Did you know that almost 49 percent of Americans — nearly half the workforce — claim to be unhappy at work? While there are various reasons as to why (a toxic boss, unequal pay, lazy colleagues, inflexible schedules), it’s safe to say that workplace drama is also part of the issue.
Drama is something that impacts us in all aspects of life: professionally, in our relationships, with family and friends — and it often takes a toll on our health, leading to stress, anxiety, and a decrease in daily productivity. Handling drama in the workplace can be trickier compared to at home, given the different types of associations and power dynamics involved.
There’s also the exclusive cliques: the gossipers, instigators, rumor mills, and more. All of them mixed together can create a toxic work environment that ends up being enjoyable for no one (except maybe the gossipers themselves). Participating or even being exposed to this kind of daily drama and game-playing can potentially hinder career advancement and negatively impact your mood.
So how do you navigate these tricky waters? There are different methods that are suitable for different types of workplaces based on the situation. However, every worker dealing with office drama should take these three steps:
Document the drama
In the event that you decide to report the issue or discuss it with a supervisor, having a paper or e-trail of what is being said is important. This includes emails that contain the gossip or rumors, or making a mental note of what you hear and writing it down at a later time. This makes it easier to know exactly what’s being said and how frequently it’s happening. It’s also a good way to identify patterns and repeat instigators. Also, in the event that a meeting or mediation is called, you will have these notes for your records and to back up your concerns.
Shut it down as it’s happening
If possible, nip drama in the bud right at the start. If you are in a conversation and see the exchange steering towards gossip, bring it back on track. Is the person starting to talk behind another coworker’s back? Talk about their positives! For example — “I thought Jessica gave a great presentation at the meeting last week,” or “David was so helpful working on the project with me.” Redirecting to the positive makes it harder for the gossiper to get back to the negative. Another way of shutting it down is to question the person. If you hear them say something you’re not sure about, you can say something like, “Is that a fact? Did someone tell you that?” Addressing the drama in this way is non-confrontational, but still sends the message that you aren’t okay with what is being said. From then on, the gossiper will be likely to watch what they say around you.
Take the high road
The best thing to do is to avoid the drama overall. If you notice a conversation involves spreading rumors or talking about other coworkers, the simple thing to do is leave. By doing this, you won’t have the burden of carrying the toxicity. If it doesn’t occupy your mind, you’ll continue to be a productive worker who is stress free (unless your work is tough!). Also, by not engaging with the office instigators, you take away their power — after all, rumors cannot spread if there is no one to spread them to. If you have other co-workers who are facing the same dilemma as you, encourage them to do the same.
Drama is tough to navigate in any setting, and working in close quarters with toxic people is bound to make your job harder than it needs to be. Taking these steps are surefire ways to help change the culture, and to make your office a more open and welcoming environment for all.
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