Communication 101

Getting Over Sarcasm - How Removing Sarcasm Drastically Improves The Way You’re Perceived In Your Company

January 20, 2022
5 Min Read

Sarcasm is NOT a bad thing, but just because it’s not morally “bad” doesn’t mean it's appropriate for work.

According to the "Grammarly Handbook," sarcasm is defined as: "a form of humor that uses mockery or irony to make fun of someone or something."

Sarcasm is a “you love it or you hate it” type of humor. Because it's not the clearest sense of humor, that can make it tricky to use—especially in a professional setting. Because we often can't tell when someone is being sarcastic unless we're familiar with his or her sense of humor, sarcasm can be a risky choice when communicating with coworkers.

It's also important to note that when you're working remotely, there are no nonverbal cues or facial expressions people can use to determine your meaning. When you write "Haha" at the end of a message, the other person has no way of knowing if you're being sarcastic or if you were genuinely amused by what they said.

If you write something in an email that could be taken more than one way, it's best not to assume the reader will know what you mean. They may end up taking offense where none was intended!

Why Sarcasm May Not Be Appropriate For The Workplace

Sarcasm is rarely appropriate in the workplace, and can lead to conflict, misunderstandings, and can even be perceived as bullying.

When you're sarcastic, people may perceive you as aggressive. They may think you are being unprofessional. Your comment may seem like teasing to them.

If someone sees your sarcasm as a personal attack, they may become defensive or angry. This could lead to conflict in the office later on. If that happens, it'll take even longer for people to see you as a reliable person because they'll have an emotional reaction every time they run into you at the water cooler.

How Sarcasm Affects The Way You Are Perceived At Work

You should know that a tone of sarcasm can have negative effects on your co-workers' perceptions of you.

Consider the following scenario: You're in a meeting with someone who thinks that being sarcastic is funny, and so they make a sarcastic comment. What could happen? Well, there are a few possibilities:

  • Your co-worker gets the joke, laughs, and then moves on. Yay! It accomplished what you wanted it to. But what if ...
  • They don't get the joke. Now they think you're mean or rude. Even if you explain why it's funny later, damage has been done in your relationship with this person and to how they perceive you in general. Or perhaps ...
  • They do get the joke but decide not to laugh at it because they feel uncomfortable doing so (or maybe they just don't find it funny), which makes *them* feel awkward and put them in an uncomfortable position either way (whether they laugh or not).

No matter which scenario happens when you're sarcastic, there's always that element of uncertainty about what will happen next. So while using sarcasm *might* have positive consequences in certain situations (say, hanging out with friends), we would recommend against using sarcasm at work to avoid potentially embarrassing or damaging situations for both yourself and those around you.

The Pitfalls Of Sarcasm

Sarcasm is quite a tricky thing. It’s easily misunderstood and often causes negative feelings. Not only that, but in many cases it’s not even considered funny. It can be hard to tell if someone is truly being sarcastic or just being facetious but, regardless of the intention, sarcasm can have unintended consequences.

This is especially true when used in written form such as email or instant messaging conversations because people can't hear your tone of voice, see your facial expressions and body language, and so on.

Even though you may think you are being humorous and witty by using sarcasm, it's all too easy for other people to misinterpret it as mean-spirited criticism instead of good-natured fun.

How The Brain Responds To Sarcasm

Sarcasm is perceived negatively because of the way that our brain processes the information. With sarcasm, there are two layers to the message: one that is said and another that is inferred.

Therefore, when you hear a sarcastic comment, what you actually hear is negative and then you have to make sense of it by figuring out what the speaker really meant. This processing can be exhausting for your brain. Because your brain is quick to adjust, it learns how to recognize sarcasm when it comes from your closest friends (or people you interact with the most). However, because sarcasm isn’t as widely used in the workplace, you brain will have a harder time recognizing it as such and take it only for what it sounds like (rudeness).

What If I Like Sarcasm?

You may have a love for sarcasm, but it’s typically not appropriate for the workplace. Remember, you can still be funny without being sarcastic.

Sarcasm may make you feel more at ease, but it also could negatively affect how others perceive you. While many people use sarcasm in everyday conversation, it can come across as rude or even mean when used against someone who doesn’t know you as well. It’s important to remember that not everyone appreciates sarcasm.

Benefits of Avoiding Sarcasm

Getting over sarcasm can help you feel happier and healthier as well as be perceived as more collaborative and effective.

Getting over sarcasm can also improve your self-esteem. We know that sarcasm can often negatively affect someone else’s self-esteem, but how does using sarcasm affect your own self-esteem? According to a study by the Psychology Department of the University of British Columbia, people who engage in sarcastic banter are more likely to feel negative emotions such as shame and guilt. As a result of these emotions, they tend to avoid situations where they will be faced with social interactions and use sarcasm as a coping mechanism for this social anxiety.

Sarcasm can also make it difficult for others to take you seriously in the workplace. Making fun of others is a form of bullying and can lead to feelings of resentment and distrust among coworkers who have been made fun of or feel uncomfortable around someone who often uses sarcasm at work.

So for now, focus on kindness and connection in the workplace and avoid sarcasm when you’re around people who you don’t know very well.

Say it like you mean it.

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