you, yourself, no matter what gender you are, can’t handle tears, own that emotion. Don’t tell the other person that they can’t cry. Say, “Let’s talk about this later. It upsets me to see you cry.” Just own your own emotions. I think as a woman being unjustly accused of obnoxious aggression, part of it is just, I think Tim took this phrase out of the book because it was disgusting, but I’m gonna say it here: Just put your thick-skin suit on, you just have to kind of tough it out, is part of it. Don’t back off. You do want to show that you care personally, but you don’t want to become the angel in the office, right?
Virginia Woolf said that the goal of a female writer is to kill the angel in the house, and she was talking about this Victorian poem that basically said that women are wonderful because they have no wants and needs and desires of their own, they just exist to serve the men around them, which is, obviously, we wanna kill that angel, that notion. And I think, unfortunately, what has happened often, and it’s because of this competence likeability bias, the angel has left the house and entered the office. And very often I think women put undue pressure on themselves because it’s being put on them by others to bake cupcakes, to go too high up on the care personally axis, do all the office housework. So don’t do that.
So our current political environment isn’t like that because obnoxious aggression seems to be working.
It’s not radically candid, that’s for sure.
Explain what it is. Just fuckin’ crazy?
Yeah, fuckin’ crazy might be the best way to put it.
Batshit crazy might have gone right off the grid. There’s an awful lot ...
You have another grid.
Yeah, here’s one thing that I see, not necessarily among politicians, but just in general in political discourse. I think the phrase, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all” has a political corollary, which is, “politics divide.” And so, we all are afraid to talk politics with one another if we disagree.
It doesn’t seem like that anymore.
It’s still like that in my family.
Well, I’m thinking of social media, where everyone will literally say anything at this point.
Yeah, but they’re not ... what we have failed to do is to show that we care personally about the people who we’re disagreeing with, and we utterly failed to do that. I made this great promise that I was gonna have a political discussion with someone who I do love, but who I disagree with vehemently, and even though I just wrote the book “Radical Candor,” I had a really hard time doing it. It’s difficult to challenge people directly.
Do you imagine conversation has changed because ... ? ’Cause I think social media’s gotten weaponized and toxic in so many ways and it’s led by Trump, with his crazy tweets, but they’re very ... people do that all the time and it gives permission for people to do that.
I think that when you are ... one of the rules of “Radical Candor” is to have as many of these conversations in person as possible, and that’s for a bunch of different reasons. One is that when you can see how another person is reacting, you do care more. And when you forget that there’s actually a human being on the other end of the screen, it’s difficult to care personally, and hard to show that you care personally.
Yeah, it’s interesting. Some people, they go crazy with me on Twitter, I find their phone number and I call them.
And they’re probably ...
Horrified. I always start like, “Hey. Calling me the c-word may feel good, but it’s really not nice and, well, I know that you must have a mother or sister, you clearly don’t have a girlfriend, from the way I look at it, but why do you do that?” Most people back off. Not everybody, but most people are like, “Oh, I’m so sorry,” but it’s this twitchy kind of culture we’ve gotten into where ... and we get permission from our public figures to do it and you can be very clever and cunning very quickly, which is interesting.
It’s easier to look smart when you’re criticizing, when you’re attacking, than when you’re ... it’s hard to look smart when you’re showing that you care personally.
We’re gonna take another quick break now, we’ll be back in a minute with “Radical Candor” author, Kim Malone Scott.
We’re gonna talk about ... I do wanna talk about Uber, because that is like a management disaster.
So, what would you ... where to start. Sexism? Sexual harassment? The crazy behavior? Where should we begin?
So, I think that ... one of the things that I most admired about Google and management at Google was that Shona Brown, who lead business operations and who designed a lot of the processes ...
She loved the system.
Yeah. She’s damn good at developing one. So, one of her beliefs that I think is really true, is that unchecked unilateral authority is bad. It results in bad decisions that are much more easily hijacked by bias than a good process. And she puts it very, sort of, eloquently. I put it like this: I think that power and control work really well in a baboon troop or a totalitarian regime, but that’s not what we’re shooting for here, right?
Which sounds like Uber, but go ahead.
Yeah, right? You said it, not me. And, so, I think the problem is absolute power corrupts absolutely, and a little power corrupts in petty, nasty ways. I think that one of the things that would help a lot in a culture like that is if the usual sources of power that an individual manager has gets stripped away so that the manager has to rely — instead of on power and control — on forming a relationship with the people who work for them.
