Rise above Workplace Drama

Avoid mischief-makers

Workplace drama happens because we are emotional and social beings. If we feel we or someone else has been treated unfairly (either positively or negatively), if we are irritated by something or someone, if things haven’t gone our way, then our emotions kick in and, because we are social beings, we want to share and get validation from our social group for our feelings.  If someone else is sharing their emotions or some gossip then, as social beings, we want to join in and belong to the group.

While it may be ‘exciting’ at the time, it results in an uncomfortable workplace. It divides teams, lowers morale and wastes time.

You know the people that like to gossip, to spread rumours and enjoy the ‘excitement’ of drama in your workplace. You can choose to avoid them where possible and at other times have a ‘get out quick’ strategy such as saying ‘I really must go and do <task>’ if the conversation takes an unwanted dramatic turn.

Yes, it will mean that you are no longer a fully paid-up member of the ‘drama’ group but hopefully there will be other more positive groups to belong to.

Think before you react

To help rise above workplace drama, think before you react. Your first impulse to an event may well be to attack or defend but that response is coming from your primitive brain where an immediate reaction could save your life from say, an attacking wild animal. Pause, take a break away from the event and allow your ‘thinking’ brain to kick in.

I have always liked the quote from Thumper’s mother in Walt Disney’s Bambi: ‘if you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all’. Now is the world of work it may be appropriate to say or do some things that other don’t like, but by taking time to think first you can at least take the drama out of them.

Plan your venting

It’s human nature to need to vent. Some people need to do it more than others but beware of allowing it to become a self-perpetuating habit.

Timetable your venting for a time later in the day when you are away from the workplace and colleagues. Find a way that gets it out of your system and then be done with it. Don’t let it gain momentum or eat away at you.

The first point here is that quite often things that seemed massive at the time shrink as time passes if we don’t ‘feed’ them.  The second point is that it is ‘safer’ for our professionalism to vent away from the workplace and colleagues.

Solve the problem

If the workplace drama directly affects you then consider how you can take control of it. Is it the result of misinterpretation or poor communication?  Are you or the other parties too emotionally involved in the situation? If this was someone else’s drama how would you advise them to proceed to resolve the situation professionally. Have you the power to remove the drama on your own or will you need to work with the other involved parties? Is it appropriate to get an outside opinion?

Take time to think calmly and rationally about how best to proceed. Plan carefully what you need to do and how you will approach and communicate with the others involved to remove the elements of drama.

Be a ‘good egg’

Build a positive reputation so that you are known for being respectful, trustworthy and reasonable. Build a positive reputation for reacting to situations in a considered, controlled and fair way.

This is not only good for your professional standing but also your conscience!

With this reputation it is less likely that you will be expected to take part in office drama. Also, your positive reputation may have a knock-on effect on those around you and the drama may even decrease.