When Is It OK to Be Sarcastic at Work?

Sarcasm can be a great way to ease the tension at work ... unless you overdo it and land in hot water.

Richie Frieman
5-minute read
353 MMG When Is It OK to Be Sarcastic at Work?

Even though I stressed that you don't want to overwhelm the office with your constant sarcasm, being sarcastic is still a healthy way to approach stress. You want to use sarcasm when the time calls for it, even if that’s just once a week. For example, something like, “I told him a thousand times, the file needed to be sent by 4 pm today! Should I have said it a thousand and one times?” Obviously they didn’t say it a thousand times, but the sarcastic notion is that the stress got so bad, it felt like the person was talking to a wall. However, it’s one thing to use sarcasm to vent, and that’s perfectly fine, but it’s another to use it when others feel that there is absolutely no time for joking.  When it comes to timing, make sure that the temperature of the room is receptive. Don’t feel that your sense of humor will calm all rough waters—it could, in fact, just get you cold stares.

Tip #3: Listen to the Crowd

Back to our good friend, Greg, from Tip #1. He did not listen to his audience (coworkers) when using sarcasm. Instead of taking hints like, “Look Greg, you may want to tone down the sarcasm a bit …” he went full throttle, all the time, without once looking back. His arrogance and ego got the best of him. He either thought he was the funniest man alive, or simply didn’t care about anyone else’s feelings. This was a clear case of putting your own needs or opinions in front of others. And in Greg’s case, his unmannerly use of sarcasm was affecting his colleagues in a negative manner. If you’re going to use sarcasm, you have to balance the frequency, along with timing. But you also need to make sure people accept your humor.

Look, you could be the love child of Richard Pryor and Amy Schumer, but if your coworkers aren’t the “laughing type,” than I recommend taking your act somewhere else. Now, I am only speculating, but I’d imagine that the vibe in the office of a bunch of brain surgeons is a bit less comical than that of say an Internet startup company run by twenty-somethings. And like Greg did in Tip #1, you can’t come into a room thinking everyone gets your sense of humor right off the bat. You should first test the waters. Find your group of friends at work to bounce off your sarcasm. See how they react and then use it to gauge the rest of the office. Secondly, don’t force it. Don’t think, “Oh, everyone here is so stiff … I know how to lighten the mood.” Just because you know how to use sarcasm doesn't mean it will always be welcomed. And the last thing you want is to know your sarcasm was the reason you were handed walking papers.

As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.

Do you have any recent graduates in your circle, or perhaps someone who is looking to start a new career, check out my new book, Reply All…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career, for great tips and advice on job success. It's available now!

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About the Author

Richie Frieman

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