Tips to be Less Sarcastic as a Leader

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The leaders in some industries thrive on sarcastic communication. Usually the reason for sarcasm is to lighten things up and inject some humor into a stressful situation.

Sarcasm by definition, is when the tone and underlying message don’t match.

Lesson learned: I remember back to my first supervisory assignment. My insecurity made me more sarcastic than I should have been. Things came to a head when a member of my team approached me and asked that I reduce my sarcasm because the team was confused as to whether I was criticizing them or just joking around. I learned a valuable lesson — avoid sarcasm when talking about someone’s job performance.

The other place where sarcasm can be destructive is when you make negative comments about other departments or locations. That will build silo walls and it really doesn’t add any value.

And one final reason to use less sarcasm — as the workplace becomes more diverse and we have more employees where English isn’t their first language, the sarcasm will only serve to confuse your team members.

Here are three tips for being less sarcastic as a leader:

#1 Limit your sarcasm to small talk

Your team won’t mind joking around about the weather, sports or other small talk subjects. Avoid sarcasm that people are more likely to take personally.

#2 Say it Straight

When delivering correction or praise, say it with less sarcasm. Your positive reinforcement will mean more when it is delivered sarcasm-free. Correction will also be taken more seriously when the insult of sarcasm is removed.

#3 Be more approachable

When team members realize that you as a leader will be less sarcastic, they will tend to be more open when facing a problem, and find you easier to approach and deal with.

Most leaders discover that employees are more calm and settled when their leader is less sarcastic. It can be a challenge if you are known to be really sarcastic. Initially, you might need to dial back your sarcasm as opposed to eliminating it completely.