How to Avoid and Stop Office Drama

An unavoidable reality of employing human workers is dealing with human tendencies and emotions. Sometimes, the relationship between employees and workers’ egos can lead to workplace drama, which has an impact on how your company performs. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to set the tone and create a work environment where employees feel comfortable, safe and happy. If your company is suffering due to office drama, there are a few things you can do to get your team back on track.

 

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What is workplace drama?

Workplace drama comes in many forms but can be basically defined as power struggles, insubordination, gossip or arguments in the workplace. Having frequent difficult conversations with employees, worrying about potential mistakes, feeling like you need to hide something from a superior or feeling insecure about your reputation in the office can all be signs that there’s unhealthy drama taking place at work.

 

Why workplace drama affects your company

While you might think all businesses deal with drama to some degree, it’s not a normal occurrence and needs to be dealt with effectively to prevent the development of a toxic work environment. Such an environment leads to pessimism, bullying and the creation of cliques within the office that may alienate certain employees and cause your business to have a high rate of turnover. High turnover rates can give your business a poor reputation and decrease your efficiency because you must spend more time hiring, interviewing and training new employees on a regular basis. As a small business owner, fast turnover increases stress on you because you never have a reliable team in place for a long period.

 

When employees feel stressed or unwelcome in the office, your business may experience increased instances of absenteeism and employee sick days. A negative workplace can impact employee mental health and subsequently reduce worker productivity, which affects your bottom line. For a business to operate smoothly, good communication is key, and this requires employees to feel comfortable speaking to one another. You need staff to work as a team rather than forming small groups within the company that gossip about individuals outside those cliques.

 

In extreme cases, workplace drama can result in lawsuits against your company. If an employee’s mental health is severely affected by how they’re treated in the office and management or human resources doesn’t intervene, they may sue the business for damages. Be aware of harassment in the workplace towards employees, and take steps to implement disciplinary action for such behaviors.

 

What might be causing drama in your office

There are several reasons you might be experiencing office drama in your workplace. While the list is long, some of the top contributors include:

 

Poor leadership

If the leadership in an office is disingenuous, it can result in employees viewing management as hypocritical. This may occur if the supervisors or managers don’t lead by example or “walk the walk.” Telling employees to behave one way while modeling a different type of behavior is ineffectual and can breed criticism, gossip, pessimism and negative talk behind management’s back.

 

Lack of respect

A lack of respect in the workplace for fellow employees or managers is a leading cause of office drama that must be dealt with immediately. Disrespect can take many forms, from failing to remember someone’s name on a regular basis to making inappropriate or racist remarks that offend others. Regardless of how disrespect presents itself, it’s unacceptable in the workplace and needs attention from management to avoid creating a toxic work environment.

 

Employee boredom

If employees have time to be bored at work, it provides an opportunity for them to gossip, complain or speak negatively to one another, fostering a feeling of disgruntlement in the office. Ensuring each role you hire for is a full-time job that keeps your worker occupied and challenged for the duration of the workday is critical to maintaining an efficient and healthy work environment.

 

Division

When employees form cliques within the office, it can not only have a negative effect on productivity but can result in workplace drama because of the “othering” of the employees who aren’t part of these groups. Division within the office leads to insecurity, poor communication and potential for bullying.

 

Romantic relationships

When employees become romantically involved in the workplace, there’s potential for office drama to crop up. If the employees become involved and then break up, they behave negatively towards each other or simply develop poor communication to avoid dealing with one another, which can affect the business’s operations. Even the potential for casual office relationships can incite drama through jealousy and a distraction from work.

 

Lack of transparency

A fear of lawsuits can sometimes cause companies to develop a lack of transparency—for example, failing to disclose why an employee is being disciplined. When businesses develop secrets and aren’t honest with employees about what’s going on behind the scenes, it can lead to employees gossiping among themselves or cultivating feelings of distrust. To create a respectful workplace where everyone feels valued, management should strive for honesty and transparency about its policies. Your workers are intelligent and will be able to tell if you’re keeping important information hidden.

 

How to avoid and stop office drama successfully

A positive work environment starts with an active desire to cultivate a healthy, communicative workplace. Here’s how you can avoid office drama or stop it in its tracks.

 

Save venting for outside the office

Nothing incites drama faster than negative talk and gossip in the office. While there are undoubtedly days where an employee may annoy you or something isn’t done correctly, avoid taking those feelings out on people in the workplace or venting about it to other members of your team. Even if you deem someone trustworthy and see them as a confidant, they likely have someone of their own they share everything with in confidence. The chain goes on, and this is how rumors get started.

 

Don’t assume malicious intent

To prevent situations from spiraling out of control in the office, never assume someone’s intent is negative right off the cuff. How you interpret someone else’s actions can be a result of the day you’re having or your own emotions, so it’s important to always give employees the benefit of the doubt if they make a mistake.

 

Wait before replying

Digital communication can be challenging because we impose our own emotions and tone into the words on the screen. If an email rubs you the wrong way, take a second to think about it before firing back a defensive or offensive response. You might find that after a lunch break, you feel differently and can avoid creating drama for no reason.

 

Don’t engage

The easiest way to avoid office drama is to refrain from engaging with it. Don’t discuss other employees with their peers, don’t perpetuate rumors in the office and if someone is complaining, develop an escape excuse you use to get back to work, such as “Sorry, I’m on a deadline.” Encourage employees to avoid this engagement as well, so everyone understands that gossip and venting are not tolerated in this workplace.

 

Value face-to-face communication

It’s always better to resolve issues face-to-face rather than via email or telephone, and in this digital age of Zoom calls, this is even more critical. While it might seem easier and less stressful to send an email discussing a delicate issue, you should have an in-person conversation about sensitive matters to avoid misinterpretations and further complications. While an in-person discussion is always best for reading tone, body language and facial expressions, if your employees are working remotely, a video call is a better option than a phone call so you still have the chance to see each other while speaking.

 

As a manager, you have a responsibility to set the tone in the office and outline appropriate workplace behaviors. By being conscious of the causes of workplace drama, it’s possible to avoid it or stop it before it gets out of control.

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