Creating a Drama-free Workplace


By Kim Dunn


Many organizations face the challenge of creating and keeping their workplaces free from conflict and drama. Although drama comes from many places and in many forms, the only sure way to rid your organization of it is to get to its true source.

Identifying the cause or source is where you get to put your detective skills to work. Digging down to the root of the problem starts with asking deep and meaningful questions to draw out what the true issues are that are creating the conflict. To do this, you will need to become an expert fact finder, which is often easier said than done. In many instances, there is not just one issue, but many, and the path to identifying what has created the tension or conflict between employees is murky and blurred with emotions.

It is interesting that there are some organizational cultures that seem to breed drama and others where there is rarely an issue. My research and experience with managing conflict in the workplace has reinforced that failing to address the following items will almost always lead to workplace drama.

• Inauthentic Leadership. A lack of authenticity creates a belief that management is hypocritical and that they only talk the talk, but do not walk the walk. In this environment, employees lose enthusiasm for their jobs, passion for what the company represents, and, most dangerously, they lose trust.

• Lack of Transparency. Misguided attempts at confidentiality can create the sense that everything is a secret. In the face of lacking information, employees will write their own story, which is almost always dangerous. Remember, employees usually know more than you think they know. Old-fashioned though it may sound, it pays to be open with as much information as possible.

• Not Addressing Bad Behavior. Many leaders hope drama will just go away if they ignore it. We know all too well that bad behavior never goes away on its own. The fact that the drama exists must be acknowledged and accepted so that action can be taken to address it. Inconsistency in dealing with conflict not only leads to the erosion of trust, but also increases the chance that it will return for a second act.

What all of these causes have in common is that they lead to a lack of trust in leadership. When employees do not trust and respect leadership, they will quickly become disengaged.

Drama can be created from many sources, and once you have identified the ‘what’ and the ‘why,’ you can begin to take the action necessary to repair the damage or at least stop the bleeding.

If drama is alive and well in your organization, do not wait to take action to uncover and address the issues that are creating or feeding it. Drama impacts the bottom line because it takes up time, and time costs organizations money. That alone is reason enough to make it a top leadership priority.

In taking the steps to address workplace drama, it is important to remember that not all drama is created intentionally. It can be driven by insecurity, fear, or other emotional issues that have not been identified and dealt with. In many organizations, drama is created because people simply do not have the skills to manage conflict. Not many of us wake up in the morning looking forward to managing conflict; however, not having the skills to deal with it can lead to disastrous and expensive drama-filled workplaces.

The culture that you and the leaders are creating and cultivating in your organization must be a priority. By modeling the behaviors of collaboration, support, and customer focus, you will create a foundation where destructive behaviors are quickly identified and corrected. You can even take it a step further and build these behaviors into your performance-management system, which will help reward the best and address the rest.

The one thing we know for sure is that if conflict, aka drama, is not dealt with quickly, thoroughly, and consistently, it will never go away.


Kim Dunn is a Strategic Human Resources consultant at the Employers Assoc. of the Northeast. This article first appeared on the EANE blog; eane.org