Workplace Drama: Easier to Eliminate Than You May Think

Workplace Success

Meeting with a prospective client last week, the first words out of this business owners’ mouth, the owner of a three million dollar small business were, “I just want the drama to end.”

Whenever I hear a statement like that I get the impression that the “drama” permeates the environment through multiple sources.

Yet, upon further investigation most times I learn that the drama revolves around just one or two people.

It only feels like the source of the drama is more extensive because when it goes unaddressed, others learn that it’s okay to jump on the bandwagon, and they do so, because people like to feel connected.

I believe there are two contexts of workplace drama.

  1. One context is internal drama, which is drama occurring due to issues within the work environment. This could include complaints about working conditions, blaming others and making excuses for poor performance, etc.
  2. The other context is external drama, which I define as external to the workplace. This would include an individual employee’s personal life drama they bring into the workplace that distracts them and their co-workers.

Either context needs to be addressed.

As I wrote in my Conscious Communicator blog a few weeks ago it is not realistic to expect employees to “leave their personal life at the door” when they come to work. I’ve been there, I know. I remember when I was going through my divorce 15 years ago the first three months of my separation from my wife, it was a huge distraction.

In those circumstances a manager or leader would do well to confront it with empathy and compassion with the individual at the earliest opportunity. In doing so they can create a space for the individual to work through their personal challenges while offering specific goals on the job that can offer direction and distraction from the personal challenges.

In circumstances where drama is occurring due to workplace issues, these too, must be confronted at the earliest opportunity, and also with compassion and empathy.

The former should always be done privately, while often it is best to address the workplace drama in a public forum, allowing team members to vent and express their concerns.

My clients are often afraid to address these situations because they fear the situation getting out of control or individuals making unrealistic demands. Often, its never as bad as expected.

The best way to address the internal drama is head-on. Get the issues out on the table, deal with them individually by identifying the easy issues that can be worked through. Then, prioritize the issues of biggest concern, consider the requests being made and offer a response.

This does not mean a company has to fulfill the requests, but they do have to listen, consider solutions, then respond with a thoughtful, reasonable response.

All too often issues are allowed to be raised, hope is offered that something will be done and nothing is ever heard about them again. They go into a black hole. This creates a state of learned helplessness and perpetuates and exacerbates the drama.

How much is drama in your workplace impacting company results?