Sarcasm in the workplace is a reason for anger and the search for an equally sarcastic retort. New studies on the subject are now suggesting that facing sarcasm can bring out the best in you. These studies have found that employees who have to put up with sarcastic colleagues and superiors are more creative than those who don’t face the same situation.
Getting an earful of sarcastic comments from a boss or colleague makes the person work harder and faster and more creatively, than if the office was a more caring environment.
The researchers said that being exposed to sarcasm required more ‘cognitive complexity’, or the ability to see things from more than one angle.
Cognitive Complexity refers to the extent to which an individual or organization differentiates and integrates an event. Persons who are high in cognitive complexity are able to analyse a situation into its constituent elements and are multidimensional in their thinking and reach a solution far more quickly. Less complex people can be taught to think in these lines for a specific context, but high complexity people are capable in finding novel solutions in new situations.
Studies of complexity have reached the following conclusions which may be useful to managers in the workplace to fit the roles that the persons are expected to perform:
To amplify the effect of motivation effect of sarcasm, researchers at the Ban Ilan University of Israel, asked 350 engineering students to imagine that they were client service representatives. They received calls from angry sarcastic callers. The students’ response to anger was to shut off their immediate concerns to avoid further suffering.
The effect of sarcasm was to stimulate higher level thinking and the ability to process two realities simultaneously; the higher the level of sarcasm, the higher was the stimulation. The creativity at the higher levels of anger and sarcasm was much advanced, as reported in theJournal of Applied Psychology.