Another kind of nasty person

Generally everybody says that you shouldn’t be cranky at work. You’ll get along better with everyone if you smile and banter a bit. I’m good with that advice, although I do get cranky from time to time. But I’ve just noticed a kind of person that I think is even worse than cranky because they “fly below the radar” which makes them even more toxic:

people who say negative things and then laugh jovially

Especially when they do it a lot so you start to see that it’s their personality. They’re trying to mask negativity. For example, my company is starting into a cultural change (always difficult) tied to a branding change. Which means they’re revamping our website, to be launched this weekend. I just overheard a coworker commenting on how we can look forward to a pile of calls on Monday morning from customers asking where things are on the new website. Followed by his fake, snarky laugh. I just finally realized that’s his pattern:

“they want to convert our document library to a wiki!” snark-laugh

“that team sure is taking Agile seriously” snark-laugh

“you can fix the error in that document as long as you fix all the other ones, too” snark-laugh

Now I know why I started avoiding him.

I was thinking about something like this the other day. Not exactly the same thing… but what about people who ALWAYS have a smile on their faces, even when they’re saying something awful and even tragic. I know at least two women like this. It’s like their faces are frozen into this rictus, and they can’t assume a frown or even a neutral expression. “My house was robbed last night, and my dog died, too.” <smiles> “And BTW the company is shutting down and we’re all fired.” <smiles>

I’m also totally with you on the snarky-laugh, and also the nervous-laugh. Very aggravating. The trouble with me is that these three types of people make ME cranky and mean. I"m owning it–not their fault. But I just want to slap the laughing-smiley expressions right off their stupid faces.

I feel better. Thank you.

So, in your working environment, a Soviet-style echo chamber is the only mindset you’ll tolerate?

Snark is a defense mechanism. It says a lot about the culture that criticism and dissent has to buried in it rather than honestly expressed.

I don’t know what you’re saying with the first sentence, Gnoitall. Of course that’s a kind of defense mechanism. What I’m pointing out is that in corporate cultures, people who get cranky tend to get sidelined, while the people who mask their crank behind a smile and cynical laugh tend not to.

It came to mind as I observed a snickering-negative coworker get more and more responsibility and respect while I get sidelined. His sniping is mostly against management decisions but they seem not to be able to see past the smile. My crank on the other hand tends to be about coworkers who adversely impact my work. I’m openly in favor of the culture change initiative being imposed by management while he’s against it. I’m not saying I’m right and he’s wrong. I was just observing that the smile and laugh approach seems to really throw people off the scent of what would otherwise be blatant negativity.

Credit your opponent with not openly opposing you, then. You say “I’m not saying I’m right and he’s wrong”, but really, you are. And “blatant negativity” is just what people label anyone who disagrees with them, with an inherent assumption of “you disagree therefore you are wrong.”

Not seeing a significant complaint here, other than “he’s nasty because he disagrees.” Which is disgustingly common, but let’s not pretend that makes your opponent evil or wrong, just different from you.

I thought you were gonna call out people who label other people as “negative”. It’s a trap which very few victims ever escape from. If a person is labeled as negative, even denying it can be seen as negative and evidence of denial. Smiling and laughing are now perceived as fake or pandering. And of course, any time a real problem is actually pointed out, it’s just more evidence of the person’s negativity.

I like the negative ones. They get stuff done.

Everything you have ever said about your employer makes this completely par for their course. Of course they’d fall for this grinning fool. He’s one of them

They aren’t merely harmlessly clueless; they’re actively (though perhaps unwittingly) vandalizing the company they work for and perhaps even own. A business with some revenue inertia can operate as an defective emotional kindergarten for some years before some more effective company eats their customers. It isn’t pretty to work there during the descent though.

I’m probably just really passive aggressive, but masked negativity is a lot easier for me to deal with than blatant negativity.

I am not convinced that this specific thing is the reason why your co-worker gets given more responsibility than you.

This is true for me. But being around a negative person all the time is a buzz kill. Jeez lighten up a smidge.

