We’ve all experienced, and perhaps even contributed, to workplace drama. You know what I mean, gossip, rumors, complaints, emotional outbursts about perceived wrongs, purposely excluding others for petty reasons, and the list goes on. No matter how drama manifests, it is destructive, and leaders must take a no-tolerance stance on drama in the workplace.
Being in the drama zone is not uncommon. It can stem from our brain’s chemical response to perceived danger. Fear and anger rise, we get defensive, and we double down on being right. At this point, we’re firmly in the drama zone. As leaders, we must check our egos before we attempt to engage others. People who are prone to emotional drama are also super-sensitive to ego and emotions in their leaders and peers. Countering drama with more emotion is not productive.
To this end, knowing when we’re in the drama zone is the first step to shifting ourselves and our teams into the drama-free zone. This shift is the move from defensive to curious, from wanting to be right to wanting to learn, and from fighting for the survival of the individual ego to relating from a place of security and trust. This shift first requires a degree of emotional intelligence, realizing what we’re feeling (angry and/or scared), and then taking a moment to pause before reacting.
The following can help create a drama-free culture at work:
- Model taking responsibility: Blame, shame, and guilt all come from fear. This fear drives the victim-villain-hero triangle, which keeps leaders and teams in the drama Conscious leaders and teams take responsibility, instead of placing blame. Instead of asking who’s to blame, ask, “What can we learn and how can we grow from this?” This creates huge growth opportunities on a personal and organizational level.
- Commit to drama-free living: At any point, we can decide to be in the drama-free zone of openness, curiosity, and commitment to learning, or we can dip into the drama zone of defensiveness and a resolute commitment to being “right.” Being “right” doesn’t cause drama, but wanting, proving, and fighting to be “right” does. Even though conscious leaders and their team members get defensive occasionally, they regularly interrupt this natural reaction by pausing to shift into the drama-free zone.
- Commit to ending gossip: Gossip is a statement about another made by someone with negative intent or a statement the speaker would be unwilling to share in the same way if that person were in the People gossip to gain validation, control others and outcomes, avoid conflict, get attention, feel included, and make themselves right by making others wrong. In short, people usually gossip out of fear. When leaders and teams learn to speak candidly and directly with each other, they benefit from direct feedback about issues within the organization that otherwise could derail creative energy and productive collaboration.
- Assume the best intent: Drama is all about assuming the worst intent in team members. It is wasting precious time and energy on negative thought processes and unproductive The best leaders are highly focused on modeling trust and respect and filling the organization with people who do the same.
- Insist on accountability for results: Hire and reward people who accept personal Continually develop accountability through coaching and mentoring. High-performing companies formalize these coaching and mentoring programs, and apply them universally, rather than initiate them only to solve specific problems. However, if an individual loves drama and chaos and cannot embrace a drama-free work culture, it is our job as leaders to deal with them in a way that keeps our organization from being sucked into their drama.
Controlling drama and creating a drama-free culture are essential components of a positive and productive work environment. By taking responsibility rather than placing blame, committing to the drama-free zone rather than being “right,” speaking to others candidly and directly rather than gossiping, assuming the best intent rather than the worst, and being personally accountable for our actions, we can help prevent and manage drama in the workplace.
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