Most Dramas are not dramatic..
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 words I have heard more than once in all kind of organizations. This all sounds tragic and in the beginnings of my practice as consultant and coach and used to be shocked and quite impressed by these horrible things happening.
..but simply 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 really. So what happened 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 talking about.
Many of these events could 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 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 get to understand, that there was a a thing I call the Drama Talk, that has a certain purpose and function. Of course not to solve an issue that happened, but to either distract from real challenges, own failures, or boredom of everyday business.
And that the Drama story becomes a new happening for its own, with all its energy draining and nerve wrecking effects, ruining relationships and the performance of an organization.
Do you live in a Drama culture?
So if you have a Drama culture in your organization, small things will create huge waves, involve many peope’s energy, time and attention and overall create a lot of destructive emotions (anger, anxiety, shame) and undermining conversations (one cannot trust these people..). To cost and loss of effectiveness is huge.
Beware of Drama Queens
There are some people who are more prone to stage Drama – Organizational Drama Kings and Queens -many times suffer from little self-worth combined with a strong self-centeredness, so they feel whatever happens is – most probably – an attack against them.
The Drama has a “positive” pay-off: if you want attention, start a Drama. If you want identity, solidarity, joy and excitement: start a Drama. Starting a Drama is also a very effective way of distracting and confusing people away from performance issues. They will enroll others effectively in their Drama and even help them creating their own Drama stories.
If these Drama Queens are in Leadership positions, even worse. They will role model this unproductive behavior within their staff and broadcast this in the organization.
Real Leaders don’t feed the Drama
Feeding the Drama is to reinforce the story, add some more delicate details and chose the worst possible interpretation of that persons intention.
Don’t do it, don’t feed the drama!
The price you pay, the price the organization pays is high: disengagement, frustration, loss of energy, loss of performance, focus on internal problems away from the customer and so on.
How you can stop the Drama
Stay cool and calm, focus on what happened and not the Drama, take out the heat and the negative emotions, just don’t go there. The Drama is an invitation to play that you can decline with ease: “thank you, but I am not interested. lets have a look what happened, before the Drama started”. Label the Drama clearly a story and not what happened. Calm people down, help them to leave the Drama stage.
Cultivating a non-dramatic leadership quality will qualify you for more responsibility, people will appreciate you for your voice of reason, your calm mind and your capacity of clear judgement.