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Avoiding Office Drama

Some people are prone to stirring the pot. How to keep emotions in check.
Avoiding Office Drama
Image: banspy / Flickr

We all know that one person—male or female—"drama queen (or king)." I'm talking about those who tend to react to situations over-emotionally. They may be prone to exaggeration or confrontation and tend to be always worked up about something. And when they're worked up, they want you to be worked up too. Even if you don't have a particular "drama queen" in your office, there are times when seemingly even­tempered colleagues will suffer from high-drama moments.

And let me tell you, drama is just not my thing. Especially not at work. Balancing family, faith, and career means that when I'm working, I want to be efficient and effective with my time. I need to get things done, not get bogged down in conflict.

So when it comes to office politics or gossip, I try to stay out of it as much as possible. But there are some types of drama (and some people) that you can't ignore or avoid.

So how do you deal with office drama in a way that's effective and efficient?

Start with empathy.

You may be tempted—as I often am—to roll your eyes and just dismiss the person who has burst into your office or cubical to whisper­shout their feelings about something.

Remember, it takes all types of people to make a team work, even those who bring a little extra drama. And every time you interact with someone at work, you are, in a way, representing Christ to them. Fear and insecurity is what drives a lot of drama­queen type behavior. If you greet drama with overt annoyance or disdain, you only reinforce that underlying insecurity. Not only does that fail to represent Christ well, it also tends to escalate the drama you're trying to avoid.

So take a breath, and do your best to treat even the most histrionic of colleagues with kindness and respect.

Don't be drawn in.

It sounds obvious, but there's a reason that soap operas are so enduringly popular on TV. Drama is entertaining on some level. Drama is all about emotion and excitement, and it's very natural to be drawn in, even reluctantly. And the "drama queen" you're talking to really wants you to be drawn in. But reacting emotionally will only encourage or even amplify the drama at hand.

Listen, plan, and then move on.

My rule of thumb at work is to always try to hear a person out, once. I let them talk and listen patiently, because it's important that people feel heard. Then, assuming the source of the drama is work­related, I'll try to help them identify the actionable facts, and come up with a plan to resolve the situation. (If the issue is not related to work, I might suggest that we find some other time to talk about it outside of the office.)

And that's it.

If they don't take accountability and implement an action plan, I can't waste the valuable gift of time God has given me. And so, if I'm faced with a "drama queen" who seems to be gearing up for round two, I refer him or her to the facts and action plan we've already identified, and kindly but firmly refuse to engage in further discussion.

Always come back to a place of peace.

Outside of work, I might offer to pray with someone who is reacting dramatically to a situation, but that's not usually appropriate at the office. But that doesn't have to stop me from saying a quick silent prayer. I pray for wisdom, for patience, and for peace, just as Jesus promised us:

"I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27)

Peace is a natural antidote to drama. Remember that whatever is happening at work, God has promised you the gift of peace. Strive to accept and embody that gift.

Drama is a fact of life, and all of us will encounter a drama queen at some point in our careers. You can't avoid it, but you can diffuse it in a productive way by setting appropriate boundaries for interaction and then modeling them for you and your co­workers.

Do you have a drama queen at work? How do you handle them?

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Diane Paddison

Diane Paddison is a business professional and founder of 4wordwomen.org, local groups of professional working women committed to faith, family, work, and each other.

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