If you work with other people (and who doesn’t?) reflect on the past week and notice how much time you wasted in drama: the energy-draining behaviors or exchanges that keep you from what you really want to be doing. Think about all the infighting, water-cooler talk, meaningless meetings, turf wars, pouting, rants and other behaviors that blocked positive interactions and lowered productivity in your organization.
Now, think about how many creative projects you could have completed, or how much time you could have spent having fun with friends and family if you had that time and energy back.
By following these steps, you can shift yourself (and your team) away from drama and toward more enjoyable and productive tasks.
- Get out of your own drama. One of the most difficult challenges for aspiring leaders is to “own their stuff”–to acknowledge their own responsibility for relationship shortcomings. So, before you can guide others, you must take inventory of both your interaction strengths (i.e., where you uplift relationships) and the ways you sabotage relationships. The strength inventory is usually easy. The sabotage inventory is more difficult. It requires the vulnerability and courage to seek others’ candid observations and advice about your behavior. To find out your own drama tendencies, you can use self-reflection, ask your colleagues or take a drama assessment test (dramafreeoffice.com/self-assessment-survey/). You can help others only when you are curious yourself. Take a deep breath, get centered and get out of your own way.
- Diagnose the type of drama in the other person. Once you are committed to authenticity and curiosity yourself, you can determine what kind of drama the other person is displaying. There are four primary drama personalities that emerge most frequently in office settings: the Complainer, the Controller, the Cynic and the Caretaker. You’ll need to use different strategies for different personality types–there is no “one size fits all” antidote for drama. Notice the kind of person you’re dealing with. Will they respond more to direct confrontation and setting boundaries (better for Controllers and Cynics) or to appreciation and encouragement (better for Caretakers and Complainers)? Know who you’re dealing with and tailor your approach to maximize your chances of shifting their behavior.
- Assess the risk of confronting the other person. Before meeting with drama-prone colleagues, you must identify and evaluate the potential downsides of a confrontation. Without objectively assessing these risks, you might be tempted to either accept a dysfunctional relationship you could have salvaged or make a misstep you could have avoided. So, before launching into a direct conversation with your boss or team member, consider the possible side effects (e.g., nothing happens, it gets worse, they abruptly leave) and whether you’re willing to face them.
Once you’ve tackled these steps, you can redirect your energy toward the collaborative, meaningful projects that you enjoy doing, and work in an office free from drama.
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Kaley Klemp and Jim Warner are the authors of “The Drama-Free Office: A Guide to Healthy Collaboration with Your Team, Coworkers, and Boss.” You can get a free sample of the book on Facebook, www.facebook.com/KaleyKlemp, follow them on twitter, @KaleyKlemp and read more about them at www.DramaFreeOffice.com.