Making the workplace a more livable space.
Drama is a call for attention and while all your employees deserve your attention, make sure that you give MORE attention to communication that is productive and helpful. Busy managers can inadvertently reinforce drama makers by paying more attention to those who cause drama than those who are focused and engaged in their work.Shorten the duration and impact of the drama by shifting employees from their drama-making reaction to actively involved in moving things forward. Use bridge statements to get employees from their gripe or complaint to a productive and active place. Ask questions like, “do you have a suggestion for how to solve this issue?” or “I can tell that you are frustrated and can see this is getting in the way of your ability to move forward. What can you do or what can I do to help you clarify the situation and where we can have the most impact?” or “Lisa, I am worried that you are seeing this as a much bigger problem than I do. Let’s talk through what we know for sure and determine the best path forward.”
Talk about workplace drama as a performance issue. Most of us work in organizations where the work gets done through a team effort. Unproductive and unhelpful communication habits get in the way of teamwork and are therefore legitimate performance issues. If you have a habitual drama maker on your team, talk about this during one-on-ones, when setting expectations, as drama occurs, and during performance evaluation conversations. Employees deserve your candid assessment and a chance to change and improve.
Take a fresh look at your core competencies and ensure that your expectations regarding HOW people communicate and deal with each other are clear. Can you tell from reading your job descriptions and performance evaluation forms that workplace drama is not the preferred way to deal with individual thoughts, needs, and questions? The old adage goes something like this, “you get what you reinforce and measure.” If you have a lot of workplace drama, then these behaviors are being reinforced somewhere in your systems and practices. Realign performance tools and hiring and promotion criteria to reinforce individuals with productive communication and teaming practices.
If you routinely wonder why there is so much drama where you work, chances are good that your peers are thinking the same thing. Partner with your peers and the human resources department to better understand the root causes of your workplace drama and create a plan for improving the maturity and effectiveness of communication and team relationships. Good luck!