So my model for the way that good management works is that the manager is at the center and if the manager’s off balance then everything else goes bad. And then the next concentric circle out from that is the relationship that the manager has with direct reports. Relationships don’t scale, but you can have a relationship with each of your direct reports. If you have a good relationship with each of your direct reports, and only if, then are you able to fulfill your core responsibilities as a manager to create a cultural feedback to build a cohesive team.
Because they will do that.
Yeah, and you’ll do it with them. I mean, it’s a collaboration. Those arrows go both ways, and to achieve results, of course, to achieve results collaboratively because telling people what to do doesn’t work. If a manager doesn’t have unilateral decision-making over who gets promoted, who can transfer, what performance ratings people have, then a lot of this stuff that got described just couldn’t have happened. Now, that’s not to say that those processes are gonna fix human nature. They’re not. But they’ll make the worst abuses much less prevalent.
One of the things they were saying to me was that they were growing so fast, they just couldn’t help themselves, which reminds me of when my kid was 7. “I couldn’t believe my room was this dirty, I don’t know how it happened like this.”
My house, come into my house. My kids are 8.
It’s interesting because I was like, “You mean you didn’t care to put systems into place?” because lots of companies grow fast.
Google was growing really fast, Apple grew really fast.
I was like, that’s a stupid excuse.
It is a stupid excuse, I agree.
And there was a lot of disrespect for HR.
Yeah, and I think that’s another problem. I mean, HR has to serve three masters, and they have to serve all three if it’s gonna work. Gotta keep the company outta legal trouble. Gotta help the individual leaders at the company continue to grow and do well, and you’ve gotta address injustice raised by individual employees. And I think when the leaders at a company get too strong, when they have unchecked unilateral authority, then that’s all that HR does, is keep the leaders out of trouble. And that’s a disaster waiting to happen.
And then how do you do that when the leaders are the ones causing the problems?
Well, you have to change the leaders, I guess.
Yeah, but that doesn’t happen.
It happens sometimes.
I’m not so sure. When?
When? Let’s talk in six months. I bet there’s a leadership change, but we’ll see. We’ll take a vote.
Because you hear from the people who are doing the investigation, “no, no changes.”
Yeah, of course you hear that.
What would you do if you were advising him? Because he seems to be the problem. He’s the one who’s setting the tone, correct? I mean, the leader often sets the tone. The top leader does.
What would you say? You can’t just say, “Stop being an asshole.”
No, you can’t. You know, it is a good question. Most of the coaching that I have done has helped people who are ... most mistakes, actually, don’t happen in this obnoxious aggression quadrant. Most mistakes happen in ruinous empathy. And it’s pretty easy to move someone over from ruinous empathy to radical candor. If somebody truly doesn’t care, and I don’t know Travis, so I’m not making a judgment here, but if somebody truly doesn’t care about the people around them, I’m not sure I’m such a CEO coach that I could fix that problem, but I’m pretty sure I can fix the problem when somebody’s, sort of, being too nice. The nice thing is, the good thing, is that most, I would say, like, on the order of 85 percent of management mistakes get made over here in ruinous empathy, and if you can move the people who really do care over to challenge more, then you undo the advantage that asshole-like behavior has in the world, right?
It can be effective.
It’s more effective than ruinous empathy or manipulative insincerity, definitely.
I mean, you can think of a lot of cultures in tech, Microsoft, very tough. Oracle: tough.
Yeah. Very. Yeah.
Do you think that can continue going forward? Those kind of cultures?
No, because I think that, especially in ... I think part of the reason that there’s so much interest in management in Silicon Valley — I mean, 15 years ago, somebody said to me, “Management is neither taught nor valued in Silicon Valley.” And I think that has changed. And I think the reason it has changed is that the war for talent is so intense here, that nobody has to pay the asshole tax anymore. You just don’t. And so, companies can’t afford to allow leaders to get away with obnoxious behavior. I think the advantage that obnoxious aggression has had in the past is eroding, at least here.
Incredibly, just when we have literally the most obnoxious little environment in all history, right?
It is very interesting, how that has happened.
I will tell you a story about ... there was a leader who I knew once, and he was often obnoxiously aggressive. Again, I’m gonna try real hard not to label people but he was quite ... you know this person.
I’ll tell you who it is in a second.
Yes, but I will, because I’m radically candid.
Yes, you are. You are that, and I love you for it.
