Dealing with Mr. Snarky

Human Derailer: A colleague or person in your life who can kill your great mood and positivity in an instant with a nasty comment or expression. You are likely friends with this person or respect him or her, which is why their negativity affects you. They could be an Ox.


Does this sound familiar? It’s the week before holidays and your week of vacation. You are pleasantly wrapping up the year and need information from a colleague, who is moody but still your work friend. You call him, and ask about his day, adding some sympathy for his challenged mood and get smacked with a swift, snarkey and rude comment. What do you do? Say, “ok, I’ll let you get back to it. Have a great day!”, or “wow, why are you being such a jerk?”, or hang up immediately?


After this encounter, your mood is shot. The fun lunch you had planned and progressive meetings coming up in the afternoon are ruined. Or are they? How can you get yourself back in the right frame of mind and prevent Mr. Nasty from doing this to you again?


Dealing with the Derailer

You’ve heard the saying people treat you the way you allow them to. Do you continue to allow your colleague to take their bad mood out on you? No! Time to fix it and stop this pattern. His treatment is not entirely his fault; you allow it.



I learned this technique at Center for Creative Leadership several years ago and still use it today. It goes like this:

  1. Tell your colleague the situation
  2. Share the behavior he exhibited
  3. Share the impact it had on you

I like to add a 4th: expected outcome—what do you want to change. So, in this case, you tell him: “This morning, I called you to ask for the information I need. The response you gave me, “Can’t you look that up yourself? I don’t have time to babysit you”, derailed my mindset and made me angry. In the future, can you consider your tone and responses to me and make them more professional?”.


With SBI, stick to the facts and be careful with “YOU did this” and “YOU did that”.


Get to the Bottom of It

Why does he continue this behavior? What are you doing that impacts him? In this case, could you have looked up what you needed or did you have to get it from him? Asking why he acts his way toward you is helpful. Next time you are at lunch or having a friendly conversation, ask. Work on a non-confrontational yet firm way to ask.


Prep Responses

You have expressed how you want to be treated and you have worked to get to the bottom of why your colleague is nice one minute and mean the next. How do you instantly respond if it happens again? If you lack quick comebacks and witty responses, spend a few minutes this holiday jotting down a few ideas. “If Richard says this, I’ll say that”. Start with his common or most recent few derailing comments. Create a few types responses, avoiding argumentative and aggressive ones.


Getting your Positive Vibe Back

Let’s talk about how to get back on track when the derailer derails you. Do not let him kill your good mood! Here are a few tips:


  • Exercise-get outside and go for a walk
  • Youtube funny cat videos
  • Listen to holiday music
  • Listen to any music
  • Go talk to someone fun and friendly
  • Work on a project you love
  • Keep a folder of “good stuff” in your email—this includes emails where you have been complimented for hard work. Read those.
  • Read your LinkedIn recommendations
  • Call a friend


Forgive your derailer and let go of it. Remember why you were in a good mood to begin with!


How do you handle derailers? What are your favorite ways to get back in good mood after a derailer encounter?