If you feel like your workplace has more drama than an episode of "Grey's Anatomy," it may be time to think about how such turmoil affects your career and whether you need to make some changes in your own behavior.
Workplace drama can come in many different forms, from the gossiping colleague to the co-worker who yells (or cries) when under stress. Such an environment hurts productivity, teamwork and creativity, and can eventually lead to employees leaving.
While you can't control what others do, there are ways you can eliminate the impact of drama on your performance -- and possibly influence others to improve their behavior.
If workplace drama is becoming an issue in your organization, then it's time to:
- Stop jumping to conclusions. When workplace drama begins to escalate, it's usually because we assume that the other person is doing something to hurt someone else. For example, you believe that Jim is talking to Sheila's customer about a solution not because he wants to help, but because he wants to steal away that customer. First, it's none of your business what Jim is doing and second, how would you feel is someone automatically assumed your intentions were always underhanded?
- Walk away from gossip. In any workplace, there are gossips who love to have listeners. Don't be one of them, even if the gossiper is using a fun-loving "Wait until you hear this!" attitude. A simple, "Sorry! I've got to get this report done in the next hour!" or "Just on my way to the bathroom!" will force the gossiper to look for another listener (and hopefully he or she won't find one).
- Spend time with people you don't like. I know, I know. You hate this advice. Why spend time with obnoxious John or giggly Susan? But when you spend time -- I'm talking 5 minutes asking about the weekend or mentioning that a new coffee shop has opened -- then you're saying that you want to get along with everyone. Then, build on that by asking John and Susan what they think about a new project or their opinion on a new industry trend. Then, listen.
- Agree to disagree. The dramatic brawls on reality TV, the Twitter wars and the venomous tirades in online blogs have bled into the workplace. Do you really have to try and annihilate someone in a meeting simply because he or she disagrees with you? Do you really have to fire off a group email using a snarky tone just to make your point that you don't like the new printer? Really?
- Take a deep breath. We spend a lot of time with people from work, and sometimes the relationships can take on the feel of battling siblings or high school mean girls. Just stop. Before you make that childish face, offer a sarcastic reply or post something mean online, take a deep breath and do something else. Walk away if you can. If you can't, ask the person if you can continue the conversation later. Behave in a way that would make your children or your mother proud.
Workplace drama is often a bad habit that we fall into, but it is one that can be broken. Even if you lapse one day, start over. The more you work to break the habit, the more others will begin to follow your behavior and you'll soon have a much more productive, happy and civilized workplace.