So, there’s a party. He throws a party, this guy, and the company’s culture was sort of whimsical and he says to everybody, “Come dressed in your national costume.” And so everybody comes dressed in these goofy, crazy, ridiculous outfits. He was new to the company and was unaware of what was gonna happen when he said this and he shows up in a tuxedo. I’m not sure what national costume the tux is, but anyway that’s how he shows up. And he walks up to this guy, this friend of mine, and he says, “I said come dressed in your national costume, not dressed like a fool.” You know, he’s just trying to make this guy look ... and it was obnoxious, right? It was bad behavior. But the worst thing about it, I realized in retrospect, was not his behavior, but that I didn’t stand up. I just, like, sat there and said nothing like a bump on a log. And that’s why he got away with it for months and years and years, and I think that that is what has happened with our political discourse.
But they let people get away with that.
“We,” not “they.” I mean, not you, Kara, you don’t let people get away with it, but I was raised in the South, I was raised to be a polite, Southern girl who didn’t ever disagree. People don’t speak up. I once had a boss, this guy you really don’t know, but he was so belittling. I remember one time, somehow I got BCCed on a thread, he didn’t realize I was there, and he said ...
I hated those things.
Yeah, that was one of my favorite things about Google: BCC was not allowed, and if you added somebody, you did it at the top, like, “plus so-and-so.”
Anyway, he said something incredibly rude about me, and I confronted him on it. He was like, “Don’t worry your pretty little head about it.” So he was, like, that kind of belittling ... and I literally, I didn’t even work for him that long, it was about a year. But I literally shrunk half an inch and I’m only five feet tall, I don’t have half an inch to give up. My doctor was amazed, she was like, “What is going on?” And then when I quit, I got the half an inch back, in a matter of weeks. It was amazing.
I couldn’t stand this guy. I was consumed with hatred for this guy. And then I bumped into him about a decade later and, for whatever reason, agreed to have a drink with him. And I realized that he wasn’t that bad. The intensity of my emotion was not because of his behavior, but because of my own behavior, because I hadn’t stood up to him.
He’s still an asshole, sorry.
He was. Look, what he said was obnoxious, but what I did was wimpy.
At the same time, it’s sort of like getting mugged. It’s not really your fault someone’s hitting you on the head with a stick, right?
Some people are shy, some people cannot respond and shouldn’t be forced to.
I’m not justifying his behavior, I’m just saying, a big part of the reason why obnoxious aggression has an advantage is that we don’t stand up to it. Too many of us ...
It’s interesting because I’m just gonna tell a very brief story, someone in Silicon Valley was this woman CFO and ...
I’m not gonna guess who it was.
There’s lots of women CFO’s, actually, so you can’t guess it. And the husband, who I never liked, was also in Silicon Valley, and was introducing her to someone and he said, “Have you met my wife, the Chief Fuck-Up Officer?”
Oh my gosh.
I know. And so, you know, everyone’s “hahaha” and I go, “What the fuck did you just say?” And he’s like, “Oh, what’s wrong?” I said, “That was super hostile. I don’t know if you noticed that, but that was super hostile to your nice wife.” And he goes, “Oh, don’t be like that”" And he was, “Oh, you lesbians, you have no sense of humor.” I go, “No, I laugh at funny shit, but that isn’t funny, that was super hostile.” And I said, “Don’t talk to your wife like that in front of people. You made us all feel awkward. What’s wrong with you?”
Why aren’t more people like you, Kara?
Interestingly, the wife was like, “Hey Kara, don’t ... you know, it’s okay.” I’m like, “It’s not okay. You can’t have your husband talk to you like that. You’re, like, successful.” And I turned to him and I said, “If I had a hot, rich wife like yours, I would not speak to her that way. I would talk to her like, ‘Wow, she’s fantastic.’” And it was fascinating that everyone didn’t want me to say that.
And what was his reaction?
He was like, “Oh, you don’t have a sense of humor.” And I was like, “You’re just a jackass.” And so we went back and forth, and I said, “What you said was rude and everyone thinks that. No one’s saying it, but I’m articulating the entire crowd’s feelings on you right now.” And I wouldn’t let him off, and then he, “I’m sorry.” I’m like, “You’re not sorry. Don’t even bother.” So it went on like that, and later, she divorced him, thank God, and she came up and thanked me. She said, “Thank you for saying that because I was getting used to it. You could see it in the workplace, I was so used to it it seemed normal.” Which was really interesting.
