Whether you're the boss, the manager, or an employee, we've all dealt with office drama. Office dramatics may range from mildly childish to the sort which threatens to sabotage careers. All office drama reduces productivity by diverting energy from projects and deadlines, and breeds resentment among all employees--even those who do not actively participate in it.
It's important to understand the difference between normal tensions among employees that are generated by demanding deadlines and work loads, and office drama that is self-created conflict, resulting in unnecessary workplace stress.
Because this sort of self-created conflict doesn't originate in the workplace, it's less about work-related conflict, and usually more about preexisting, individual personality issues that are imported into the workplace. Employees can make a conscious decision to leave their personal problems at home, but it's not so easy to leave their personalities there!
Office drama is just what the name implies: a drama. The workplace is the stage, there's a script, a plot, actors, a supporting cast, and an audience. If you feel like you are punching into a movie set every morning instead of your place of business, here are some tips on how to deal the actors who stage it.
- The Antagonist. This person engages in outright intimidation and verbal abuse. These actors are insecure in their workplace role and mask their uncertainty by behaving in overly aggressive and controlling ways.
How to deal with the Antagonist: Give them something to be certain about. Set an absolute zero policy against verbal and physical intimidation and then back it up. If the Antagonist still fails to respect boundaries, document their behaviors, and report to a director who is higher up the chain of command.
- The Victim. This person is the tragic martyr of the office. Their script revolves around constant complaints and nothing is ever the Victim's responsibility. Typically, they play the supporting role to the Antagonist, who cannot act out their roles without a Victim. Unfortunately, if there is no real Antagonist present, the Victim will create one.
How to deal with the Victim: Sincerely express your regret over the trials the Victim is enduring, and then firmly excuse yourself by stating you are busy with an important project. The Victim's mentality is fed by participation. Don't jump on stage with them.
- The Sub-Plotters. These are identified by their incessant gossip. This is not to be confused with idle water-cooler chat. The Sub-Plotters are those constant town criers of the workplace who are actually covert Antagonists. Their scripts are slanderous, undermine others, and serve to give the Antagonist and the Victim their stage cues.
How to deal with the Sub-Plotters: When the Sub-Plotter attempts to reveal a juicy plot twist in the drama, calmly ask why they are revealing their gossip to you. Reassuring the sub-plotter that you intend to verify their story with the parties in question often thwarts the Sub-Plotter.
- The Supporting Cast. They inadvertently feed office drama by becoming sympathetic to the stories of all the Major Players.
How to deal with the Supporting Cast: Gently remind yourself and others that you are in the office to focus on work-related tasks. While emotional sensitivity is required for daily work-related stresses, no one has to play the role of therapist to self-created office drama.
- The Audience. These are employees who have no active role on stage, yet who may hesitate to set boundaries with office drama makers. The Audience may fear appearing uncooperative when they confuse office drama roles with being a team player.
How to deal with the Audience: Make it known to the Audience they need not give a standing ovation to those acting out their personal drama on the office stage. All drama makers need an Audience. When the Audience isn't interested, the show closes.
The overarching primary tactic for dealing with office drama is to keep your cool. Drama, inside the office and out, requires emotional reaction to keep the plot moving forward. A little responsiveness goes a long way towards pulling the curtain down.
How do you deal with office drama? Has it affected your company and your ability to build a great team? Please take a moment to share this article and your comments with others.