Workplace Communication: How to Deal With Workplace “Snipers”

Workplace Communication: How to Deal With Workplace “Snipers”

By Harriet Meyerson

Effective communication skills in the workplace lower stress and improve productivity. However, some employees can sabotage a positive workplace atmosphere with their negative communication habits.

For example:

A supervisor observes her employee looking around nervously and then ducking behind the copy machine.

“What are you doing?”, she asks.

A timid voice comes from behind the copy machine, “Avoiding snipers.”

Communication Snipers In the Workplace

First, let me be clear. I’m not talking about military sharpshooters, I’m talking about the every day communication snipers. The ones in the workplace.

Workplace snipers are highly trained marksmen (or women) who shoot verbal targets from concealed positions.

They have had specialized training in verbal communication attacks such as:

  • sarcasm,
  • humorous put downs,
  • disapproving looks
  • and innuendos.

Ok. So, your employees may not have to play “Duck and Cover” at your workplace, but they may feel like it sometimes, and that’s the worst thing they can do.

Workplace Communication Snipers Thrive on Negativity

Avoiding confrontation allows the snipers to get away with their covert hostility. Some people are just plain negative. They may have learned to act that way while growing up, or may have been rewarded for it later in life.

Either way, they now make it a way of life – going about their day making trouble for those around them.

Snipers may not actually want to be too hurtful. They just have a poor way of dealing with relationships because they have learned that negative communication gives them an “edge.” So they use their verbal communication weapons to protect their territory, and keep anyone else from messing with them.

Unfortunately, this can have a negative effect on their workplace relationships, causing unnecessary conflict and tension. While snipers may feel they are gaining an “edge,” other employees wind up “feeling on edge” because of the problems they create.

People may find themselves tiptoeing around workplace snipers, keeping their distance, or avoiding them altogether. Their negativity has a destructive effect on the workplace atmosphere.

To Deal With Them, Learn this Communication Skill

Snipers usually refute their pot shots as either denial, “I’m only joking”, or volleying the responsibility back onto their victim, “Can’t you take a joke?”

Avoidance is not the answer. Here’s the secret to defusing them…

Train your employees to respond to these comments with a question.

  • “That sounds like you’re making fun of me. Are you?”
  • “What are you trying to tell me with that look?”
  • “Did you really mean what you said?”

Since verbal snipers rely on their camouflage, once their cover is blown, the chance for future attacks is lessened.

Dealing with negative communication is an essential leadership skill for supervisors and managers.

Being comfortable in the workplace is not only essential for employee job satisfaction, it’s also essential for quality productivity.

If you are a supervisor or manager, hold a communication skills training session with all your employees. This will alert any snipers that this type of negative communication won’t be tolerated. Your staff will appreciate your help and respect you for your leadership skills.

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Discover how effective are you as a supervisor or manager in the essential workplace leadership skills. The results – improved employee motivation, attitudes, skills, and productivity.

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Copyright: Written by Harriet Meyerson, president of The Confidence Center.
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