CHICAGO–Do you work with a drama addict? Are you desperate to stop the drama and focus on real work? If so, two people have seven steps they say should be followed.
Writing on Let’sGrowLeaders.com, Karin Hurt and David Dye note many people have a boss who thrives on adrenalin-fueled fire drills, loves to shout “stop everything and get everyone in here now!” and who refuses to do the planning necessary to avoid the drama.
“Or perhaps it’s your team member who is always in your office, taking up time, worried about how something isn’t working, the latest mistake by a colleague, and who blows every problem out of proportion,” the authors stated.
It’s a management issue that must be addressed, as drama eats up productivity, consumes emotional energy and wastes valuable decision-making energy, they said.
“But when you’re leading people, there will always be some level of drama. It takes many forms, but even the most mellow accountants and engineers can encounter drama,” said Hurt and Dye. “Effective leaders master the ability to de-escalate drama and redirect people to productive activity.”
To stop the drama and build healthy relationships, Hurt and Dye recommend following these seven steps:
You won’t be effective if you’re swept up and washed away in the storm of other people’s drama, the authors said.
“Anchor yourself. Know what matters most, build connections that keep you centered, steep in the values you want to live, and approach work with a positive ‘we can solve this’ attitude,” they suggest.
At the same time, be prepared for problems.
“Disruptions are a fact of life. People won’t always do what they’re supposed to. These are not reasons to panic or freak out,” Hurt and Dye said. “When there are problems, your grounded energy will help your team to maintain their composure and focus on the real MIT (Most Important Thing).”
Set Clear Expectations
Just as you ensure everyone is on the same page regarding key business outcomes, Hurt and Dye said you want to set expectations around how the team will react to challenges, how they resolve disagreements, and what to do when someone lets you down.
“Give your people the tools to have tough conversations with one another. Talk about how the team will respond when (not if) there’s a problem. Rehearse. Practice. Role-play and be ready. You’ll prevent problems from catching fire and blowing up into unproductive drama.”
Acknowledge Their Feelings / Concern
When someone is fired up, one of the most effective ways to de-escalate the situation is to reflect how they’re feeling, observed Hurt and Dye. That includes statements such as, “It sounds like you’re frustrated.”
“You’re not telling them how to feel or saying you agree with their interpretation,” the two experts said. “You’re just them know you understand how they are feeling. Until that strong emotion is acknowledged, you’re unlikely to be able to move forward. Often, this acknowledgment and understanding is all the person needs.”
Ask Rational Clarifying Questions
After you acknowledge their feeling, your next goal is to get the problem into perspective, according to Hurt and Dye. Ask straightforward questions that help quantify the real issue.
“For example, when someone comes to you wound up because ‘I’m facing an insurrection! Everyone is fighting the new system and this will never work!,’ you might ask, ‘Who is having a hard time? What are they finding challenging?’ It’s one thing for the world to be on fire, but it’s another when it’s just Liz in Accounting and Jeff in Marketing who haven’t figure out how to get the data they need. Push for the specifics that define the real problem (not the emotional problem).”
Redirect to “How Can We” Questions
Once you’ve got the problem identified, asking a “How can we?” question helps pull the person out of reacting and into problem-solving, said Hurt and Dye.
“The human brain isn’t able to hold onto intense emotion at the same time as holding curiosity,” they said. “When you ask, ‘How can we solve this?’ you’re also communicating that you care, that you trust them to be able to come up with solutions, and that a solution is possible. That’s a lot of drama-erasing, problem-solving power for one short question.”
Identify Next Steps
As they come up with solutions, translate those into specific actions that can be taken (the sooner the better), Hurt and Dye recommended. “Ideally, these are actions they can take to help solve the issue. Sometimes there will be steps for you to take as well. Either way, don’t allow the situation to resolve without specific commitments to action.”
Hurt and Dye recommend scheduling a specific time where you and the other person will meet to review the actions both of you have taken, their impact, and what comes next.
“This is a critical step that prevents this particular dramatic situation from happening again. Don’t waste this conversation. If you do the drama will be back before you know it.”