Leadership Strategies and Drama
One of the most intriguing leadership challenges concerns office drama. The TV series “30 Rock” and “The Office” are great examples of how drama kings and queens take up so much air time at work. What makes drama so pervasive and so time consuming? Easy, it is a fun distraction. If we are prone to hold our emotions to ourselves, we all love to get a vicarious hit of emotional juice from another colleague. We can sit back and watch and still get the residuals from the floods of emotions in the room. By the way, this works in marriage too. Those of us who don’t like to express emotions often choose a partner who could get an Oscar for sighing, crying, and yelling.
Here is what you need to know if you are, work with, or live with a drama king or queen. These folks are often highly intelligent and possess extraordinary vocabularies. They love to stir things up and love gossip, rumors, personal traumas, and creating emotional breakdowns. While this may seem an incredible waste of time it has a deep purpose. It is much more than a craving for personal attention. It is a deflection technique. No, the drama hero does not consciously think “I’ll have a hissy fit to divert attention”, rather, it is an unconscious mechanism that kicks in to maintain the status quo.
As kids, the drama king or queen would often jump in to “save” the family from brutal honesty. When tensions would erupt at home and especially when parents were upset with each other or another of the siblings would be on the hot seat, the drama kid would deflect the tension to their entertaining but disruptive excesses. By the time the “show” was over, the underlying upset had been forgotten, at least for the moment.
The best leadership technique is to take the “actor” to a private room and give time to cool off. The more there is an audience, the more intense the scene. All you need to ask is “What is your intention”? That question is called a “pattern interrupt”. Initially you will get an earful of the absolute need for the upset. If you simply listen and then ask again “What do you really want as an outcome”? it will begin to diminish the tension. Next, if you are in enough rapport with the employee you can ask how they handled conflict as a child.
Often, because they are very quick and intelligent, the drama king or queen can track the pattern and be helped to transform this disruptive behavior to its healthy opposite, to be a great storyteller. That does not mean to carry tales; it means to learn how to use stories as teaching tools. The storyteller is a valued person in a business community because they can help others see the deeper meaning in situations that are tense or unpleasant.