Workplace drama makes for a very tense environment.
From rumor mills to office cliques, many of us have experienced this often-uncomfortable situation. Here are a few ways to avoid being the cause of it, as well as how to handle it when someone else is responsible.
1. You’re confronted by a co-worker who says someone told her that Suzy said you will never move up in the company because you are lazy and don’t know how to do your job.
Solution: Ignore or take action. If you feel the need to address what’s been said, go to the source. If you don’t feel comfortable going to the source, contact a supervisor or mediator. Request a meeting to professionally discuss your feelings and concerns. It is imperative to take action as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the higher the potential for increased tension and animosity.
2. Suzy and Jim always have the latest gossip. Not only do they want to let you in on the office dirt, but they also want your opinions. When they are not talking about others, they complain about how awful the workplace is.
Solution: Stay away from people who are part of the rumor mill or always have a negative attitude. You never want to be guilty by association and accused of playing a part in a workplace rumor. You also want to avoid those with negative attitudes. If your coworker is always talking about how long the work week is, how bad the supervisor is, or how coworkers don’t pull their load, their negativity just may rub off on you.
3. Jim thinks you are not pulling your weight. He feels that his workload is heavier and he is frustrated and angry. As a result, he lashes out at you.
Solution: Don’t respond immediately and add to the chaos. If confronted by an angry or upset coworker, take time to evaluate the circumstances before responding. It is important to allow the shock to wear off and to respond professionally and appropriately. My general rule is to respond the same way you would if your supervisor was present. Be an active listener, allow the individual to vent, and remain respectful. When it is your turn to respond, remain calm and positive.
4. You don’t like office politics, you don’t like managers, you don’t like work, you don’t like your job, and you let everyone know it.
Solution: Don’t let yourself be labeled as the complainer. Whether good or bad, most of us would like to avoid labels. If we are labeled we most likely want the label to reflect who we are as a person and not how we are perceived to be. No one wants to be the office gossip, the “brownnoser,” the angry person, the troublemaker, or the complainer. It is important always to be aware of your actions and words. It is also important to remember it’s not always what’s said, but how it is said. In the workplace, let the work you do speak for you. Have a reputation for being a hard worker instead of a negative label.
5. Several people in the office have said you have a negative attitude or that you are sometimes difficult to talk to.
Solution: Be open to others’ thoughts. It’s very rare that several people have conspired against you to say something about you, your attitude, or your work performance. If people are always complaining about you or a specific behavior, maybe it’s not “those people.” Self-reflection is very powerful. It takes a big person to take a look in the mirror, take responsibility, and own their part in the chaos.
Some people love drama so much they cannot seem to function without it. You may never be able to avoid it with those people, no matter how hard you try. In that case, it is your duty to rise above it. Sometimes we have to meet people where they are and accept who they are. If an individual loves drama and chaos, we can either choose to avoid them or deal with them in a way that keeps us from being sucked into their world. Challenge yourself daily in your work environment to make the best day possible for yourself and for those around you.