Work Relationships

Why Workplace Sarcasm is a Great Thing

Written by Peter Jones

Workplace Sarcasm is so often hilarious—and just as often annoying and borderline insulting. But new research on sarcasm actually seems to show that finding a healthy balance between humor and alienation can bring employees together and make them more productive.

It Challenges the Brain

The first benefit of sarcasm, of course, is that it’s an effective mental workout. Both the sarcastic speaker and the listener have to very quickly interpret the comment and divine the truth between the literal and the actual meaning of the utterance. It requires abstract thinking and fuels creativity by keeping people mentally acute.

It Creates Bonds

There’s evidence that employees actually perform better under sarcastic conditions than in an environment of total sincerity or even a neutral environment. The sarcastic comments are both team-building, humor-inducing, and can make the whole team perform better and more productively.

Of course, none of this is to suggest that sarcasm should be undertaken as the dominant office norm. And it should not give anyone carte blanche to be as sarcastic as they care to be at any time in their professional life. Sarcasm, wielded effectively, requires trust and a solid existing basis for effective communication. It’s not to be undertaken lightly, or between parties who don’t like or trust one another—but for everyone else, it’s not totally off the table.

About the author

Peter Jones