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Senior Correspondent

Too Much Drama in the Workplace?

Too Much Drama in the Workplace?


It's February. By now, we already know what's going on with our favorite shows for the season: re-runs — BOOOORING!

Gyms are still pretty darned crowded with folks who are by-George serious about their New Year's resolution. We could always help the economy and shop for something we don't really need  not such a great idea.

The groundhog saw his shadow last week, so we are in for some long winter days and nights. Groundhogs got it right about winter hibernation, you know  just hole up and hide out.

But since we aren't groundhogs, this is when we awaken from our long winter's nap. We realize that this is, indeed, the perfect time to clear off that to-do list. Inspired at last, we're ready to rock and roll. Dull moments become great opportunities for catching up. We tell ourselves, "Yes, we can!"

As we prioritize first things first, delegate those tasks that aren't ours to do and tackle tasks that will make the most difference, we go to work with a renewed sense of purpose. We're jazzed! We're tracking!

And then comes the urgent e-mail, then the text and the phone call, the "Have you got a minute?" visit. And sure enough, Act 1 of a brand new workplace drama is coming soon at an office near you. Is there a little too much drama in your workplace?

While distracting as all get out, drama certainly can be entertaining. We are betting, however, that your customers do not pay your company to produce drama unless, of course, you are in the business of creating reality shows.

Have you noticed how the drama tends to feed on itself? One incident leads to another. We are often left in suspense, never quite sure where it all started or how it will end, like a good mystery. People take on roles, become theatrical. There's the bad guy. There always has to be a bad guy  and the poor victim(s). We may be called upon to play the role of bad cop or good cop to sort things out or become the decider of who's wrong and who's right. The cast of characters can vary. But, as in sports, there will be winners and losers. It's certainly not a comedy. It's serious stuff, workplace drama.

If we were to drill down to the root cause of drama in the workplace, we would likely find that those involved are highly committed to doing a good job or were at one time. It's possible that they may have become bored because their work is not challenging enough, or they became disengaged because they could not get anyone to consider their ideas for solving a problem or improving a process.

Ineffective systems or a lack of leadership can produce drama. It shows up as conflicts, flare-ups, passive-aggressive behavior. It causes great folks to focus on who is wrong rather than what is wrong. Drama perpetuates problems that might have easily been solved had the attention been focused on gathering data or improving a process rather than offending, defending or mediating.

Yes, the cost of workplace drama is huge. We do not track such costs in business. We can easily become resigned — "It's just the way it is around here," we tell ourselves. No way to stop the movie or hit pause. No way to flip the channel to a better show.

Really? We beg to differ. Leaders generally get three things from their people:

  1. Behaviors they model
  2. Behaviors they reward
  3. Behaviors they tolerate

We do know that leaders, at any level, can nip drama in the bud with a little intention and attention. We also know that the groundhog strategy will not work.

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