How To Deal With Workplace Drama

Emotional Vampires At WorkNobody wants drama at work when there are so many more important things to do.  Yet, any of us can find ourselves right in the middle of someone else’s production.  Onstage, without a script and wondering How did I get here?

Once the curtain goes up, the show must go on.  So, the best way to avoid drama is to stop it before it starts.  To do that, you have to understand what drama is and how it works.

The basic structure of dramas is the struggle between a protagonist and antagonist.  The protagonist is the hero, the good guy.  The people most likely to create dramatic productions are those who are already playing the good guy in their own narrative.  As actors, these people make up for lack of range with enthusiasm.  They really believe the role they’re playing, even if nobody else does.

Dramatic people use repression and denial to divide themselves psychologically into what they approve of and what isn’t there.  They aren’t lying or pretending.  They are actually unaware that they have unacceptable feelings. They never get angry, but somehow people are always getting angry at them.  The technical name for this style is passive-aggressive.

People who are apt to be passive-aggressive really cannot believe that they would ever do anything wrong or bad.  If you suggest otherwise, you will play the bad guy.

But what if you have to say something important and negative ?  Should you just keep your mouth shut?

No, but you need to be very careful that what you say does not needlessly conflict with their view of themselves.  Fortunately, that’s not as difficult as you might think.

Dramatic people tend to be rather conventional in their ideas.  They believe certain predictable things about themselves. Actually, most people hold these same basic beliefs.  If you want to click with people, you must respect their beliefs.  Here are some of the most common things people believe about themselves:

  • That They Are Right –There is no point wasting time trying to convince people that they’re wrong.  Even if they are wrong, let them save face by suggesting any error was the result of misunderstanding. Decide what you want and ask for that.  But remember that life offers a cruel choice.  You can be right or happy, not both.  Choose wisely.
  • That They Work Hard –One’s own efforts always feel like they are worth more than those of other people.  Always remember to acknowledge how hard people are working, especially if you want them to do more.
  • That They Always Give More Than They Receive – Most people see themselves as givers.  If in any way shape or form you imply that they are selfish, or even that they are acting in their own self-interest, they will vehemently deny that, and anything else you say.
  • That They Are At Least Slightly Above Average In Intelligence – Most people will readily acknowledge that there are people who are brighter than they are — say rocket scientists.  If however, you ask them where they fall in the overall continuum, they will usually place themselves above the mean.  Even if you are dealing with someone who is intellectually challenged, remember that there is no way they can feel the lack of something they have never experienced in the first place.
  • That They Are Basically Honest – It is surprising how many people believe that they never lie.  If they say something that is not exactly true, it is because they didn’t understand, or they forgot a few details.
  • That They Are Good Drivers –This belief is especially prevalent in males of the species. Challenge it at your peril. Just watch out for them on the road.  They probably aren’t paying attention to you.
Be safe; be well; be at peace,

Please NOTE:  Albert J. Bernstein PhD is a Clinical Psychologist, Speaker and Business Consultant, and author of Emotional Vampires At Work, which can be purchased here.  He is guest blogging Dr. K’s blog while Dr. K takes a sabbatical.

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