How to Quickly End Office Drama
Office drama – interpersonal spats, personality conflicts, pissing contests, and backstabbing – serves no useful purpose.
Leaders frequently say people “problems” top the list of concerns they daily address.
- Elevates pettiness.
- Distracts from mission and vision.
- Drains energy.
- Reflects power struggles.
- Creates winners and losers.
- Encourages turf wars.
- Establishes pecking orders.
- Indicates immaturity.
- Reveals self-serving.
- Undermines productivity.
Pretending to “help” while intending to hurt
is the lowest form of office drama.
People who offer “help” in front of powerful people, rather than in private, often work to make others look bad while making themselves look good.
Don’t get caught:
Chris Cabrera can’t stand office drama. Chris cares for people. But, he doesn’t care if Susie hurt Bobby’s feelings. “I don’t want to hear it. I don’t care.” Chris said.
Chris explained that when a new manager comes to him with a story of “he said, she said,” I tell them, “I just want the facts.”
“New managers,” Chris explained, “Leave my office and let everyone know I’m not going to listen to the drama.”
Those who listen to drama create and encourage drama.
One particularly frustrating form of drama for Chris is the triumph of process over progress. He doesn’t want to hear, “They didn’t use the right form or follow the procedure.” He’s an entrepreneur. Stuck or slow is the worst.
Chris’s real concern is, “Are they working for the good of the company.”
- Impart conflict resolutions skills.
- Expect and honor respect.
- Celebrate diversity.
- Don’t solve drama for people.
For a more participative approach to dealing with office drama read: “Dealing with Tattlers, Whiners, and Backstabbers.”
What’s your preferred style and strategy for dealing with workplace drama?
This post is inspired by my conversation with Chris Cabrera, founder, president, and CEO of Xactly, #13 Best Small Place to Work in 2012.
When dealing whith interpersonal drama in the office, I ask “have you exhausted every option to resolve this without my help?” It is amazing how quickly my staff realize that I expect them to handle their own drama effectively.
Thanks Doug. Simple, honest, and actionable. I could imagine a follow up if they say “Yes.”
“Tell me what you’ve done.”
Love Chris’s absolute stance on drama. The most dangerous kind of drama doesn’t come to the leader- it just floats uncomfortably around the office. This kind of drama must be rooted out and confronted quickly.
Thanks Justin. The tension I feel is reflected in your comment. If we refuse to listen to it does it go underground? The only suggestion I can think is to determine how serious or important the drama is… Deal with the serious and ignore the frivolous.
The other thing I do is bring people together, NOT to solve their problem but to give them an orientation to solving their own.
The questions I ask include:
How important is a good working relationship to you?
What does a good working relationship look like?
How will you get there?
“*How important is a good working relationship to you?
*What does a good working relationship look like?
*How will you get there?”
This is what I was getting at yesterday! These are the questions we should be asking and teaching in Kindergarten. (Most places don’t – we teach competition!)
Th questions you are raising are huge! I don’t think they seem to have ever been systematically addressed. (In school!)
Great tips, Dan! I especially appreciate your emphasis on letting the frivolous go. Piddly crap fades away…unless it’s given attention! Thanks for the helpful orientation questions. They push us to realize the value of healthy work relationships, define them, and achieve them.
I’ve been in some interesting LinkedIn conversations lately about energy drainers… “drama” is high on the list.
Thanks Karin…have a great weekend.
Well the truth hurts
Hey Jo this one is for you!!!
Aussies Rock by the way!!!
We STINK! Yeah we so-called Leaders!
Take all the strategies, all the theories, l the plans and the results…….7 out of 8 people who work for companies in America go home feeling unfulfilled and under appreciated!
Put that in your pipe and smoke it!
Now just imagine I am right up in your face bumping my cute little balding head up against your chin telling you, you STINK! Yeah I am right up in YOUR grill, way to close for comfort!!!!!
All I ask is listen long enough to see if what I am saying is true!!!! An awful truth but true or not?
What we have been doing is failing 7 out if the 8 people we lay it on!!!!! Is that COOL????
Would you take your kid to a doctor that kills 7 out of 8 of his patients??????? Heck NO!!!!!
So the sum total of what we have done about leadership up to now is failing 7 out of 8 people!!!!!!
Why keep regurgitating the same old stuff with different words and expecting the result to be different my insane friends??????
Time for something, anything radically different, yes? It is here wake up!!!!!!
Ok if I got your attention there is a solution to our dismal colossal failing people our greatest asset rate!!!!!!
