Sarcasm is humor at its worst. It not only hurts the one who is the butt of jokes, it also weakens employee morale, trust and the spirit of teamwork. What is befuddling about sarcastic colleagues is whether they use bad humor to cover up genuine concerns or if they are simply intent on putting others down. Whatever the reason, there is a better way to promote cordial communication within the workplace than retaliating with more sarcastic zingers.
Call them out immediately
It is easy for a sarcastic coworker to go on with their teasing unless you point out that their remarks are hurtful. It could be that they actually think they are being funny. Instead of remaining passive and suffering, speak out and make them aware that their teases are unhelpful and demoralizing. For example, you could call them out by saying, “Joe, you are probably trying to make a joke, but your comments are not funny.” Pointing out your dissatisfaction could stop the coworker in their tracks.
Point out their motives
An effective way to keep a snide coworker from retaliating is unmasking their possible intentions for being sarcastic. There is always a motive behind the use of sarcasm as a form of communication—a colleague may be trying to endear themselves to others, appear witty or funny. Calling them out on their potential motives can keep them from throwing sarcastic jabs at you. For example, you could say, “Leslie, you think you are being smart but you are not. Your comments are hurtful to others.”
Ignore the banter
If you have nothing good to say, do not say it at all—this is a great way to disempower a cynical coworker. Sarcastic people typically want to elicit an aggressive reaction from the other person. Unsurprisingly, when you respond to their nasty remarks with more nastiness, you will only escalate the situation. Instead, try to ignore acerbic comments unless the sarcasm completely hinders you from having any productive work-related conversation with the colleague. Ignoring a sarcastic person prompts them to leave you alone.
Offer to help
Many times, a fellow employee may use sarcasm as a veneer for genuine underlying issues. For example, if a coworker is feeling overwhelmed with work, they could be sarcastic about how you have all the time in the world and how you are having it easy. Try to decipher the meaning of their cynicism and ask them if they need your help. Showing a colleague that you care for them could actually encourage them to minimize their unpleasant comments.
Involve the manager as a mediator
If your attempt to stop your colleague from making snide remarks fails, you could report them to the manager. Explain how the sarcasm is affecting you and how others perceive you in the workplace. Receiving a warning from the supervisor should be an inducement enough to keep the sarcastic coworker from making unpleasant comments in future.
Workplace sarcasm can be enough to stifle productivity and an eagerness to go to work. You could be proactive and try to stop a snide coworker individually. However, banishing sarcasm in the office really needs the input and modeling of a higher-up authority that does not condone harmful communication tactics among coworkers. So, if nothing else works, try to win over your supervisor to help tone down tense working relations.