Dealing With Drama at Work

June 24, 2020


We’ve all had colleagues who inject drama into every situation. They radiate negativity with rants like “So-and-so has it in for me!” “Did hear what the boss said to Lisa?” and “This project is doomed.” Attention-seeking, victim-playing, name-calling, and guilting others are all parts of a drama seeker’s toolkit. They’re masters of the blame game.

Drama seekers never believe they’re at fault. That’s because they’re likely overcompensating for intense anxiety or a lack of ability—or accountability. Happily, there are tried-and-true ways to manage a drama seeker’s crazy making outbursts. Here are eight.

1. Disengage. Don’t act upset; that’s exactly what a drama seeker wants. Don’t take their accusations personally—because those accusations are meant to get attention and likely have nothing to do with you.

2. Try to determine what’s behind the drama. Does this person feel undervalued and therefore wants attention? Is he or she fearful that others will discover they lack a particular skill?

3. Get the facts. Is a project really “going off the rails”? Are dozens of coworkers gossiping behind his or her back? Ask the person to calmly describe what, specifically, they believe is the problem with a project or a person. Should a drama seeker get angry, keep asking for the facts of the matter.

4. Ask them to find a solution. Feel free to suggest options, but never offer to solve a problem for a drama seeker. Otherwise, they’ll hound you whenever they have an issue or lack an audience.

5. Set boundaries. Tell them politely but firmly that their tales of woe, angry accusations against others, and passive-aggressive behavior is upsetting you—and you’ll no longer listen to it.

6. Walk away. If setting boundaries doesn’t work, tell the drama seeker you have a project to finish or a meeting to attend. Leave for lunch. Put on headphones and listen to music. Don’t return their emails, texts or calls. Don’t engage.

7. Seek out congenial coworkers. Spend time with good-natured people, as well as friends and family members who are calm and collected.

8. Don’t become a drama seeker. Recognize the times (we all have them occasionally) when you find yourself playing the victim, gripping about minor inconveniences, flying off the handle, or acting entitled. It’s no way to live!

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