And the amazing thing about standing up to people is that often they actually appreciate it. I’ll never forget, when I started my career in Russia doing diamond cutting, I was on a train ...
I’m not even going down that road.
Yeah, we won’t go down that road. That’s another long story. And so I’m on a train from Moscow to St. Petersburg and at this time you could buy all four tickets, because I didn’t wanna sleep with a strange man, it’s an overnight train. And so I bought all four tickets so that I wouldn’t have to sleep with a strange man and this strange man barges in and says, “You can’t do that, devushka.” Which means “little girl.” Not just “girl” but “little girl.” And then he goes to the bathroom and so I take his bags and I throw them in the hall and I shut the door and lock it. Then the next morning I know I’m gonna have to confront the guy and I’m sort of panicked, cause as I mentioned, I was raised in the South, I was told never to do something like that. I don’t know what I thought was gonna happen, I thought something terrible was gonna happen, and instead, he raced up to me and apologized. I was like, “Whoa! You mean you can stand up to somebody and they apologize to you for their behavior?” This guy didn’t apologize, it sounds like, but sometimes it does happen.
Yeah, it does. Recently, someone was asking me about mayoral stuff that I was thinking of and he was like, “I wanna give you money.” He was one of those Libertarians, which I just can’t stand. And I said, “You want to give me money?” And I’m not collecting money or anything like that. And I said, “I hate every single one of your political stances and I think you’re an appalling, selfish prick.” And he’s like, “I still wanna give you money.” And I thought, “Oh my God, there’s something wrong with that.”
It was odd. And I stand by my assessment of that, of Libertarians.
So, we’re gonna get some questions from the audience very quickly. Let’s have some, please be open minded. I’m gonna call on the lady first, right there.
Speaker 1: Hi Kara.
Speaker 1: You’ve talked a lot about how taking feedback, being men vs. woman. What if you are a woman working for a woman and you wanna be getting that candid feedback and, instead, they’re worried about hurting your feelings, and then vise versa, if you were giving feedback to another woman.
Yeah, so, I think that if you feel like your boss, no matter what your boss is, baboon or man or woman or something else, if you feel like your boss is pulling their punches, you gotta ask them for it. You gotta just call them out on it. You gotta say, “The thing that you can do for me that would be more helpful than anything else is to tell me where I’m screwing up.”
So I would have four pieces of advice for soliciting feedback. The first is, come up with a go-to question, cause it’s awkward to ask for feedback. Nobody really wants to give you ... people hate to give feedback. Nobody wants to give you feedback. And so when you ask somebody for feedback, the most common thing you’ll hear is, “Oh, everything’s fine.” And you can’t let that stand. So you gotta come up with a question that you feel comfortable asking and then asking again. So, one that I used to like was, “Is there anything I could do or stop doing that would make it easier to work with me?” I was talking recently to Christa Quarles, who said “That’s a ridiculous question. I could never say that. What I always say to people is, ‘tell me why I’m smoking crack.’” So, whatever it is that works for you, it doesn’t matter what the question is, just come up with a question that you’re comfortable asking. That’s No. 1.
No. 2 is, you gotta embrace the discomfort. These were words of wisdom from Andy Grove, because you really want ... you’ve gotta drag the truth outta people. They do not wanna tell you what they really think. You’ve gotta make it more uncomfortable for them to say nothing than to say something. And then you’ve gotta listen with the intent to understand, not to respond. You cannot get defensive. And then you have to reward the truth. If somebody tells you you stink, buy a stick of deodorant, use it, tell them you bought it, tell them you’re using it, ask them if it’s helping.
Definitely, on that one. Right here and then right here.
Speaker 2: So, thanks for the book. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m looking forward to it.
Speaker 2: As the owner of a small bookstore, you would tell me to probably look in the management section, this is a management book. But as you’re writing it, how much of it were you thinking, “Oh, this is personal relationship management, this is parenting.”
It’s ... it is, it’s about relationships, really. I tried to write this book so that it would feel more like a book of short stories than your typical management book because management is all about relationships, and there’s a very specific kind of relationship between boss and employee, and it’s a new relationship.
For most of human history, the great collaborative feats were achieved through terrible brutality. And then along came the industrial revolution and we replaced brutality with bureaucracy, which was a huge step in the right direction, but not really inspiring. None of us longed to be bureaucrats. And so now we’ve gotta replace bureaucracy with a real human relationship, but it’s a new kind of relationship. So that’s why I focused on management, but “Radical Candor” applies to child rearing, it applies to romance, it applies to marriage, it applies to any human relationship, I think.
