The Top 3 Causes of Office Drama

We have all been there.  We have all felt that uncomfortable pit in our stomach, the raised hair on our necks, the desire to put on headphones and just tune out. Some days we just want to avoid getting out of bed; avoidance seems like the best solution.  However our need to pay our mortgage rings loud in our head so we move forward and prepare to hopefully avoid the agitator at the office.

You guessed it, we're talking about office drama.

Research tells us that employee happiness is 23.3 percent more correlated to connections with coworkers than direct supervisors.  Unhappiness can lead to disengagement, and disengagement effects our production. In fact organizations that report high disengagement of staff only produce at a level of 50%.  That means if you are a leader of a disengaged workforce, you are only getting 50cents worth of work for every dollar you spend! Understanding why you have workplace drama can help repair your environment, relationships and increase engagement.

So why do offices experience drama?  Let's discuss the top 3 reasons:

Lack of appreciation of another's perspective.  

All too often we enter into a conversation with the motive to be understood rather than seeking to understand.  Our need to be right can drive our egos to a place where we don't take the opinions of others well. Sometimes we are quick to dismiss an opinion in a conversation if it doesn't match our objective.  I often coach with the tip to think about why you are entering a conversation and what outcome you hope to have? If the outcome is that you want someone to agree with you, then why even have the conversation? – your mind is already made up.

The words "conflict" and "confrontation" have received a negative reputation, but the fact is that both can be done in a healthy manner. If you truly value the perspectives of those around you and want to work through and idea, solution or issue then engage them in a dialogue where you are sharing and seeking to gain their feedback.  Doing this helps build trust and we see that organizations with higher levels of trust, have low levels of office drama. See our prior blogs on Dialogue vs. Discussion for tips on how to engage in healthier conversations. 

Misaligned expectations

Clarity is critical in our communication.  We know that more than anything, misaligned expectations leads to failure in change efforts.  It should not be a surprise that expectation misalignment also leads to failed relationships.  In an office environment plagued with drama, people often site their issues with people along the following lines:  "she doesn't follow through", "he said I was due a promotion", "we were told soon we would have an additional resource, they don't care about how overworked we are".  There are hundreds of scenarios we could come up with to document misaligned expectations. Here is the deal: The person setting the expectation needs to make sure the expectation is clear and understood.  Simply stating an expectation or goal is not enough. Teams need clarity on the expectation itself, their role, and the desired outcome.

Low emotional intelligence

Some organizations have members who simply lack self-awareness and therefore are not aware of how their behavior impacts others. This lack of emotional intelligence (EQ) This is tough because you can't simply wish EQ on others; EQ is something that individuals need to embrace and be accountable to the concepts and practices.  There are four levels of EQ, and deficiencies in any can affect others dramatically. Organizations that suffer from a culture of office drama should consider EQ training for their teams, to coach their members through personal understanding, personal management, social understanding, and social management. Often when lack of EQ is widespread, it is easier to host a training session in which everyone is learning about the concepts and tuning into themselves more strongly. 

Reduction of office drama takes a conscious effort by more than just one person.  Be a person of change, address wide-spread issues with your leadership, and look for solutions that benefit the people involved as well as the overall culture.  Be the person that gets out of bed and has the courage to facilitate change so that you look forward to going to work and being engaged!

About the Author

Author picture

Jennifer Stanford is a sought-after Trust Coach and the CEO of Emergent Performance Solutions, as well as an author and speaker. Her entrepreneurial spirit, combined with years of practical experience gives her specialized insight into business and psychology.

You may also like...