There is no question that organizations could mitigate absenteeism and turnover by paying greater attention to the emotional impact of drama. Understandably, many of us have a preference for avoiding difficult conversations without realizing that we are doing a disservice to ourselves. Unfortunately, when the skills, desire and intestinal fortitude needed to take charge of the dysfunction are lacking, the status quo prevails. The famous poet anonymous declared: ‘nothing changes if nothing changes.” What are you willing to do to make a difference and contribute to a happier workplace atmosphere? When individuals and teams decide to positively express solutions, everyone will benefit and engagement will increase as a result.
Learn to detach from drama
Two burning questions regarding drama-based behaviour are “why does he or she do it?” and “what can I do about it?” The answers are straight-forward. First, all humans have a desire for self-expression. Emotions such as fear and anger are natural. We have the capacity to be the best, as well as the worst version of ourselves. Unfortunately, the later has negative consequences, both personal and professional. Constant reactivity may affect one’s health. In addition, on-going conflict and drama can impact productivity, morale and the bottom line. Therefore, it is incumbent on all to acquire the skills to manage ourselves, for our own self-care, self-preservation and for the betterment of workplace relationships.
Second, it is worthwhile keeping in mind the words of Albert Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again, but expecting different results.” If a person intends to ruffle your feathers, he or she will be successful to the degree that you allow it. The more you give a person permission to provoke with words and actions, the more likely they will continue to antagonize and create havoc. The solution lies in changing your pattern of interaction. Remember, there is a difference between people who have problems and people who are problems!
As mentioned previously, the instigator’s difficult behaviour, as well as your reactivity, are learned responses. The adage: “one attracts more flies with sugar than vinegar” is highly applicable when dealing with drama and dysfunction at work. Whether your colleague who causes you to become frustrated, irritated or angry is doing so intentionally (or otherwise,) matching “fire with fire” will likely create greater tension. Ask yourself: Are you rewarding the very behaviour that causes you angst by reacting in a similar fashion?
The art of “me” management
Preserving your peace of mind in difficult situations requires a heightened sense of self-awareness. There is a difference between managing and coping, the former being a more effective long-term strategy. When faced with antagonistic, theatrical and irritating behaviour, your goal is to deflect, disarm and detach as quickly as possible.
Individuals who are taking the lead in challenging conversations are not seeking to teach people lessons. They recognize that It is not their business to play the role of arbiter when it comes to correcting another person’s behaviour. If that were the case, then the strategy would infer an aggressive rather than assertive style. By taking charge of the situation, you have no hidden agenda. You are taking a values-based approach by looking after your side of the street, and yours alone.
In my experience facilitating presentations and workshops on this topic, I have discovered that the true source of angst and resistance to applying solutions emanates from unrealistic expectations from those on the receiving end of the drama. As a result of hearing our pearls of wisdom, we want the other person to change, apologize and become respectful overnight. In a nutshell, the option of managing oneself seems overwhelming and “unfair.” Yet it is in that very moment that the seeds of on-going resentment are planted. A negative mindset yields a negative result. On the other hand, when one is prepared to fully embrace the concept of self-leadership, the process becomes easier.
Is it possible to eradicate all drama-based behaviour? While this may be a lofty objective, it is certainly possible to minimize the impact by practicing the art of “me” management. By making a conscious decision to disengage and take the high road, you can be successful. The theologian-philosopher, Reinhold Nieburhr, said it best in his Serenity Prayer: ”God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”
This article first appeared in Executive Secretary Magazine, a global training publication and must read for any administrative professional. You can get a 30% discount on an individual subscription when you subscribe through me. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and tell them I sent you.