Effective Leaders Know When to Ignore the Tone

“Samantha, please reinstate the afternoon tea and coffee cart for the residents, starting in November.”

Samantha [delivered with sarcastic tone and an eye roll] replies,

“Well, sure, why not. Last time we tried it, Beth in 4C took 10 tea bags. AND when I wasn’t looking, some of the staff drained the second pot of coffee so I had to make a third one.

[This is where the eye roll comes in] I can’t wait to start it up again.”

Because sarcasm has no place in effective workplace communication,

you might be tempted to address the sarcasm. Or, the eye roll. Or, the clear pushback. While that would be acceptable, and likely desirable in the long term…

You have an opportunity here. To send a message about ignoring sarcasm and having no time for silly pushback.

Totally ignore the tone of voice and focus on the message, being careful to avoid passive/aggressive tone yourself, and reply:

“Great. Thanks for taking care of that. I know you feel it’s wasteful and a hassle; the day before we start it up again, let’s spend a few minutes on some ideas to avoid that this next time around. Thanks for your time.”

In that response, you’ve:

  • ignored the tone, yet showed that you heard the concerns.
  • kept things positive, even though Samantha wanted to inject drama.
  • took advantage of an opportunity to be an ally and a problem solver (needs-meeter).

Again, it’s good to address tone of voice and enforce high standards of respectful communication. And it makes sense to do so separately from the current issue, otherwise, the waters are muddied.

Stay alert for these opportunities…

6 Responses

  1. Melissa
    | Reply

    That Samantha, always causing problems.

    Awesome advice, particularly addressing away from the situation – avoids Samantha assuming you’re just being defensive because she was being nasty. Gives you a lot more credibility.

  2. Alan Feirer
    | Reply

    Yeah, Melissa – good sub-point:

    People who are defensive will assume that YOU are defensive also. Projecting motives is common, especially when stressed, tired, or otherwise at “level one or two of maturity.”

    All the more reason to set motives aside and focus on what is seen…

    Thanks for engaging!

  3. jacque
    | Reply

    exactly, I do this most of the time at work. I won’t say all because after all I’m only human and we all misstep at times. but I’ve actually had managers over me come back and thank me for helping in that way.

  4. Alan Feirer
    | Reply

    It’s nice to have the affirmation that these things work in the “real world.”

  5. Sally Wilke
    | Reply

    does work in the “real world.” Good one; thanks.

  6. Samantha Boyd
    | Reply

    Me? Eye rolling? No… 🙂

    So, it may not have been me, but it very well could have been me in high school!

    Thanks for the PRACTICAL advice. I love reading a blog and thinking, “I will try that next time!”

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