7 Steps to a Drama-Free Office

How much time this week did you waste on drama? Think about the infighting, water-cooler talk, turf wars, and other behaviors that blocked positive, productive interactions.

Follow these steps to shift yourself (and your team) away from drama to more enjoyable and productive tasks.

1. Eliminate Your Own Drama. Before you can guide others, you must take inventory of your interaction strengths and the ways you might be sabotaging relationships.  

2. Diagnose the Drama. There are four roles that emerge most frequently: the Complainer, the Controller, the Cynic, and the Caretaker. Use different strategies for different personality types. Will this person respond best to direct confrontation and boundary-setting (Controllers, Cynics), or to appreciation and encouragement (Caretakers, Complainers)? 

3. Assess the Risks. Before meeting with a drama-prone person, consider the possible effects (nothing happens, it gets worse) and whether you’re willing to face them.

4. Develop Rapport. Prepare the other person to receive your message. Try opening with a tactful blend of connection, appreciation, ground rules, and expectations.  

5. Have a Direct Conversation. When confronting a person, stay dispassionate and state the facts clearly and concisely. But also offer your perceptions and note any emotions you’ve experienced in the conflict—usually some combination of fear, anger, guilt, and embarrassment. 

Then share with the person how you contributed to the negativity, and end with an agreement about what will happen next to make sure the drama ends.

6. Get Commitment. A commitment to realize expectations without excuses, sarcasm, or martyrdom is often difficult to obtain from drama-prone people. Be prepared to calmly lay out an ultimatum, specifying rewards for meeting objectives and consequences for missing them. 

7. Validate and Anchor. Praise the person for his positive behaviors during your meeting. Follow up with a short email confirming and affirming the person’s commitments—people live up to what they write down.