To Get Workers Working, Try Sarcasm

It helps them solve creative problems, study suggests
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Jun 5, 2011 10:56 AM CDT

(Newser) – Hiring a new manager? Give Jerry Seinfeld a call. Sarcasm prompts employees to speed through tasks that require creative problem-solving, Israeli research suggests. Simple fury at your staff can also get them working quickly, but it’s only effective for more straightforward tasks. “The incongruent information inherent in sarcasm appears to stimulate complex thinking and to attenuate the otherwise negative effects of anger,” says a researcher, adding that the sarcastic expression of anger should include "some irony and humor." In one study, researchers played subjects one of three messages supposedly left on a customer service voicemail.

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One called company policies an “outrage,” one sarcastically said they were “perfect,” and another showed no emotion. After hearing these messages, subjects worked on analytic and creative tasks. Those who heard the outright angry message scored slightly better than others on the analytic test, but performed poorly on the creative one. Those who heard the sarcastic message performed far better than the others on the creative test, Miller-McCune reports. “Our findings call for careful attention of supervisors and customers to the way that felt anger is expressed,” the researchers note. (Read more sarcasm stories.)

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