All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances…

William Shakespeare

All the world might well be a stage, but your office is a place of business, and sometimes the DRAMA can stop your production in its tracks.

Over the last year, business work environments have undergone massive change. From temporary closures, to remote working conditions to intermittent telecommuting and back again, employees have faced workplace upheaval that has amped up their stress level. When stress goes up, employees can act out, and not in any way that will win them any awards.

This stress can boil over and create vignettes of workplace drama that can stop the show. These drama disruptions can be felt throughout the entire organisation and might be a symptom of a larger concern.

Drama and conflict can really cost business; both financially and in terms of time. You will see visible signs of conflict and drama in the following:

  • Disengaged Employees
  • Resignations
  • Absenteeism
  • Lack of growth and productivity

As employees have become used to quieter or more isolated surroundings, coming back to a bustling workplace can be disquieting. Even the smallest noise or a raised voice can trigger a ‘scene’. Conflict between staff members over music that is too loud or battling conference calls can escalate quickly. If you aren’t tuned in as a business leader, you can’t direct your team effectively to resolve the issue.

As your team members begin to come back to a ‘normal’ work routine, it might be good to set new rules of engagement just like you did when the COVID pandemic started. You likely posted signs reminding your team to wash their hands, practice social distancing and wear their masks. Now you may have to post new signs that say. ‘Respect your neighbour, keep the volume down’ or ‘Use your inside voice please’ or “Meeting in progress” to signal to passers-by that they need to be aware of their surroundings.  Reminding teams to use conference spaces effectively and considerately is also useful.

Yet, no measure of precautions taken, or number of rehearsals can avoid drama from flaring up. Drama develops slowly and often silently. It usually starts with one actor and spreads. Gossip is the language of drama. Spreading rumours and discontent can also fan the flames of drama. Rumours and gossip wind their way around the workplace and set people on edge. They spark outbursts and foster resentments that are often not voiced. Remember, that no message is ever heard by two people the same way. If the deliverer of the oration is adding their own flavour to the performance, feelings and egos will be bent out of shape. Once this happens, the flood gates open and drama takes hold of even those players on the wings.

Of course, it may not be rumour or gossip alone that sparks drama. Your organisation may have some gaps it needs to address. If your organisation has any of the following areas that need some attention, getting on script may help keep the drama under control.

  • Leaders that aren’t authentic
  • Perceived unfairness or inequities
  • Inconsistent problem-solving process and policies
  • Lack of accountability or responsibility among staff
  • Lack of transparency

 While drama can’t be snuffed out completely in the workplace, it can be minimised. It takes practice and constant re-education, so your actors understand their roles and the impact they have on others.

Using some, or all, of the following will help keep drama and conflict to a minimum.

  • Set clear rules of engagement
  • Build a company culture that frowns on gossip and rumour
  • Executives and team leaders must model the behaviour they desire
  • Reward team members modelling the right behaviour
  • Practice respect for everyone in the organisation always, at all levels
  • Don’t engage, pass, or fuel destructive discourse, rumours, or gossip. Stop it cold.
  • Be consistent with consequences
  • Have a resolution hierarchy clearly defined so that team members understand conflict resolution is expected to be handled at all levels
  • Follow the chain-of-command
  • Allow for venting and feedback if it remains positive and constructive
  • Be aware of the unseen drama and practice management by wandering around your business to keep a pulse on the performance

Like a heated tea kettle, employees will make noise when they are heated. Keep the temperature down and you can ensure the curtain doesn’t come down on your show.

Building a dynamic and effective team requires focus and dedication. Working with a certified professional business coach, can help you to achieve your team goals. Get in touch to find out more.