You have to expect drama in the work-place. After all, most work is people interacting with other people to compete for money, power, and prestige – and not in that order! Add in differing personalities and differing perceptions of what’s important, and it would be crazy if there wasn’t drama and conflict.
There are types of drama, though, that are debilitating and counter-productive for everyone around. One type that has tormented management officials for years, is the Drama Queen. Or king. This person is over-the-top emotionally – they’re hypersensitive and easily hurt. You know the person who rants emotionally but never follows through on threats or promises. Who blow-ups over slights, real or imagined, over work-place events or over non-work events. Who is quite capable of sabotaging anyone around them. Who takes over a group situation for no clear reason than to be in the center.
Their common trait is they are emotional bullies. Their behavior can increase everyone else’s anxiety, stress, and depression. And of course, decrease everyone’s productivity. Close teamwork shuts down.
We have found six steps to dealing with these personalities and returning calm and productivity to your work-force:
Ask employee what’s going on. You should always start with an honest conversation in approaching this kind – or any kind – of disruptive behavior or performance issue. You never know, but its possible this person is not affected with a personality disorder, and got into a bad behavioral pattern because they’ve never been challenged on it or are experiencing temporary difficulties outside of work. Possibly they could just use some old-fashioned coaching.
Recognize a personality flaw. This person might have a personality disorder that causes them to seek attention. And they probably don’t know it. But it’s not your job, or mine, to be a psychiatrist. As a manager, your job is to document instances of disruptive behavior, and to mitigate its damage to your organization. Recognize that you are unlikely to change their personality.
Apply basic management Dramacool principles. Set limits and boundaries for acceptable behavior. Use specific examples of their disruptive behavior in your discussion. Allow them to propose a solution to the disruptive behavior and hold them accountable for it. Provide your expectations – according to company policies and procedures, and give feedback. Remain focused on actual performance. To cope with an angry protest, don’t argue – counter with specific details of the inappropriate behavior. And document, document, document.
Reconsider their job. Your drama queen, while possibly suffering from a mild personality disorder, did have sufficient faculties to get hired in the first place, and they’ve survived until now. Put them in positions that either take advantage of their personalities, or somewhere where their damage is limited.