Navigating Snarky Colleagues: Staying Professional for a Healthy Workplace

Here’s an interesting question about workplace communication: What do you say to someone who says, “Want some cheese with that whine?” to you at work? Google is sending folks to this blog with those keywords, so apparently, there are people who are grappling with it. So, let’s take a look at how to handle the snarky jab from a potentially less-than-friendly source.

Maintain Your Composure

First of all, know that you’ll most likely be momentarily stunned. It’s easy to get caught off guard when a coworker experiences an outburst. Try your best, however, to maintain your composure. It may be tempting to come back with something equally snarky, but that just escalates things and doesn’t really solve anything. A note about verbal jesting among friends: I’m aware that for co-workers who are close friends, this sort of banter is par for the course. If you know the person well and have a track record of trading clever ripostes, then these suggestions aren’t for you. Keep in mind though that even the “best” of friends can go too far. So, if you’ve pushed a boundary with someone who you believe should “lighten up”, consider if your words wounded rather than lightened the mood.

Take the High Road

In the end, effective workplace communication comes down to putting on your Big Kid Pants and taking on this kind of comment in a non-confrontational way. There are two points to consider: Is it possible you truly came across as whining? Is the Snarky Comment Slinger a habitual offender?

Address the Issue

In either case, I’ve found the best way to deal with this type of verbal wordplay is to remain neutral—“Oh, geez, did I come across as whiny? I didn’t mean to. I guess I’m just really frustrated by this project. I’m at a roadblock; would you be willing to offer a few suggestions?” By doing this, you’ve addressed both issues without becoming confrontational. If you did, in fact, come across as whiny (hey, it happens), then you’ve acknowledged it.

Now, onto the second issue: the Snark Factor. It takes the wind out of a nasty person’s sails if you are direct, yet non-threatening. If the person is a habitual offender, then you’ve signaled to him or her that you won’t allow yourself to be bullied. If, on the other hand, the person’s just having a bad day, then you’ve kept the door open for them to offer an apology. Just be sure that if an apology is forthcoming, you accept it graciously.

The Long-Term Goal

So, as fun as it would be to comeback with, “Yes, please, I’m partial to Cheddar. Are you buying?” it may not really serve the longer-term goal of having a healthy relationship with your co-workers. While it’s important to stand up for yourself and set boundaries, maintaining professionalism in the face of snarky colleagues has its benefits. It allows you to diffuse tense situations, uphold your own integrity, and foster a positive work environment. By responding in a non-confrontational manner and addressing the underlying issues, you pave the way for healthier communication and stronger relationships with your colleagues.

In a professional setting, encountering snarky comments from colleagues can be challenging. However, by remaining composed and taking a non-confrontational approach, you can navigate such situations with grace. The key lies in addressing the possibility of unintentional whining and handling habitual offenders diplomatically. Staying professional not only diffuses tension but also fosters a healthy work environment and promotes positive relationships with your co-workers. So, next time you’re faced with snark, put on your Big Kid Pants and focus on building a workplace that thrives on respect and effective communication.

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