Transform: Put Sarcasm in its Place

Sarcasm is cheap and golden. One definition of sarcasm is the tearing of flesh. Another is, an ironic remark, intended to wound. Whatever definition you use, use sarcasm to tell you what conversations you need to have.

SpeakSTRONG Skill #1: Transform

Put sarcasm in its place.

Sarcasm versus Irony 

They say sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. I can think of lower forms, but I’ll spare you the details. Sarcasm can be extremely clever – and it also can be extremely unkind. It’s time to put sarcasm in its place.

Before you moan, groan, and complain that I’m taking away your fun, let me explain – I’m talking about sarcasm, not irony. Irony can be a playful release, and a bonding tool among friends. I’m not on a mission to stomp out irony – I’m targeting sarcasm, not irony.

Sarcasm – irony – what’s the difference, you ask? The difference is the intended effect.


Not all irony is sarcastic. By definition, sarcasm is indirect and intended to wound.

For example, if you tell me you’re on your way to the dentist for a root canal and I respond, “how nice,” I’m using irony but not sarcasm. There is no intent to wound in my remark and I’m not sending an indirect message about how I really feel about your root canal.

However, if you tell me you’re on your way to the dentist for a root canal and I respond, “You need a root canal? Oh, that explains your sweet breath,” chances are I’m being sarcastic. I’m implying that your breath is not sweet and taking a poke. I do intend to wound, and I am sending an indirect message.

The 13 Office Rules for My Boss below is a clear example of how sarcasm is used in the workplace.

13 Office Rules for My Boss  

WARNING – I do not provide this list for you to post, no matter how much you relate to it. I provide it to illustrate the true place of sarcasm: to alert you to conversations that urgently need to take place. If you identify with any of these, it’s a signal you need to SpeakSTRONG.

1. Never give me work in the morning. Always wait until 4:00 p.m. and then bring it to me. The challenge of a deadline is refreshing.

2. If it’s really a rush job, run in and interrupt me every 10 minutes to inquire how it’s going. That helps. Or even better, hover behind me, advising me at every keystroke.

3. Always leave without telling anyone where you’re going. It gives me a chance to be creative when someone asks where you are.

4. If my arms are full of papers, boxes, books, or supplies, don’t open the door for me. I need to learn how to function as a paraplegic and opening doors with no arms is good training in case I should ever be injured and lose all use of my limbs.

5. If you give me more than one job to do, don’t tell me which is the priority. I am psychic.

6. Do your best to keep me late. I adore this office and really have nowhere to go or anything to do. I have no life beyond work.

7. If a job I do pleases you, keep it a secret. If that gets out, it could mean a promotion.

8. If you don’t like my work, tell everyone. I like my name to be popular in conversations.  I was born to be whipped.

9. If you have special instructions for a job, don’t write them down. In fact, save them until the job is almost done. No use confusing me with useful information.

10. Never introduce me to people you’re with. I have no right to know anything. In the corporate food chain, I am plankton. When you refer to them later, my shrewd deductions will identify them.

11. Be nice to me only when the job I’m doing for you could really change your life and send you straight to manager’s hell.

12. Tell me all your little problems. No one else has any and it’s nice to know someone is less fortunate. I especially like the story about having to pay such high taxes on the bonus check you received for being such a good manager.

13. Wait until my yearly review and THEN tell me what my goals SHOULD have been. Give me a mediocre performance rating with a cost of living increase. I’m not here for the money, anyway.

Source Unknown

Put Sarcasm in Its Place: Translate Sarcasm and Irony into Honest Requests

This employee’s challenge…and yours, if you relate…is to write 13 Office Requests for My Boss. I’ll get you started.

  1. Start the day by asking what you can give me so i can begin to do the work you need from me.
  2. If it’s a rush job, trust that I am working as quickly as I can.
  3. Tell me where you are going when you leave so I can respond like a team member when people ask me.

That’s my start for the 13 office rules. It applies the second step of The SpeakSTRONG Method – it transforms your message by translating complaints into requests.

While sarcasm has no place for expression in the workplace, it has a great place in alerting you that you need to SpeakSTRONG. So instead of reaching for the wisecracks, reach for the ideas. 

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