How Not to Get Sucked-Up in Workplace Drama!

There are two primary choices in life:

to accept conditions as they exist or

accept the responsibility for changing them.

Denis Waitly

I recently came across an article that offered the results of studies showing that the #1 source of distraction and the #1 energy-drainer at work is – DRAMA. Based on the pain many of my communication coaching clients experience I know this is true.

So, what is drama?

While drama has many manifestations, essentially it is when a customer or client or colleague declares they have a situation that it is more important than anything you might be working on.  “Urgent” is an understatement. They are working under a deadline that is hard and fast and they need you to meet that deadline.

The customer or colleague feels like they are in a bind and therefore they feel a desperate sense of panic. They are afraid of what will happen to them if the situation is not taken care of within the given time frame.

Oftentimes this situation is of their own making.

The drama-inducing person can play up to you by making you out to be their hero. Who needs Super Woman or Superman – they have YOU! Their praise is seductive – most of us enjoy coming to the rescue!

The drama-inducing person may tap into your “niceness” – you’re someone they can always rely upon and they flatter you by reminding you that you got them out of a jam last time, so you surely can do it again.

The drama-inducing person can also simply try the nasty tactic of pulling rank or threatening to go over you. Essentially, your job is to serve them and they remind you of this unequal relationship.

As I remind participants in my communication skills workshops –

We all do what we do and say what we say for a reason and so THE question is:

What does a drama-inducing person want? Really want?

They want an immediate YES from you.

They want you to take immediate action.



They want both of these things BECAUSE they want their fear to go away immediately.

More than solving the problem, challenge or issue the drama-inducing person wants you to take away their fear.


This is the #1 skill I explore with my communication coaching clients – how to reduce and remove fear!

A critical aspect of your job is to calmly and clearly reassure the person that you understand they are concerned (afraid) and that you will work with them to manage and resolve the situation.

Your job is to make sure that you:

  • Understand the situation – thoroughly
  • Think both inside and outside the box
  • Explain clearly what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it
  • Execute the project with care
  • Keep the customer in the loop

Obviously, you won’t be able to do any of this if you’re caught-up in the drama!

The Business of Confidence is the business of YOU being a professional.

Much like a doctor, you want to have a solid “bedside manner” AND you want to be able to prescribe the correct remedy based on the information you’ve personally collected.


Remember: People cause drama out of FEAR – fear that what needs to get done will not get done and then they will be punished.

When a customer or colleague is creating drama, take a deep breath, step back and remember that you are in the presence of FEAR.

In order to address the fear YOU need to  –

  • Determine what the issue is
  • Determine the true urgency
  • Determine a course of action – waiting for everything to be in order is seldom     the correct course of action
  • Determine how best to confirm and follow-up, i.e. email, phone, face-to-face, on-site

As my clients quickly learn – Follow-up is crucial to managing fear.


The two questions you’re always considering:

  1. How can I be most effective in working with this situation + person(s)?
  2. What do I need to do to make sure we are clear going forward?

AND – after the completion of each project consider what went right. Assess what you could have done differently.

Remember –

We most easily get caught-up in drama when we forget the responsibilities of our own job.


Your three main responsibilities are:

  • Assess accurately the needs of a particular issue/project
  • Implement a plan that makes sense and is efficient
  • Keep the customer/colleague in the loop with laser focus

Confident people understand DRAMA for what it is –

fear based in panic –

and so are able to manage and defuse it!

Interested in learning how YOU can rise above workplace drama so as

 to lead and present with confidence?

Let’s talk!

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