The Drama-Free Workplace
Drama Free? As if!
Will the real leaders please stand up? We desperately need you!
Before I share my story, let me first admit my own guilt. In college (“uni” for you Australians) I had a housemate (“roommate” to you Americans) who would get upset with me for reasons I still don’t understand. He would walk around the house, giving me the silent treatment.
When we finally spoke, he was actually more upset that I had never talked to him when I knew he was angry.
Let’s not argue over how petty that is.
I see adults behaving this exact way every day. I have several very large clients going through complicated transformations. One particular client is really struggling to move forward. The key reason for their gridlock? They don’t know how to talk to each other.
Forget the commercials. Forget the engagement models. Forget the operating models. If your executive team cannot speak to each other, how on earth do you expect to move mountains and turn your company around?
We’ve all been there: afraid to address the elephant in the room and confront the problem that we can all see is massively impacting everyone’s lives.
Leaders do not cower in front of difficult conversations. Leaders embrace those situations and use them as an opportunity to level set and clear the air.
Agile practitioners use what’s called a “Retrospective” to review how a team performed for a short iteration. It’s an opportunity to see what works well and what needs improvement.
I’ve always loved Retrospective sessions because they can be quite cathartic, releasing the stress and tension, and allowing the entire team to feel heard and understood.
Great leaders are masters at body language and the nuances of speech that reveal what’s going on at a deeper level for their team.
Great leaders know how to release the tension in their teams. They can sense and feel the mood of the organisation and use their intuition to turn the release valve before problems boil over.
How do you develop the skill to welcome difficult conversation before problems get out of control? How do you learn to control that release valve?
The psychotherapist Stephen Karpman created a model of social dysfunction called The Drama Triangle. Each point in the triangle represents a common and ineffective response to conflict, all of which are likely to prolong the conflict.
Each player assumes one of the following roles:
Victims: These people are helpless and hopeless. They deny responsibility for their negative circumstances, and deny possession of the power to change them. They do less than 50%, won’t take a stand, act “super-sensitive”, want kid glove treatment, and pretend impotence and incompetence.
Rescuers: Rescuers are constantly applying short-term repairs to a Victim’s problems, while neglecting their own needs. They are always working hard to “help” other people. They are harried, tired, and often have physical complaints. They are usually angry underneath and may be a loud or quiet martyr in style. They use guilt to get their way.
Persecutors: Persecutors blame the Victims and criticise the enabling behaviour of Rescuers, without providing guidance, assistance, or a solution to the underlying problem. They are critical, unpleasant, and good at finding fault in others. They often feel inadequate underneath. They control with threats, order, and rigidity. They can be loud or quiet in style and sometimes be a bully.
Players commonly switch roles throughout the course of the game.
Developing the skill to welcome difficult conversation means understanding the role you play in creating the drama and then removing yourself from the triangle.
Once you’re able to recognise what’s happening, you’ll be more equipped to deal with those stuck in prolonged conflict.