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“To be, or not to be? That is the question—” okay, so that isn’t the question we’re asking in this blog post. But we are discussing drama, although the type of drama we are referring to happens in the workplace, not the theatre.

According to a recent Wiley study that asked 12,000 people, “What is the first word or phrase that comes to mind when you think of ‘interpersonal conflict in the workplace’?” one answer was exceedingly prominent. Any guesses? (Spoiler alert!) It’s “drama.”

But while poor Hamlet was waxing poetic over all of the dreadful tragedy that Shakespeare thrust upon him, drama in the workplace is generally a reaction to one core issue: CONFLICT

As we’ve mentioned, previously, conflict is an uncomfortable but unavoidable part of any organisation. So as much as you might not want to hear it, the truth is that you’re going to come across it throughout the course of your career, no matter your position, industry, or experience level.

And alongside conflict, comes drama.

Drama can be a lot of things, but it is most certainly not a productive approach to addressing workplace conflict. In fact, it’s quite destructive—dare we say toxic? —and can have an extremely negative effect on just about everything in your organisation.

We can recognise drama as when someone displays an “over-the-top” reaction to a situation. So, despite its generally negative connotations, why do people still act like this? What is the driving force behind such destructive behaviour?

One common reason we behave in various destructive ways, is to make ourselves feel better in adverse situations (like conflict). When we create drama, we are drawing attention to a situation that is troubling for us. The attention validates that the dilemma is extremely important and extremely unjust. It is also a way to produce a feeling of control when we otherwise feel powerless.

The examples are endless, both in and out of the workplace. Consider the toddler who throws a tantrum when they are told that they cannot have chocolate before dinner. They have become subject to the decision of her guardian/parent (as they are probably unable to reach the chocolate on their own) so to demonstrate the great injustice that has befallen upon them, they begin to throw themselves to the ground and cry—loudly—to prove their point.

Of course, we aren’t necessarily saying that destructive behaviours in the workplace are comparable to a temper tantrum (because it’s often much more subtle by design) but as an onlooker, these behaviours do seem confusing and irrational.

Now, consider the employee who receives some performance feedback (which admittedly could have been delivered in a much more diplomatic way) and feels deeply offended. Rather than acknowledge the feedback as an opportunity to improve, the employee channels their hurt into vicious gossip about his boss which spreads—rapidly—throughout the entire office. In both scenarios, the people inciting the drama did so as a means to get attention and validate their feelings. However, after all is said and done, they both ended up causing more damage than anything else. Because the unfortunate truth is that despite the time and energy spent basking in drama, the conflict remains unresolved and left to fester.

“Drama” might be the word most commonly associated with negative workplace conflict, but it’s only one of the many destructive behaviours that can wreak havoc on organisational culture. Each behaviour, on its own and in moderation, is not going to have a deep impact on culture. But if these toxic behaviours are not acknowledged, over time they can lead to serious, destructive problems that threaten an organisation’s wellbeing.

Do any of these seem familiar? We thought so. But while this is only a small sample of the list of behaviors outlined in the Productive Conflict profile, it helps convey all the different and destructive ways people react to conflict, specifically in the workplace. Although we deal with toxic behaviors like this on a regular basis, and they can seem impossible to navigate, you’re certainly not powerless here. While you cannot control how and where workplace conflict arises, you can control your reaction to it—or at least be aware of your tendencies in conflict, so you’re able to shift or temper them from something that is habitual and toxic to something thoughtful and productive.

We’re not saying this is easy to do—it isn’t. But with the right tools, we can illuminate the destructive (yet prevalent) behaviors that fuel destructive conflict in the workplace.

Once we recognise our own behaviors that fuel conflict, we can catch ourselves before we engage, re frame the situation, and choose a healthier, more productive response.

‘Productive Conflict’ can be that tool for your organisation, to help destructive workplace conflict become a thing of the past. This solution works because it takes our shared skillset, combined with Everything DiSC®, to offer a truly insightful and personalised experience that makes extremely difficult behavior change possible.

Because as much as we love a good performance, those are best left on the stage—not on the job. We think Shakespeare would agree, don’t you?

Everything DiSC®, is a global leader in delivering personalised, soft skills learning experiences that have an immediate and lasting impact on the performance of people and cultures of organisations.

To learn more about how our ‘Productive Conflict’ solution can help your organisation more effectively navigate conflict in the workplace, connect with us here.

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