Yeah, definitely. Right here and then right here. I’m gonna repeat the question, too.
Speaker 3: Thank you guys both for this. I think I’m really empathetic, I think I deliver feedback okay, but maybe it’s a question for both of you. I don’t think I’m great at identifying someone’s flaws or what needs to be fixed.
Speaker 3: I think you’re good at it!
No, come on, you know what’s wrong.
Speaker 3: I don’t always, I just think someone could be better or something. But sometimes you really get what it is ...
Meaning somebody who’s working for you.
Speaker 3: Yeah.
You don’t know why they suck? You don’t? Really?
Speaker 3: Sometimes it’s hard to identify ...
So you wanna repeat the question?
How do you identify how people suck, really?
It’s hard. I feel your pain, and I think a big part of the reason why people often don’t give feedback is because they can’t diagnose exactly what the problem is, but they know there’s a problem. You don’t really wanna go to somebody and say, “Something’s not quite right, but I’m not sure what.”
What’s the business?
Speaker 3: I sell used cars.
Yeah, so they don’t sell cars would be sucking, right?
Speaker 3: It’s like I don’t think their judgement’s great or something very fundamental, like how do you ... ?
But also, maybe it boils down to not selling cars, right? Or not?
Speaker 3: Yeah, sure, not selling cars ...
At the right price.
But you wanna help them diagnose why they’re not selling the cars at a good price, right? And I think that just starting with what you do see as objectively as possible, “What I see is that your prices are 4 percent below the average,” or whatever, and then ask them why they think it might be. Say, “I see a problem, I’m here to help you fix the problem, it’s okay.”
Radical Candor is a gift in two ways. It’s either a gift because you’re helping somebody fix a problem, or because you’re wrong and it’s not a problem and so you don’t have to be right when you’re giving feedback. You just have to say, “Here’s what I see, what do you see?”
But you kinda have to be sort of right?
No, no. Of course you can give bad feedback! I mean, all the women who get feedback that they’re too abrasive, they’re getting bullshit feedback. You’re gonna get bad feedback and you’re gonna give some bad feedback, and that’s okay. The whole point is that we’re all wrong all the time and the reason why feedback is useful and feedback on feedback is useful is because it’s really hard psychologically for any human being to see in the moment when they’re making a mistake, when they’re wrong. We rely on each other to spot those mistakes and that’s why it’s so valuable.
People always don’t wanna listen, right? Is that correct? To the feedback?
Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. More often than not, they’re gonna get defensive. I didn’t wanna hear that I sounded stupid when I said “um” every third word.
So you kept doing the hand thing.
Yeah, that’s what I was like. “Just stop. Stop telling me this.”
I can’t see you doing that to Sheryl. I wouldn’t do that once to her, I’ll tell you. Good for you.
This was early on and Sheryl was an old friend from business school.
Yeah, but now, she’d just cut your arm off.
She wouldn’t cut my arm off. She would give me some excellent advice.
Yeah, yeah, no, I know that. So, what about when feedback isn’t welcome? I had an employee who I wanted to fire, really, and ...
Why didn’t you just fire them?
Well, you have a process ... and so I was giving feedback that was largely negative about spelling, about reporting, all kinds of stuff, and at the end it was really negative. There was nothing positive. Like, “This is wrong, this is wrong, this is wrong, this is something,” but they were very clear examples of problems. And at the end, he was like, “Okay, thank you, that was really helpful.” And I go, “Okay then.” And he goes, “And you know, I’ve been thinking about it. I’ve been here for awhile, I think I deserve a raise.” And I was like, “What? Huh?” And he goes, “I think I deserve a raise.” I go, “What in the last 15 minutes that I’ve been saying to you would indicate ...?”
I’m shocked this happened to you, wow.
No, it’s incredible!
What in the hell did I just hear?
“Well, I just feel I’ve been here, I’ve just worked really hard.” I said, “You’ve worked really badly here. I don’t care if you’ve worked hard, but you’ve done it badly.” And so, it went on so long I finally went, “You know what? The last 15 minutes were about me preparing to fire you, and I’m actually just setting up the legal precedent to do so, so just be clear, in three months you’ll be fired.”
Did he quit?
Ultimately, he quit, but it was the most astonishing moment.
It is. This is astonishing. Radical candor gets measured, not at your mouth, but at the other person’s ear. So Sheryl could see that she was saying it and I was blowing her off. This guy was blowing you off, yeah.
