In a recent class, the students were lamenting that drama in the workplace is disruptive to good teamwork. Unfortunately, drama is part of the human condition. I am sure you have experienced unwanted drama and wished there were ways to reduce it.
It is worse since the pandemic
I believe there is more drama over the past couple of years as a result of all the social turmoil. We are more stressed in all areas of life, and that leads to increased drama for many people.
Different kinds of drama
One precaution: There are various different kinds of drama and many different symptoms and sources. In this article, I am discussing the most common kind of drama in the workplace. This is where a person acts out his or her daily frustrations. It creates chaos and loss of focus that hurt the productivity, effectiveness, and teamwork of the group. I am not addressing the serious drama caused by mental illness or tragic events.
The root cause of most drama
Let’s take a look at the seeds of this problem to identify some mitigating strategies. Drama is a result of people who feel they are not being heard. If people believe their opinions are included in the decision process, then there is less drama. It is a more significant challenge in times of remote or hybrid work. Leaders need to make a special effort to include all people in decisions. If the culture is real, and people are not playing games, then the drama will be significantly reduced.
It is a function of leadership to establish the culture. This is where people see little need for drama in order to be a vital part of the action.
Tips to reduce Drama
- Improve the level of trust. High trust groups respect people. There is a feeling of inclusiveness that does not require high profile actions to get attention.
- Anticipate needs. Be proactive at sensing when people need to be heard and provide the opportunity before they become frustrated. Make sure to reach out to remote workers often.
- Respect outliers. When someone’s view is contrary to the majority, there may be valid points to consider. Do not ignore the valuable insights of all people.
- Hear people out and consider their input seriously. Positive body language is essential to show respect for all people.
- Work on your own humility. Climbing down off your pedestal means that you are more willing to be on an equal footing with others.
- Admit mistakes. You gain respect when you are honest about the blunders that you make. People will act out less in response to your foibles if they see you willing to be vulnerable.
- Reinforce people well. Providing sincere praise is one way to show respect. This reduces people’s tendency to say “Hey don’t forget about me over here.”
We must also realize that some people are world-class at creating drama. For these people, it is a kind of sport. They do it to gain inappropriate attention or just to be disruptive. These people need coaching to know their antics are not really helping drive the goals of the organization. The leader needs to provide feedback about the issue and set the expectation of improvement. If the drama continues, then the person may be better off in some other organization or function.
Drama is all around us on a daily basis, but good leadership can mitigate the negative impact. That skill keeps bad habits from becoming an organizational albatross.
Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow, Inc. an organization dedicated to growing leaders. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org 585-392-7763. Website www.leadergrow.com BLOG www.thetrustambassador.com He is author of the following books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change.