I love snarkiness. I love the wit. I love the language. I love the message behind the sarcasm. It makes us laugh. When done well, it makes us think.
What I don’t love is the snarkiness that masquerades as contributing. Or caring. You know what I’m talking about. When a team member makes some snarky remark when we’re trying to solve a problem but then doesn’t really contribute to solving the problem.
Yes, I know the challenge is difficult. And I appreciate the comic relief. But when it’s nothing more than your coolly detached way to try and make people believe that you are contributing, well, it sucks. And none of us are buying that you are contributing.
There is another word for this kind of snarkiness. Cowardice.
Be courageous. Be committed. Then be snarky.
When I’m taking an organization through the process of clarifying a purpose, I occasionally have that one cynic. The one chiming in with the unproductive snark.
I try to be accommodating. I try to bring them into the process. But honestly, there are times I want to scream, “Quit being such a freakin’ coward!”
Snarkiness is a poor substitute for commitment. The trouble is, it’s easy. It’s simply less work to make a snarky comment than put yourself out there. To share a personal belief. Or an idea that someone could disagree with — or worse yet, laugh at.
The thing is, if you want to make real progress. If you want an amazing discovery of a truly inspiring idea. Then you have to put yourself out there. I’ve seen it happen in the workshops I have run. Unproductive snark in these situations does nothing but delay and even hamstring greatness.
It doesn’t mean you can’t flash your sarcastic wit. It simply means that it has to be accompanied with humility and a desire to work with those around you to lift everyone up. That’s not so easy.
That’s why the lazy and cowardly retreat to snarky for snarky’s sake.
I propose a new standard. Let’s embrace the wit and humor by agreeing that we can only be snarky if we accompany it with real ways that we’re going to help make things better. That means being smart, witty, and committed. Don’t say it can’t be done. After all, they are called wisecracks.
Dan is an expert brand strategist and author of the forthcoming book Big Audacious Meaning — Unleashing Your Purpose-Driven Story. He is a founder at Will & Grail — a brand innovation company, helping organizations find their unique, undeniable and unshakable sense of purpose and create innovative experiences that bring it to life.