There was a guy who worked for me once, and he kept making a mistake. He kept kind of shooting himself in the foot on a regular basis, and I really cared about this guy a lot, I liked him a lot, and I remember, I’ll never forget it. It was terrible moment. I went into this conversation with this guy and I thought, “If he’s not crying by the end of this meeting, I have not succeeded in getting through to him.” And he was crying by the end of it, but he got it and he fixed it, and we’re still ...
So Bob’s still working for you?
This is not Bob, this was a different guy.
I feel bad for Bob. I like Bob.
I know, poor Bob. Bob is in a happy place.
I like Derek, too. Next question, right here.
Speaker 4: This might be a cultural difference, but what I’ve noticed is having moved to the U.S. a year ago, is that coming from Australia, everyone’s pretty candid and there’s less of a sensitivity chip. Here I noticed, the second I started working, people were like, “Wow, you’re really negative.” Now, how do you continue to be ... my true self, my authentic self is to be honest, but how do you do that without being perceived as that maybe you’re not?
So how do we make Australians not seem rude? You know, I was just in Australia, and they kept saying, they go, “I’m not being rude, but ...” I’m like, “No, you’re being rude, but that’s all right.” They go, “I prefaced it a lot. I’m not trying to be rude.” I’m like, “Kinda trying real hard to do that, but okay.”
So, I mean, at it’s core, Radical Candor is about love and truth, right? These are universal human things. But it gets perceived ... it’s interpersonally relative, so, like, if Sheryl were talking to somebody else on her team, not me, she wouldn’t have had to say “you sound stupid.” But she had to say that to get through to me, so it’s, again, it gets measured at the other person’s ear, which is why it’s so important to do it in person, because most of communication is actually nonverbal. You can see how the person is reacting, and it’s also culturally relative.
So at one point I was managing a team in Tel Aviv and a team in Tokyo and, believe me, radical candor sounds rather different in Tel Aviv than it does in Tokyo, right? And with the team in Tokyo, I remember I had to call it “polite persistence.” Not radical candor. “Polite” was how you showed you cared personally, and persistence was how you challenge directly, but in Tel Aviv, that kind of politeness would have been almost rude there. It would have been insulting. So, you’ve gotta make sure that you’re picking up on the cues, the individual cues.
There are country and regional differences.
Yeah, I mean, when I moved to California ...
I just said “I don’t care” in Hebrew, but go ahead.
It’s okay. You don’t have to care.
But do you think about that? Regional differences?
They are more forthright in Australia, versus certain Asian countries.
So when you come to California, you’ve gotta work a little harder on figuring out how to show that you care.
Or move to New York.
Or move to New York, yeah. Exactly. That’s what I was gonna say, when I moved from New York to California, somebody sent me a map of the United States and the guy in New York was sayin’ “fuck you” and thinking “have a nice day” and the guy in California was sayin’ “have a nice day” and thinking “fuck you.” And I was like, “Ah, that explains so much about my first three months in California.”
But not everybody in every place is like that right?
No. Look, honestly, the individual differences, I think, are actually much bigger than the cultural differences. So even if you’re in Tel Aviv, you may be managing a very sensitive Israeli and you’ve gotta make sure you ...
Whom we have yet to meet.
I’ve met a few.
I really haven’t.
Speaker 5: You said that Google was a fast-moving consensus-driven company, and generally we think of dictatorships that way. You said you didn’t think it was possible, but Google made it happen. How did they?
What makes it possible for Google to create a fast-moving consensus-based culture when it’s ... for another company to do it?
So, I think that the key at Google was that there was this very strong bias to yes. So you did not have to go around asking for permission to do things, you just could start doing them and announce that you were doing them, and then the onus was on the naysayers to stop you. And I think this was pretty conscious. At one point, Marissa Mayer, when she was still there, said, “The goalies have gotten too good.” Like it was too easy to block things and too hard to make things happen and this was still pretty early in Google’s, this was pre-IPO. So they started making changes and allowing people to just ... engineers could do x percent experiments, they could just do them. They didn’t have to ask for permission.
Eric, one of the things I liked a lot about Eric, was he really encouraged people to be loud. There was a very strong speak-truth-to-power culture there that really helped people just move forward and there was a lot of celebration of mistakes. It was the safest place to make a big mistake I’ve ever seen.
But that does change, because, you know, now there’s a lot less of that there. A lot less of the whimsy at that company.
