HR Strategy

It's an Office, Not a Theater: Managing Office Drama

By

Chelsea Justice

| Sep 12, 2017

Office drama is a distraction that could be costing your company millions. In her new book, No Ego, drama researcher and New York Times best-selling author Cy Wakeman defines drama as any disruptive behavior or thought process that takes energy away from results or a great work climate.

Need to minimize workplace drama?

Listen to the HR Break Room podcast episode “It’s an Office, Not a Theater: Managing Workplace Drama” with author Cy Wakeman.

Drama is expensive

According to Wakeman, employees spend nearly three hours a week on workplace drama, totaling an estimated 816 hours being wasted per year. This isn’t just a nuisance that hurts employee morale and eats up management’s time, but also lowers productivity and, ultimately, profits. With so much at stake, it’s important to remember that organizations can minimize this type of financial drain.

Egos fuel the fire

Wakeman identifies five key causes of workplace drama:

  1. lack of accountability
  2. lack of engagement
  3. withholding buy-in
  4. resisting change
  5. ego-driven work environment

Each cause manifests itself differently, but perhaps the ego’s most common way of creating tension is through employee venting allowed by open-door policies.

Creating an approachable environment is important, but often, in an effort to give employees access, members of management invite toxic conversations that can last as long as 45 minutes, according to Workman’s research. Instead of colluding or sympathizing with employees, the best way to minimize the drama is to bypass their ego; train managers and employees to reflect on their challenges instead of blasting the faults of others.

Self-reflection: the cornerstone of accountability

Becoming more self-aware and learning how to edit your own story is a critical life skill that helps minimize drama, personally and professionally. Most times, the stress that arises from drama does not come from reality, but from a story we make up about our reality. If we hold ourselves accountable to the truth, we realize that most of what we are upset about did not even happen.

Recruit for a low-drama workforce

Recruiting is one way to reduce workplace drama. It is crucial to find people who not only perform, but are able to stay emotionally ready for what’s next.

Finding highly accountable top talent can be challenging, which makes implementation of an applicant tracking system essential. These prospective employees are in high demand, and recruiting them successfully requires swift, seamless action before they go somewhere else. Organizations lacking the tools to attract and recognize quality applicants could be at a disadvantage.

HR’s role in minimizing drama

A big opportunity exists for HR to cut the cost of workplace drama and, more importantly, put an end to the entitlement that feeds such conflicts. HR needs to be especially careful about its employee engagement philosophies, because engagement without accountability creates entitlement. HR should not be afraid to challenge conventional wisdom that does not yield positive results. For example, one popular idea is that employees can be engaged by perfecting their circumstances. This may sound great on paper, but in actuality, there is no way you can perfect their reality; instead, you grow them to become better equipped to live in their reality.

HR can create surveys to send to top performers in order to get a better understanding of their day-to-day environment, including pressure points. Using this data, HR can implement trainings that enrich the mental processes of managers, and eventually, all employees within the company.

Office drama may be an inevitable part of today’s workforce, but by training managers and employees on the right mental processes based on self-reflection, your organization can save countless hours of employee time and untold wasted dollars.

About the Author

Chelsea Justice

Chelsea is co-host Paycom’s HR Break Room podcast, editor-in-chief of its corporate culture magazine, Paycom Pulse and is Paycom’s communications supervisor. During her more than eight years in marketing, corporate training and communications, she has created hundreds of magazines, training guides, videos and webinars for multiple industries. In her free time, Chelsea is planning her next travel adventure, perfecting her most recent baking recipe, devouring a good book and, above all, spending time with family.

See more posts by Chelsea Justice