I know exactly the guy you mean, JcWoman. Just yesterday, in a meeting, we were informed of a new process that will mean more (largely unnecessary) work for us while also being informed that we would not be replacing the guy who recently resigned.

Cow-orker immediately busted out a loud, obnoxious, inappropriate snort of laughter (the rest of the room was silent). He does this sort of thing regularly.

Up thread I said the guy’s a problem at leat for poor beset JCWoman.

But here I’ll take a sorta opposite tack. Folks like mmm’s snorter serve a useful purpose. What they’re doing is saying “I see that the emperor has no clothes. In fact I see that the emperor is an idiot.”

ISTM if a lot more people openly did things like that, there’d be a lot less management stupidity. Imagine the boss making that same announcement to mmm’s group and the entire crowd started to laugh, shouted “No fucking way we’re doing that”, and walked out of the meeting en masse.

The boss may well reconsider his foolish decision. If not this very time, over time he’ll learn that his decisions have consequences.
The irritation that JCWoman feels really amounts to “Of course the emperor has no clothes. We all know that. But we’re required to just sit here and take it, so we’d rather not be reminded of it every day.”

My point is there’s a useful corrective there. You’re not *absolutely *required to sit there and take it. A careful review of the overall situation may show ways to not just sit there; you can change companies, departments, or work to get the policy changed or the boss replaced. Psychological research has shown that having to just sit there and take it is about the most chronically stressful thing you can experience as a human. So don’t do that to yourself if you can avoid it. And the first step to successful avoidance is recognition.

Actually the sense that I get from laughing negativity people is that they are actually trying to hide their dislike of whateveritis. So I see them as not helping to solve any problems. Management seems to focus on the smiling aspect, as I mentioned, and dismisses any undercurrents of dissent.

To be clear my approach is more direct but polite and professional. If I think something is a problem, I’ll say so without extreme negativity or emotion. (It’s when I’m repeatedly ignored that I get cranky.). I will also offer possible solutions or alternatives. I know that I’m not all-knowing and there are times when I don’t have the full picture and that’s okay. But at least I’m professional and direct. I guess I don’t like people like coworker because I see them as being evasive, slightly deceitful, and - well, door mat-ish. Definitely weak.

Uhhh… Maybe your coworker has a different sense of humor than you? I laugh at stupidity all the time, nothing indirect about that. Of course, the laugh is usually followed up with something constructive, but I see nothing wrong with a little snark thrown in here and there.


My laugh/snorter is serving zero useful purpose in laughing inappropriately, trust me. His laughter at these times is very awkward and distracting.

Boss remarked today about the number of wiseasses in his command. Upper management either concentrated the wiseasses or the AARP members on one team. At this point in our careers there’s a lot of overlap, and it’s probably good that we are set aside. Really: When selling banking services do you want former office/practice managers/their spouses or noobs who don’t know when snarky is appropriate?

My husband loves to laugh at stupid things. His laugh is very different from the coworker’s laugh. And coworker never offers anything constructive.

Agree that wisecrack followed by snarky laugh and no further action is simply somebody saying “I’m too good for y’all / this place” while his/her actions say “I’m a lazy do-nothing wallowing in my self-absorption.”

Not an attractive combo.

I retain my battle-hardened POV that a work environment that brings this behavior out in people is (a large?) part of the problem. Whether the environment attracts and rewards folks already predisposed to that behavior or whether it simply triggers more of the behavior in everyone is hard to say. But either way IMO it’s a “Danger Will Robinson!! Danger!!” sign.

It’s cute that you call him yours! Admit it, you secretly kinda like him!

Yeah, okay. I can’t really know, as I’ve never met the person. I have to admit I don’t really recognize the behavior either. Is this something common in corporate culture, but not so common elsewhere?

I suspect it’s common in old, crusty corporate cultures among people who’ve worked in the same job for ten or more years. They get locked in their ways and snigger at any strange ideas that new people bring. A sort of tribalism. “We don’t do that here” combined with “that’s foreign to me therefore I can’t see how it will work therefore I can mock it”

Along with being too lazy to learn and too lazy to actually dispute/work to prevent the ideas from being implemented