Just Say No to Workplace Drama

Renée Zellweger as Bridget Jones in BRIDGET JONES DIARY (Image Credit: Universal)
Renée Zellweger as Bridget Jones in BRIDGET JONES DIARY (Image Credit: Universal)

You know those signs they post at parks and zoos that warn you not to feed the animals? The same goes for the workplace. Drama might seem entertaining from a distance, but up-close and personal, I promise you it isn’t pretty. There’s a rail around the exhibits for a reason, and the lions and gorillas are adorable, as long as they aren’t eating you alive…

I find it’s best to leave the wild beasts alone and avoid the drama at all costs. But sometimes, the drama isn’t always obvious. It might sneak up on you, disguised as something work-related. You might not notice until halfway through your meeting that in fact the only thing your team has managed to accomplish is to rank the interns in order of their hotness (or not-ness).

Drama serves as a distraction, entertainment for the bored and an outlet for the frustrated. It is a hazard universal to all jobs and occupations. Even if you’re self-employed or work from home, you’re not exempt. Drama arises out of any interaction whatsoever, whether it be with your buyer or distributor or seller. Even supervising managers indulge in workplace politics.

Let’s say your boss approaches you about a coworker’s performance, which he claims has been declining “since she hooked up with some douche from marketing.” Seemingly appropriate, until the gossip-drop, that is. What should you do? Just nod along and shrug your shoulders? Walk away, or play along?

Never forget that calling out your supervisor is in fact a valid option if you feel uncomfortable. And I don’t mean bitch-slapping him or her in front of the department. Simply look your supervisor in the eye and let him or her know, you’d rather not concern yourself with coworkers’ supposed personal affairs, as they aren’t your or anybody else’s business.

If you’re worried that your supervisor won’t appreciate your attitude, maybe he or she won’t in the beginning, but in time the supervisor will realize how unprofessional he or she was in disrespecting the employee’s privacy, as well as yours. Because it’s one thing to be casual or “cool” with coworkers, but just be careful not to cross that line. Respect the boundaries the workplace fails to enforce. This sets a positive example for your team.

But drama comes in different flavors, so be ready on all fronts. Don’t get involved romantically.  Do not submit to spreading gossip . Don’t choose sides. Never let interpersonal workplace relations interfere with your performance. Don’t act like a little drama is a viable excuse to be distracted. Stay on task, and stay above the influence of workplace drama.

This may prove a little difficult at times. You might walk in on drama in the making, unaware. Linger too long around the copy room, it might walk in on you. Drama might find you off the clock, in a drunken, misspelled text-message confession from a friendly coworker, or in the form of the promotion you deserved, but were denied. Depending on the type of drama circulating in your workplace, you will have to counteract accordingly.

If you notice opposition or division in the workplace, it is crucial to stay neutral. Coworkers might try to win your trust or recruit you to their side. Let it be known to both parties that your intentions are impartial. With loyalties come enemies. Unless you’re on Survivor, don’t create alliances and rivalries for no good reason. It’s your job to be consistent and objective with your team. You can’t play favorites.

BRIDGET JONES DIARY (Image Credit: Universal)
BRIDGET JONES DIARY (Image Credit: Universal)

When it comes to workplace romances, avoid them at all costs. Never reciprocate flirtation, even if you feel inclined. Don’t seduce the secretary at the office Christmas party. I don’t care how smoking hot your coworker happens to be. The aftermath is always catastrophic. Don’t believe me? Just watch Bridget Jones’ Diary, and see how that pans out: “Very bad start to the year: Have been seduced by informality of messaging medium into flirting with office scoundrel. Will persevere, with resolution to find a nice, sensible man. Will put a stop to flirting, first thing tomorrow,” but she doesn’t. Ultimately, Bridget quits to get away from Daniel Cleaver.

I was fired from my first retail job because my boss was playing favorites with a coworker of mine (who he was dating at the time). I called him out and subsequently lost my job. Eventually, so did he. It’s like we detonated an atomic bomb of drama. In two weeks, the store lost four other employees, all because of one pathetic office fling (which didn’t last). So was it worth it? I think not.

Office cliques and romances ignite envy and competition. Drama spreads like wild fire, it’s infectious. It disrupts the sense of equilibrium. If you’re already shoulder deep in workplace drama, don’t despair. It’s never too late to opt out. Throw in the towel. Unsubscribe. Make it apparent where you stand, send out a memo if you have to: Office Drama Queen, Dethroned. If you’re an office drama junkie, please, I urge you, reconsider your priorities before it’s too late. When it comes to workplace drama, just say no.

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With any luck, I will rewrite this crazy world into the kind that you and I would like to live in.

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