Go watch for Free Bob Chapman on YouTube. Google his Ted Talk!! 20 minutes and go ahead do it to prove me wrong! I challenge you to do that!!! B
Now you can get pissed at me for having the kahonas to tell the truth but here is what will do you better!
Go take 20 measly minutes and watch the dog gone video!!!!! Get pissed at Bob he is the one I heard the truth from!!!! Argue with the CEO of a 1.5 billion dollar company with 7000 employees, not me!!!!!
Don’t be a dummy and make the issue the messenger! Check out what He says and argue with him if you don’t like it!
People have the right to their own opinion man, just not their own facts. Facts say we as leaders STINK!!!!
I want to be honest about it and DO something about it? You?
Can’t do that till I and you get jiggy with reality!
Hope you all watch for 20 minutes and join me in changing this travesty!
Lets change the works together inspiring one mind at a time!!!!!
We owe the people we lead to do better cause right now we are getting shameful results.
Hate me or love me just watch the video first till you decide!!!!!
Shifterp back to the good fight!!!!!
I think you had too much coffee this morning Scott! 🙂 Thanks for joining in!!
Lol just inspired to help make the world a better place!!!
Very disappointed in lack of participation from the so-called leaders!! Apathy here of all places, shameful.
Every person calling themselves a leader ought to take 20 minutes out of their day and watch and listen to Bob Chapman just like I did again this morning!!
If they did they would have the blood in their being switched on to boiling and be fully inspired and on fire just like me!!
Then we can get some serious work done changing the world.
Not gonna happen with egocentric so called leaders thinking they know it all and too busy with what they think works when the RESULTS don’t lie! It ain’t working what we are collectively doing!!!
17 Trillion in debt, productivity down, politicians a bunch of wild spending scumbags. all parties cause they have to work together to spend our money. People on ga-ment cheese with an entitlement mindset!
And the socalled leaders here seemingly just fine with the way things are!!!!! Just sad.
Could I have at least 10 thumbs down today? Anything but apathy!!! Lol
We have a leadership crisis our hands and the lack if participation and response to me brining it up here of all places is sad! Isn’t it?
It is all good cause I know there are early adapters here somewhere and I know what I am saying is getting through to them.
Three kinds of people.
Those that watch what happens
Those that make things happen
Those that wonder what happened!
Figure the socalled leaders here are more of the making things happen instead if the watchers and wonderers. Maybe I am mistaken.
Maybe, maybe not!!!
In any case, back info the fight for me!!!!
Got a world to change inspiring one mind at a time!!!!!
SP back in to the fight!! What are you doing! Making, watching or wondering?
I find that I am more influenced by short messages that are clear, free of defensiveness, and state both their value and their content quickly. Multiple exclamation points is a written form of drama in my book.
In my book, Stop Workplace Drama, I talk about the root of drama being a lack of clarity. Chris Cabrera is an example of a leader who has clarity.
I totally concur with his stance on asking for the facts. I always say that knowing your feelings won’t change the facts, but knowing the facts can change your feelings.
Teaching employees how to separate fact from feeling will eliminate a lot of drama and contribute to the skill of critical thinking.
Great post Dan.
Thanks Marlene. Your contribution on this topic is very helpful.
Marlene’s book: Stop Workplace Drama on amazon.
Plus, the bonus link to “Dealing with Tattles, Whiners, and Backstabbers” features her insights.
I’m ordering a copy today. Thanks for the tip!
Slow Internet Connection here. I tried to download the book to Kindle using the affiliate link. (Of course!) Is their a children’s version of Stop Workplace Drama? I am keen to hear the audio but all too hard now. I have glimpsed enough to now that this is exactly what kids need in Yr 4. (8-9years)
When a child hits year 3 (8 yrs) the Myelin Sheaths are getting ready to consolidate around behaviour sets. Kids look around and it becomes flight or fight! If we don’t teach them how to deal with conflict at this stage – what you are talking about in the work place eventuates years down the track!
I will buy the audible track tomorrow and listen. Is there a child’s version? Marlene do you do guest Blogs? Jo
Yes! Right on! I have seen this drama, and now you named it and described why I hated it so much!
Thanks Steve..here’s to an UNdramatic weekend.
Ditto! I am enjoying your writing. Thanks for doing the Boundaries for Leaders with Henry also. You guys did a great job! Have a refreshing weekend.
In art, every drama has a theme, a story line, a climax and a resolution enacted by the players. By definition it is serious, at least to the players. It is the players that bring it to life.
