Organizational life is full of drama:
- “There is no trust anymore,”
- “They don’t respect our contribution,”
- “There is no respect between X,Y,Z,”
- “These guys are constantly crossing the red line,”
- “We are not willing to work with them anymore, after all that happened.”
These are sayings I have heard more than once in all kinds of organizations. This all sounds tragic, and in the beginning of my practice as a consultant and coach, I used to be shocked by these horrible things happening.
..but it simply is what happens when people work together
I am not saying that there are not dramatic things happening in organizations. But most of the time not, not really. So what happenes prior to most dramas?
Mostly simple, everyday life, non-events:
- someone forgot to copy someone in a mail
- someone did commit but failed to deliver
- someone forgot to inform someone else about something
- someone made a decision that turned out wrong
- someone forgot to get approval for a decision, or was not aware of having to do this
- someone wrote an unfriendly e-mail blaming someone, copying 28 co-workers
Normal things that may happen when real people work with each other. Some of these events are annoying, some detrimental, some really not worth discussing.
Many of these events can be easily solved by a simple phone call or by the pure underlying understanding that people most probably did not want to do any harm on purpose. But instead of solving the problems, new ones are created, and this is what I call a problem. Why? Because it is not supposed to be solved, as this would ruin the drama play.
Drama Talk creates a new problem on top of what happened
It took me some time to understand that there was a thing – which I now call the Drama Talk – that has a certain purpose and function. Of course, not to solve an issue that happened, but to distract from real challenges, own failures, or the boredom of everyday business.
And that the drama story becomes a new happening on its own, an actual home to many with all its juicy but energy draining and nerve-racking effects, ruining relationships and the performance of an organization.
Do you live in a drama culture?
If you have a drama culture in your organization, small things will create huge waves, involve many people’s energy, time and attention and overall create a lot of destructive emotions (anger, anxiety, shame) and undermining conversations (one cannot trust these people…). The cost and loss of effectiveness to an organization is immense.
Beware of Drama Queens
Some people are more prone to stage drama then others. Organizational Drama Kings and Queens often suffer from low self-worth combined with a strong self-centeredness, taking whatever happens personal and therefor an attack against themselves.
The drama then has a “positive” pay-off: if you want attention, start a drama. If you want identity, solidarity, fun and excitement: start a drama. Starting a drama is also a very effective way of distracting and confusing people and killing performance. They will enroll others effectively into their drama and even help them creating their own drama stories.
If these Drama Queens happen to be leaders, even worse. They will role model this unproductive behavior within their staff and broadcast it in the organization.
Feeding the drama is to reinforce the story, add some more delicate details, and choose the worst possible interpretation of that person’s intention.
Real leaders don‘t feed the drama
Don‘t do it, don‘t feed the drama!
The price you pay, the price the organization pays is enormous: disengagement, frustration, drain of energy, lack of performance, undermining trust, focus on internal problems away from the customer and so on.
How you can stop the drama
Stay cool and calm, focus on what realy happened and not the story (drama), take out the heat and emotions, just don’t go there. The drama is an invitation to play which you can decline with ease: “Thank you, but I am not interested. Let’s have a look at what happened, before the drama started.” Label the drama clearly a story and not as what realy happened. Calm people down and help them to leave the drama stage.
Cultivating a non-dramatic leadership style will qualify you for more responsibility; people will appreciate you for your being a voice of reason, your calm mind and your capacity of clear judgement.