We all know at least one—male or female—“drama queen.” I’m talking about someone who tends to react emotionally to situations and who may be prone to exaggeration or confrontation. They tend to be always worked up about something, and they want you to be worked up too. Even if you don’t have a particular “drama queen” in your office, there are times when seemingly even-tempered colleagues will suffer from “drama queen” moments. Many times we don’t know how to deal with them!
And let me tell you, drama is just not my thing. Especially not at work. Balancing family, faith, and career means that when I’m working, I want to be efficient and effective with my time. I need to get things done, not get bogged down in office drama.
So when it comes to office politics or gossip, I try to stay out of it as much as possible. But there are some types of drama (and some people) that you can’t ignore or avoid.
So how do you deal with an office “drama queen” in a way that’s effective and efficient?
Start with empathy.
You may be tempted—as I sometimes am—to roll your eyes and just dismiss the person who has burst into your office or cubical to whisper-shout their feelings about something.
But it takes all types to make a team work, even those who bring a little extra drama. And every time you interact with someone at work, you are, in a way, representing Christ to them (something I delve into more in Work, Love, Pray, chapter 10). A lot of drama-queen type behavior is driven by fear and insecurity. If you greet “drama” with overt annoyance or disdain, you only reinforce that underlying insecurity. Not only does that fail to represent Christ well, it also tends to escalate the drama you’re trying to avoid.
So take a breath, and do your best to treat even the most histrionic of colleagues with kindness and respect.
Do not be drawn in.
It sounds obvious, but there’s a reason that soap operas are so enduringly popular on TV. On some level, drama is entertaining. Drama is all about emotion and excitement, and it’s very natural to be drawn in, even reluctantly. And the “drama queen” you’re talking to really wants you to be drawn in. But if you start reacting emotionally, you will only encourage and even amplify the drama at hand.
Listen, plan, and then move on.
My rule of thumb at work is to always try to hear a person out, once. I let them talk and listen patiently, because it’s important that people feel heard. Then, assuming the source of the drama is work-related, I’ll try to help them identify the actionable facts, and come up with a plan to resolve the situation (If the issue is not related to work, I might suggest that we find some other time to talk about it outside of the office).
And that’s it.
If they don’t take accountability and implement an action plan, I can’t waste the valuable gift of time God has given me. And so, if I’m faced with a “drama queen” who seems to be gearing up for round 2, I refer him or her to the facts and action plan we’ve already identified, and kindly but firmly refuse to engage in further discussion.
Always come back to a place of peace.
Outside of work, I might offer to pray with someone who is reacting dramatically to a situation, but that’s not usually appropriate at the office. That doesn’t stop me from saying a quick silent prayer though. I pray for wisdom, for patience, and for peace, just as Jesus promised us:
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful(John 14:27).
Peace is a natural antidote to drama. Whatever is happening at work, remember that God has promised you the gift of peace. Strive to accept and embody that gift.
Drama is a fact of life, and all of us will encounter a “drama queen” at some point in our careers. You can’t avoid it, but you can diffuse it in a productive way by setting appropriate boundaries for interaction and then modeling them for you and your co-workers.
Do you have a drama queen at work? How do you handle them?
Are you looking for more wisdom about the workplace? You might also enjoy Asking for Help at Work
Diane Paddison has held several executive positions for corporations, including Chief Operating Officer for two Fortune 500 companies, Trammell Crow (now CB Richard Ellis) and ProLogis. She is currently the Chief Strategy Officer at the commercial real estate firm Cassidy Turley, and the founder of 4WordWomen, a national nonprofit designed to connect, lead and support young professional Christian women to fulfill their God-given potential.
Click here to learn more about Diane Paddison
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