In business, leaders must “get the facts” to paraphrase Chris, and understand the motivation of the players to bring it to a climax and reach a successful resolution. If your ‘drama” extends beyond a “one-act play” leaders must look more deeply at the organization. Something or someone on “your set” is bringing the drama back to life. If you do not address it, the “drama” will resurface in yet another act and another until the players have reached a resolution.
Thanks Joan. Love how you teased out and applied the theater of the illustration.
I really felt the importance of a culture that doesn’t encourage drama as I read your insights. Beyond the “One act play” is beautiful.
It works if the goal is established. People get caught up in the drama and forget the goal. A big sign on the door that ask “Are you working for the good of the company?” may help people to think twice before they knock on that door.
Thanks Mary. I felt that Chris’s clarity on the good of the company was one of the most useful things he added to the conversation.
Mary—so true! One of my favorite authors Robert Fritz (to paraphrase) says that when people are not aware of their ability to create, they act destructively. Drama is a distraction which takes the eyes off of the mission and goals.
Never forget that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” (Peter Drucker, I believe). Interpersonal problems may reflect more than the personal issues of one or more employees. Your people interact based on their Identity (who am I?), their Relationships (who are we?), and the flows of work and info among them (what will we do together?). The dynamics of power and fear can amplify negative values and behaviors in the workplace. That can and will hurt productivity and effectiveness.
Ignoring the problem makes you a part of the problem. So tell your people what you expect. Tell them that whatever their differences, they must be able to interact respectfully, and work together effectively. Provide learning and a process to address serious complaints in a neutral and confidential way, such as an ombuds program. Measure the levels of engagement and trust in your workplace, along with your productivity and success. Acknowledge progress and challenges. Remove those who ultimately can not or will not change. Celebrate the achievement of everyone.
Great insights, Bruce. Thanks for jumping in today.
Chris’s company Xactly believes in the importance of respect. It’s one of their four core values.
RESPECT: We foster an environment of teamwork and mutual respect. We respect our peers, our customers and our partners. We respect diversity and openness.
Definitely a central component to overcoming office drama.
Oh! The Drama! Lol, funny thing is it is a magnet and people don’t realize they get sucked in without even wanting to. You provided some good tips on how to handle it. Solution 5, hand people boxing gloves and VOILA! Solved. Great post Dan, enjoy the weekend!
Thanks for pointing out the magnetic nature of drama…SO TRUE… sometimes when I take a breath and lift my head, I realize I’m participating in the problem because I got sucked into it. Good one.
“We can do better” has always been an effective phrase.. I never recall anyone saying “What do you mean? “. 🙂
Thanks Ken… appealing to the best in people invites and inspires us to rise up.
Thanks for sharing some really great tips. I particularly like the tip on staying on point when presented with drama by saying “I just want the facts.” As you have mentioned, it can be hard to resist being pulled into drama when you are trying to sort through the facts. Have a great weekend.
Just the facts ma’am, is a line Joe Friday used on the old TV series Dragnet.. I guess they had it right all along.
Absolutely nice post. Those who listen to drama, encourage drama is really powerful concept. In fact it is very true. I believe those who listen are more responsible in creating workplace drama because people tell them since they listen. I have also seen that those who listen drama are either management or people close to the management. Those who are close to management are generally colleague whom we trust. Such people perfectly balance their position to show that they are neutral and not passing any information to anyone.
I think such people do not need signal to stop workplace drama. Instead they need hard dealing. Leaders should not invite people to talk privately or suggest anything. They should encourage speaking in meeting or in public. If I am part of management and know that people are habitually passing information about someone, I would rather fix responsibility for speaking wrong about anyone. I would encourage others to tell the name of the person spreading rumor or creating false information. I would encourage those who are open and help to minimize practices of making hole out of mole.
One style may be useful to deal with workplace drama. Such people should be identified and given much responsibility with specified deadlines. They should be dealt severely for not getting work done in time. Tough dealing with these people as per regulations of the system might discourage them for spreading workplace drama.
Thank you Ajay. I feel the firmness in your comment today.
Lets stop making suggestions and require people to behave like adults.
Interesting strategy… give backstabbers and gossips more work with deadlines. Maybe that will shut them up… Put up or shut up… or perhaps, hit the road.
I think many managers ignore this truth. If you listen and attempt to solve “office drama”, you are encouraging the actors to continue to cause drama. It’s like a naughty child who just wants your attention, and will misbehave to get it.