Imagine if it were true that the majority of people excitedly leap out of bed each work day shrieking “I can’t wait to annoy my colleagues.” Although it may be a bit of a stretch to suggest that workplace “saboteurs “exist in large numbers, the fact remains that certain individuals take great pleasure in causing chaos at work, while others are completely oblivious to the damage inflicted by their dysfunctional, drama-based behaviour. Unfortunately, the potential for drama to escalate is an on-going problem, especially when one considers the fact that stress and overwhelm affect millions of people on a personal and professional level.
If you are experiencing the brunt of the theatrics displayed by the drama “queens” (and “kings”) in your workplace, the question becomes: “React? Or not?” Are there effective strategies available to mitigate the drama? Absolutely! But first, you must accept the following premise: You cannot control other people’s bad behaviour. You can, however, manage yourself.
The most effective approaches do require action on your part. And at times, doing nothing is the optimum response. The key is to recognize the reasons for your own reactivity around certain people. Simply put, people who continue to get under your skin are successful because they know how to push the right buttons.
Understand drama-based behaviour
All behaviour is learned. This includes the manner in which you react…or respond, to others. Those who have mastered the art of disconnecting from drama have decided that “enough is enough.” They have chosen to apply a different methodology and are able to accept the fact that they have a choice. i.e. continue to buy in; or find a way to rise above the situation. Most importantly, they understand that drama-based behaviour is not personal.
Consider the example of working with an individual who never greets his or her colleagues. Perhaps this person is an introvert, or it could be a case of waking up on the wrong side of the bed every day and choosing not to partake in any social “graces” such as acknowledging your presence. Or, they may be oblivious to the fact that their silence is bothersome. In other words, he or she may simply be operating as himself or herself. There is no agenda, yet the “non-response” makes some people uncomfortable. If you encounter this scenario in your workplace, what matters more is whether or not you choose to be bothered by it, speak up, or let it go. Whatever you decide, you can’t control the outcome. However, you can control the lens you use to evaluate the situation.
Core reasons behind drama escalation
Renowned emotional intelligence expert Daniel Goleman has described an individual’s “emotional quotient” (EQ) as a “priceless commodity.” Research conducted by Goleman and leading providers of emotional intelligence analytics report that there is a direct correlation between high levels of EQ and high levels of performance at work. Surprisingly, many organizations fail to emphasize the importance of emotional accountability. i.e. taking responsibility for practicing emotional intelligence and being cognizant of behaviours that negatively impact workplace culture. When drama-based behaviour goes unchecked, many people feel frustrated by the lack of accountability on the part of the instigators, as well as managers. As a result, the potential for drama and conflict escalates. In order to change the pattern, greater priority ought to be given for professional development opportunities in the areas of interpersonal communication, conflict management and collaborative workplace relationships.
Having been on the receiving end of a manager’s tyrannical, aggressive leadership style, I felt an overwhelming sense of powerlessness. I lacked the skills to effectively manage myself and as a result, I shut down and resigned myself to the fact that the relationship would continue to deteriorate. And I was right. One of the biggest reasons for high levels of disengagement in organizations of every description is the existence of dysfunctional workplace relationships at all levels. It is easy to understand why many people become disenchanted, disheartened and disillusioned, especially when there is a foreboding sense of gloom and fear that nothing will change. Many years later I realized that the dynamic between my boss and myself represented a major turning point; a teachable experience that afforded me the opportunity to take charge of myself and take the lead in my career.
End of Part One: Ending The Drama At Work – It Starts With You
Watch for Part Two!
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.