Think you could go a whole day without making a single snide, sarcastic or snarky comment?
If you're thinking, “Yeah, right,” maybe you have a problem.
You can give it a try on Tuesday, designated as Snark Free Day by Omaha public relations consultant Deborah Trivitt and others in the national PR Consultants Group. The group says snarky behavior can damage workplace culture and reduce productivity, not to mention harm friendships and reputations.
Thanks, Captain Obvious.
Er, good point.
The PR Consultants are asking people to take an extra moment to consider their choice of words before they speak, send an email or post a comment on social media, and rephrase a snarky comment so it's kinder.
Trivitt, a longtime public relations professional whose clients include local restaurants and real estate developers, said she and her PR colleagues have been guilty of making snarky comments. When the consultants got together at their annual conference, they talked about how snark is getting out of hand.
“We can make fun of ourselves and we can make fun of each other, but we need to be aware that there is a time to stop,” she said. “Really, snarky comments are a form of bullying. They're a way to put someone else down.”
The group defines snarky behavior as “sarcastic, snide, cranky, snappish, mocking, conveying contempt, snippy, grumpy, rude, seemingly morally or intellectually superior (or) waspish.”
Ummm ... what else is there?
Their Snark Free Day mascot, a line-drawn animated co-worker named Jonathan Snark, exhibits all these snarky tendencies, turning over time into a “world-class jerk.” Mr. Snark thinks his behavior is OK because no one ever corrects him, but that's only because people don't want to confront a difficult person, the PR Consultants say. But when co-workers laugh at his comments, he thinks his behavior is normal, creating a vicious cycle that turns Mr. Snark hostile and insecure.
Mr. Snark's colleagues or supervisors have a responsibility to intervene, said Omaha management consultant Dave Arch, who helped the PR Consultants on their campaign.
People who are victims of snarkiness can either come right out and ask Mr. Snark to stop, or they can “play dumb” and force him to explain himself.
Arch said, “I really encourage people to say, 'What did you mean by that?' ” when they hear a rude comment or see sarcastic body language, like sighing or eye-rolling.
“That will frankly stop them from doing it, because they don't want to declare themselves,” Arch said.
If you look in the mirror and see Mr. Snark looking back, Arch says to ask a friend or trusted colleague to alert you out loud or with a secret signal when you're getting out of hand.
Arch consults for firms including Mutual of Omaha and Tenaska, and focuses on eliminating dysfunctional team behavior.
“I have to go in and shine the light on it and say, this is diminishing your productivity, and we really need to figure out how to stop those behaviors,” he said.
To which Mr. Snark would reply: “What are you, my mom?”
Arch added, “We want to root out the dysfunction so that the team is healthy and they're getting maximum leverage from all the participants on the team, not just the loud ones.”