How to be Drama-Free? Start with Yourself

It’s gossip, turf wars, water cooler talk, and the chronic complainer no one can stand. When you talk with people about the organizations they work for, it’s common to hear about the “Drama” plaguing their companies: the energy-draining behaviors that keep people from focusing on the creative projects and basic business practices that make the company successful.

If we could just get through the drama, the business decisions and real work isn’t that hard…

It’s easy to blame drama on others.  After all, you’re the good guy in these dynamics; why don’t they get it?  One of the most difficult challenges for aspiring leaders is to “own their stuff”—to acknowledge that they are equally responsible for creating any situation where drama exists.

I learned this lesson working on a writing project with another author – my dad. He had some great ideas that I was happy to work with. But then he became controlling. It was easy for me to see how things were falling apart – and it was his fault! He was the one who wasn’t listening. He was the one who was setting impossible deadlines. I was ready to take all I knew about eliminating drama and apply it to him.

Most drama is caused by four primary energy-draining personalities that sabotage workplace collaboration and synergy: the Complainer, the Controller, the Cynic and the Caretaker.  The Complainer is the one who is never at fault – not enough time, resources or support. The Controller has to be in charge – perhaps micromanaging, sometimes being the bully. The Cynic must be right; often pointing out how others’ ideas will never work and making fun of the person who brought it up. The Caretaker wants to be liked so much that they say yes to everything, which becomes a problem when they bite off more than they can chew and they miss deadlines.

Like me, most people want to start with the question: how to I help others change? But, we have found that before you can guide others, you have to take inventory of your interaction strengths and the ways you sabotage relationships. The strength inventory is usually easy. It’s fun to appreciate your talent and amazing ability to do what you do. The sabotage inventory is more difficult. It requires the vulnerability and courage to seek others’ candid observations and advice about your behavior.

Taking my own advice, I asked myself what my part was in creating the drama. I wondered which Drama personalities I was using that were sabotaging us. I noticed how I had fallen into Complainer. I didn’t have enough time to do everything he asked and his requests were too hard. I realized that I would have micromanaged someone acting the way I was. Then I saw my Cynic. The enthusiasm I had at the beginning of the project had become critical… I saw everything wrong with what we were doing, but didn’t offer any suggestions to change. Once I saw myself in these drama roles, I could shift into taking responsibility – renegotiating our deadlines and making suggestions for how we could change the writing to be better.

By identifying and correcting the four drama roles (Complainer, Controller, Cynic, Caretaker), you are well on your way to eliminating drama. If you want even more clarity, invite your work colleagues, family members, and friends to give you timely, direct feedback.

Here is a quick way to start looking at how these drama roles show up for you.  Ask friends and coworkers:

–       Where do you see me complaining? Not taking responsibility for my situation?

–       Where do you see me controlling? Taking over and micromanaging?

–       Where do you see be being cynical? Discounting others or being sarcastic?

–       Where do you seem me caretaking? Rescuing others instead of letting them do things on their own?


You can also take a free drama assessment for yourself. Let me know what you find out about yourself. And what can you do to change?

Kaley Klemp and Jim Warner are the authors of The Drama-Free Office: A Guide to Healthy Collaboration with Your Team, Coworkers, and Boss. You can get a free sample of the book on Facebook. Follow them on twitter. Read more about them at Or, just get the book on Amazon.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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