Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Too Much Drama!

Are there times at work when you feel like you’re in a soap opera? You’re trying to get your work done, generally with insufficient time to do it, when all around you deep drama explodes; way too much drama!

A guy sitting near you regales anyone within earshot of his stories of dating conquests and his trials and tribulations on the dating scene. Way too much information and too much drama!

Another employee goes on endlessly about the personal problems in her life, with her kids, her husband, her car, her house/apartment, her finances, her hair, her whatever. You try to turn your ears off but to no avail. You’re not really interested but you can’t get a word in edgewise or escape. Again, too much drama!

A fellow employee involved in the same project as you goes into excruciating detail about the problems he’s encountering and how he’s not getting the support he deserves from his subordinates, his coworkers, his boss, his group, his department, his organization, his company. Everything is all about him and how the world is out to get him. He constantly tries to enlist you to fight for him against all the nasty and evil forces out to get him. You try to diplomatically let him know you’ve got your own work to do, and to not go away mad, but to just go away, but to no avail. He wants to make you part of his never-ending drama, kept in a continuing state of exhausting supposed conflict that only you can help overcome. Way too much drama!

Your group is under attack from another group in your department, or so you’re all told by your boss, and everyone in the group needs to rally and man the ramparts to fend off the vile attack of the evil-doers in the other group and its heartless leader.  The battle weapons are PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets, and you’ve got to spend what seem like endless hours perfecting the ‘weapons’ that will prove conclusively to your boss’ bosses why the unfair attacks must be defeated and how your group is the ‘good guys’ and the other group is the ‘bad guys’. The rhetoric is astounding and the metaphors used are preposterous and the drama is high, but better to ‘build’ and ‘fire’ the ‘weapons’ and defeat the ‘enemy’, even at the expense of getting real work done that could help to do something minor … like making money for the company and damaging your real competitors!

Your organization is engaged in a battle for budget, and there’s a finite pot of money available, and ‘everyone knows’ that your organization is more critical than the others (e.g. engineering, marketing, sales, services, finance, etc.), except, of course the other organizations. So dramas are concocted to demonstrate that your organization deserves more budget dollars than the other damned organizations (may they rot in hell!).  Potshots are taken and given, and people in the various organizations are worked up into frenzies to demonstrate why they deserve more and other organizations deserve less. Of course, the result is damaged relationships and unwillingness to work together effectively, but what the hell, it’s an epic drama!

Such ‘drama-infused’ employees are often under the illusion that their personal dramas and ongoing serial soap operas are important or meaningful to their co-workers. It is most alarming when these drama addicts are over populated on a team and where their managers, inadvertently or not, nurture their soap opera story lines.

Start-ups and small companies can be a great breeding ground for such excessive drama, since there are few if any behavior-based norms or values, there is often little effective leadership experience to head off or minimize such drama, and there are insufficient formal (or even informal) behavior ‘correction’ mechanisms. This is often coupled with an overly informal atmosphere that tends to blend work and personal matters in a dysfunctional way, so that such drama, intentionally or not, ends up being encouraged.  In the process of building the informal atmosphere, intended to make the workplace informal and enjoyable, events are often planned that further encourage even more drama and improper behaviors.

Larger organizations can also suffer from too much drama, but the formal systems that are generally in place tend to significantly reduce excessive drama episodes.

Drama can sometimes be useful to get people pumped up and engaged. Sometimes it’s even real.  It can be important to recognize when it’s real and to develop plans to address it. People’s lives and livelihoods may be at stake.  But too much drama over prolonged periods of time is simply unsustainable and it burns people out. In the long run there needs to be some normalcy within work, some regular routine, some standard activities, and some dependability. The actual work of running a business must get accomplished efficiently and effectively if your company is to survive and prosper.  

Most companies sell products or services to people or organizations outside of the company, and those products or services must be sold at a profit if the company is to survive, grow and prosper. The people or organizations buying those products or services have no interest whatsoever in the drama that may have gone on behind the scenes to produce those products or services. They’re only interested in whether those products or services meet their needs and enable them to sell their products or services profitably.

So it is best to keep in mind the real goal of your company (see also Keep Your Eyes on THE GOAL!), and avoid too much drama!

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