Drama Queen and Emotion King

Tim Schneider
Leadership Development from Aegis Learning

By Tim Schneider

I know you know them.  You may work with them.  They may live in your neighborhood or even your own home.  Drama Queen and Emotion King.

To Drama Queen (DQ) and Emotion King (EK), every event is worthy of sharing and over sharing.  Every small thing that the rest of us brush off and rack up to another day, they turn into a major crisis.  As we work to calm others, they work to stir up others.  When we try to fix a problem, they tend to make it worse.  When they exist in the workplace, they offer some significant challenges to leaders.

First some of the symptoms.  When the office temperature goes down just a little, DQ thinks she will freeze.  The slightest shift of policy and practices causes EK to rant endlessly about the adverse impact.  EK has more dysfunctional relatives than a year’s worth of The Jerry Springer Show.  DQ is getting sick every other day and is either shivering or burning up from fever. 

The bottom line is with both DQ and EK is that this type of behavior is very disruptive in the working environment and can be highly counter-motivational to the rest of the team.  Drama hurts the workplace and the well intending team members caught in the storm that surrounds it. 

Researchers have tried in the past to put some quantifiable face on workplace drama.  There have been studies related to age (millennials versus generation X), gender (men versus women), job type (blue versus white collar) and even lunar cycle.  In each attempt to study the phenomenon, no trends were found other than workplace drama can be a aggravating and compounding factor in workplace toxicity and lead to a great deal of lost productivity, turnover and a large drop in morale.

The one certain element in our drama causers, DQ and EK, is that they both lack the emotional intelligence to deal with situations and issues that the rest of us can process easily and with no interruption.  High degrees of emotional intelligence allow us to have greater resilience (bounce back), confidence and self-satisfaction.  Poor emotional intelligence means that an individual lack in these critical competencies and skills.  When they don’t have the skills to cope, people project and emote their frustrations and feel compelled to seek outside validation and have others involved.

Effective leaders will deal with workplace drama and our pals DQ and EK in the following ways:

  1. Model Behavior

The most powerful and easily controlled method of dealing with workplace drama is to not share yours.  No matter how benign it sounds on the surface, your challenges may be interpreted as drama to others.  Don’t complain, whine or bring your personal issues to work.  If it is cold, put on a jacket.

  1. Not Biting

Workplace drama enthusiasts (DQ and EK) really want someone to pay attention to them and to validate their concerns.  Don’t acknowledge the rants, complaints, tantrums and pouting.  If their behaviors lack validation, they will soon lack any credibility.

  1. Not Accommodating

One of the more prevalent tactics of drama purveyors is the need to have different terms and working conditions as a result of their drama.  When we do not accommodate their requests for differential treatment, we are disabling their ability to get what they want through the drama route.

  1. Refocusing to Mission and Objectives

The gentle, subtle and sometimes right between the eyes reminder that team members are charged with certain responsibilities to support the organization is a powerful reminder to cut the drama.  Team members are paid to perform a job function and not to provide a support group for the wayward and heartbroken.

  1. Clear Expectations of Behavior

The final method of dealing with workplace drama is the only proactive method.  This is to clearly articulate and reiterate that drama type behavior is not acceptable at your organization.  It is not that you are not uncompassionate but rather that you and your team are focused on the needs of the organization.

Tim Schneider is the founder, CEO and lead facilitator for Aegis Learning.  

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