Yeah, I mean, I think it has changed since it’s gotten bigger, but I would say Google’s done a pretty good job of fighting off the gravitational pull of organizational mediocrity.
I would disagree with you. I think one of the problems is wealth, too. You know what I mean? When people get wealthy, they think they’re the smartest people on the planet. People I used to know before they were wealthy, now are 100 percent right and it’s much harder to ...
Yeah, in general, we have a wealth and intelligence obsession problem in Silicon Valley. It’s not unique to Google, I think.
I think what happens when you get licked up and down all day is that you feel like you’re really smart, right?
But I do think there’s still a pretty strong culture of debate and disagreement and so there’s not that many ... I mean, there are some people, I guess, getting, as you say, licked up and down all day long, but ...
All of them.
There’s plenty people who open themselves up to, “Hey, my husband works there.”
Yeah, I had an encounter today with someone very well known, very famous, on email, we had a back and forth on Twitter, and then he wrote me really a rude email. Like, you know, “Learn more before you tweet something.” But like in an asshole way. And I wrote back, “I know you can boss around your fuckin’ minions, but I’m not one of them, so don’t speak to me like that again. I can say whatever I want. I don’t know who you think you are anymore.” And I had known him when he was super like a nothing, and it was really interesting. And he wrote back, he goes, “Oh my God. I’m so sorry.” And it was really interesting.
See? It works sometimes!
It did, but it was interesting that he thought he could behave ... like I was like, “What happens to you all day that you get to talk to people like that?”
Absolute power is a terrible thing, but a little power is a nasty thing.
But it was interesting. I was sort of like, wow, and it just took one second to get him back to normal. But I think definitely wealth and influence ...
It screws people up.
Some people think that Mark Zuckerberg actually has handled it really well. You know, I find him to be similar to when he started. Okay, one more question.
Speaker 5: Is there a reason why, in the whole Google office, there’s some kind of double standard? I can think of five really awful things … one of them left ceremoniously when they probably should’ve left unceremoniously. Kara wrote about this.
Ssh, you can look it up on Recode. Yeah, why don’t people say what happens? This is an executive who was at Uber who had been in engineering and declined to tell Uber that he had been under sexual harassment investigation, he “forgot” in the middle of a sexual harassment scandal. Yes, Google let him go without saying anything. There was a more complicated reason for that. Everybody kept quiet. It was really interesting. Except not everybody, because you found out, I found out, right?
I mean, a lot of people knew.
A lot of people knew, and then a lot of people were angry that someone got to leave without it being said, so it was sort of covering it up, like, “Let’s let them go quietly.” But the fact of the matter is, they did have to go, so that was a good thing, but at the same time, they got to go quietly, so a lot of people ...
They didn’t go quietly enough.
One of the interesting parts was Uber, when I called to tell them about the problem, or the issue, they didn’t know. They didn’t know. And I said, “Well, why didn’t you know? Didn’t you do any checking?” And they were like, “Well, we didn’t know. They didn’t tell us. We didn’t know.” And I said, “Well, why do I know?” And they’re like, “You know everything.” And I’m like, “No, you have dozens of people working for you.”
You’re one person!
Right, I was like, “You have dozens of recruiters and everything else.” And it wasn’t difficult to find out, either. It wasn’t tremendously difficult to find out.
It’s awkward to ask and you’re not afraid.
Well, it was interesting. Talk about that. Why do people, and especially around issues of sexual harassment or difficult behavior or bad job performance, they pretend like everything’s great. The old “I’m leaving for personal reasons to spend more time with my family” and that kind of stuff ...
Your poor family.
I know. It’s interesting because another guy who just left Uber gave me a statement that was just like, “I fuckin’ hate them. I just hate them. They’re just awful. My values are different than their values.” And I’m like, “Okay, you’re not an asshole, so let’s see if they are.” So it was really ... people were like, “I can’t believe he said that.” I said, “Well, that’s how he feels.” But it was interesting to see that. Why do people do that, to be nice or to just legally, or what?
So there’s a bunch of reasons why people don’t ask and why people don’t tell. It’s always easiest for me to tell stories about myself, cause then I’m sure I know the facts. Relatively sure. Maybe you’ll challenge me on this. But I think about stuff that has happened to me in various jobs that I’ve had and why I didn’t come forward — so-and-so grabs my ass, which happened. Or a boss I had, very early in my career, who, like, really awful stuff. And so why don’t I tell?
