Save the Drama for the Stage

I’m a big fan of the arts, and really enjoy a good stage or film production. There’s nothing like a juicy tragedy to get me fully engaged and at the same time make me feel lucky my life is relatively drama-free. But it hasn’t always been drama-free. It takes some work to keep it that way — right?

Lately I’ve been thinking about drama in the workplace, as I’m partnering with a colleague to deliver a workshop on that topic later this month. The more we dig into the content, the more I’m realizing the “Drama Triangle” (victim/persecutor/rescuer) is ever-present in the workplace. Even those of us who say “I don’t DO drama — I just ignore it”, may unintentionally be contributing to it. It’s something I’ve seen throughout my career, in organizations big and small. Here’s what it sounds like:

“My manager gives us horrible direction and then goes and does it himself anyway. Why should I even bother? I’m going to HR — they need to give him some management training.” Or… “My employees don’t care as much as I do — I do all the work around here.  We’re not seeing any results.  All they do is suck up resources and complain. I’m going to HR getting these people on a performance plan.” OR “All day I sit in HR and listen to employees complain about their manager, and managers complain about their employees. And then they expect me to fix their problems.  They should be able to work better together, like adults.”.

In these (discouragingly common) scenarios, who’s the victim? The persecutor? The rescuer? In an objective sense, there’s really no ‘victim’, but someone is playing the ROLE of the victim. That’s where the drama comes in, and it doesn’t need to exist. If there truly were a victim, then a rescuer might actually be needed and the persecutor should probably be punished. But in most workplace situations (barring anything illegal or otherwise abusive), every “actor” has the power to change the dynamic or prevent it altogether.

Think about it — have you ever unintentionally played the victim? Or the rescuer? Or even the persecutor to someone else’s victim? If so, next time you’re faced with drama, realize you have a choice. You can choose to play (and help others play) a more creative and/or supportive role.

There are a number of tools, concepts, and methods out there to support people in transitioning to more effective ways of working together. My colleague, Amber Barnes, has a blog post on this topic in case you want to learn more. And I’d like to hear your comments, questions, and real-world scenarios.

P.S. If you’ve been in any of the above roles, you know how stressful and useless playing the drama game is. Swing by our Ditch the Drama(TM) workshop to find out how to save yourself the nonsense. You’ll learn how to spot the tell tale signs of a potential drama-filled situation and stop it before it starts. Also, why not share the love? After learning these concepts, you’ll be able to save your friends when you see them getting mixed up in the game as well. Hope to see you there!

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