Life is crazy; work doesn’t have to be. Stop the drama and get back to work.
Do you work with a drama addict? Are you desperate to stop the drama and focus on real work?
Maybe you 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.
Drama eats your productivity. It consumes your emotional energy and wastes valuable decision-making energy. 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.
Effective leaders master the ability to de-escalate drama and redirect people to productive activity. These seven steps are your ultimate guide to stop the drama, build healthy relationships, and achieve breakthrough results.
7 Steps to Stop the Drama
1. Ground Yourself
You won’t be effective if you’re swept up and washed away in the storm of other people’s drama. 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.
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.
When there are problems, your grounded energy will help your team to maintain their composure and focus on the real MIT (Most Important Thing).
2. Set Clear Expectations
Just as you ensure everyone is on the same page regarding key business outcomes, 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.
These first two steps help you prepare for drama-situations before they happen. Now let’s look at what to do when the drama happens:
3. 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. eg: “It sounds like you’re frustrated.”
You’re not telling them how to feel or saying you agree with their interpretation. 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.
4. Ask Rational Clarifying Questions
After you acknowledge their feeling, your next goal is to get the problem into perspective. 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).
5. 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. The human brain isn’t able to hold onto intense emotion at the same time as holding curiosity.
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.
6. Identify Next Steps
As they come up with solutions, translate those into specific actions that can be taken (the sooner the better). 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.
7. Finish Strong
Schedule 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. Finish strong.
Other articles you may enjoy:
When you use these seven steps, you’ll prevent unnecessary drama. Your team will have the tools to deal with problems productively. For team members with a more drama-loving personality, walking them through steps 3 – 7 will guide them to more productive behaviors.
We’d love to hear from you: what’s your best tip to stop the drama, calm things down, and help everyone focus on moving forward?