I could list, actually, a bunch of stuff that happened pretty much in every job. I had another boss who pulls me into his office and he’s like, “Have you heard of the competence likability literature?” And I actually hadn’t at this point, Sheryl hadn’t leaned in. And he points out that it’s Valentine’s Day, you can’t make this up. He points out that my colleagues don’t like me because I’m too competent. And then he explains the bias and I’m thinking, “Oh! This explains a lot! He’s gonna do something about it!” I’m feeling more and more grateful to this man as he’s explaining this to me, and then he ends by saying, “So, could you be more likable, please?” And I’m like, “Fuck you!” It was not my most likable moment. I was lucky, at that point, because I had other options, and so I threw my helmet at the window and quit.
And there’s more to this story. He also was upset that my jeans weren’t tight enough and bought me really tight jeans, like, you can’t make it up. And a shirt that showed my bra if I moved the wrong way. Anyway, there’s more to the story. So why ...
Let’s underline: Almost every woman in Silicon Valley has stories like this?
Not just in Silicon Valley.
No, all over the place. I’m not just saying here.
I don’t think it’s worse here.
No, no, what I’m saying is what’s interesting about the Uber thing is every woman I know has a story and so many lovely men were like, “I can’t believe that!”
They couldn’t believe it.
Can’t believe it! I’m like, “Ask a woman! Turn left and ask.” So why didn’t you pay the price?
Why didn’t I pay the price? So, maybe I should have.
Yes, you should have. Absolutely should have.
It’s not too late, I still can tell the stories. So, part of the problem for me was that one ... I didn’t want these incidents to define me. And early in my career, I think it was more justifiable. I think the less I have to risk, the less justifiable it is not to come forward about this stuff. So I think, you don’t want these things to define you. You also ... the things can become so time consuming.
If you don’t stop them they keep going.
Yeah, they keep going, and now my daughter’s gonna suffer for them if I don’t. And my son, too, frankly. He’s one of those good guys I’m sure will never do this stuff. So I think that’s part of the problem, but I also think that the stories are often more nuanced. Like, this guy with the competence likability thing, I would even, despite as furious as I was at him at the moment, if I look back, overall he did more good than harm to me and my career. It was not 100 percent a bad situation. It was like, maybe 60 percent bad.
Yeah, but that’s a massive compromise you made.
Yeah, it was a massive compromise. So you’re right about that, I’m not saying that I did the right thing, but I think that’s part of the reason. Like, did I really wanna ruin his career over this? Maybe I should have wanted to, but I didn’t really wanna ruin his career.
That’s why it happens over and over.
I did talk to him. Because I did sort of feel like I owed it to the women that were staying at this ... and I was super clear, I was radically candid in that private conversation with him and I think he did ... you know, I don’t think I changed his personality, but I think he got it a little bit. So, I think that’s part of the problem is, like, if I could have had a conversation with him that wasn’t going to get legal, that wasn’t gonna blow up in some massively public way, but that could have changed the situation? I mean, that was kinda what I was shooting for in the parting of ways conversation. So I think that’s another part of it.
See, I feel like someone has to pay somewhere because that’s the only way ... when there’s a cost. On both sides. Like, Susan Fowler is gonna pay because I’ve been talking to her, she’s been getting a lot of horrible emails.
Yeah, the victim pays more than the perpetrator.
She was willing to pay the price. Good for her.
Very good for her. It has really made me do some soul searching.
Yeah, which is interesting. And the same way as someone who behaves inappropriately or in some manner that doesn’t work in management — any kind of management — behavior should pay the price.
Should definitely pay the price. I think there’s another thing where there are a few really bad actors. And one guy who does this stuff to 50 women, and then the other men just can’t even imagine that this stuff is happening to the women, like it’s inconceivable.
All right, so I’m gonna end, cause we gotta end. Give three very short tips to people, what they can do right now to change this. Super short.
Super short. First thing that you can do is when you go in to give somebody feedback, make sure that you go in humbly, that you’re open to being wrong.
When you go in to solicit feedback, ask your question, shut your mouth, count to six in your head. I just made it to two. Six is a really long time, almost nobody can endure that much silence, they will tell you something.
And third, to encourage feedback between people. When somebody comes to you bitching about somebody else, griping about somebody else, don’t listen to it. Say, “Did you go talk to that person?” You feel like you’re being empathetic to listen, you’re not. You’re stirring the political pot. Push people to go talk to each other directly. So those are my three parting pieces of advice.
Fantastic. Kim Scott, “Radical Candor.”
All right, thank you.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.