If you work with other people (and who doesn’t?) reflect on the last 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.
4. Develop rapport with the drama-prone person. It’s important to establish rapport with the other person so he or she is best prepared to receive your message. Try opening with a blend of connection, appreciation, ground rules and expectations. Your goal is to get the person’s full attention and to set him or her up to be receptive to your ideas. People prefer to collaborate with those they know and like, so this step is important in setting the tone for the rest of the conversation.
5. Have a direct conversation. While an entire article could be written about direct conversations when confronting a person about their drama, stay dispassionate and state “the facts” clearly and concisely. Also present the meaning you derived from the facts (i.e., your perceptions), and any emotions you experience–usually some combination of fear, anger, guilt or embarrassment.
6. Share with the person how you contributed to the situation. Acknowledge it’s your fault, too. This next part is a little tougher. End with a specific request. Usually these conversations end with an agreement about what will happen next to make sure the drama ends. While this may sound simple, each component outlined above is worth practicing and mastering so that the entire conversation flows smoothly. For instance, it’s very easy to mix facts and derived meaning. People often say, “The facts are, you are being difficult.” When, in fact, the level of cooperation or difficulty of an individual is a derived meaning or perception. One person may consider it difficult behavior to challenge someone else’s ideas, while another might consider it a commitment to improvement.
7. Get the person’s commitment. The last step of the direct conversation in #5 is your specific requests or expectations of the person. A commitment to realize these expectations without excuses, sarcasm, self-pity or martyrdom is often difficult to obtain from drama-prone people. They’ll dance around the expectation or rephrase them in vague terms. This deflection or evasion tactic is a self-protection mechanism that helps the dramatic person avoid change and accountability. Don’t get hooked. Reiterate both your specific expectations and your need for the drama-prone person’s commitment to meet them. If he or she continues to resist or deflect, be prepared to calmly lay down an ultimatum, including specific rewards for meeting objectives and consequences for missing objectives.
8. Validate new behaviors. Reward the person for positive behaviors during your meeting, and praise the commitments he or she has made. Follow up with a short note or email confirming and affirming the person’s commitments. Ideally, ask him or her to create a summary of your meeting that includes specific agreements. People live up to what they write down.
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.