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How to Combat Sarcasm at Work

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By Liz Reyer

sarcastic_employees(MCT)—QUESTION: I recently took a new job; it has proved to be a very sarcastic work environment that makes me uncomfortable. How can I be heard without adopting that behavior, and at least get my team to change its culture?

ANSWER: Look for ways to help turn around the environment, while remaining true to yourself and avoiding a toxic work environment.

Breathe. Let go of the anxiety and stress that results from a negative environment, and let yourself settle into a positive state of mind. Find a quiet place to sit or a pleasant place to walk. As you focus on your breathing, feel calmness flow through you. Notice how you feel so that you can tap into this feeling when the stress builds up again.

Consider where the sarcastic tone starts—is it top-down? If senior leaders are setting a negative tone, it’ll be deeply embedded and hard to change in your department. But if it’s more specific to your team, you may have a better chance. Think about reasons that they’re behaving this way, whether it’s widespread dissatisfaction that could be addressed, or a negative person or two who has undue influence.

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