How to Avoid Workplace Drama

Sometimes I get a charlie horse at night. I wake to that telltale ache, and then I have to keep my leg bent and my muscle relaxed. If, in my grogginess, I mistakenly stretch into the cramp, boom. It gets me. I’m left with a wicked kink, and my muscle is sore for days.

Workplace drama, which involves purposefully exaggerating a situation to attract extra emotional attention, is similar at the onset. When someone tries to entice us with drama, there is a moment where we get to decide, “Am I going to minimize this or stretch into the cramp?”

Professional relationships don’t require of us what personal relationships do. If you have a drama seeker in your workgroup, you don’t have to take that on. You just have to figure out how to navigate around that person’s dysfunction.

If you manage the team, then it’s in your unit’s best interest for you to hold the instigator accountable for his or her activity. The fact that an individual is inciting unnecessary problems shouldn’t be countered with an emotional response. That will leave you with a charlie horse. Instead, cite that individual for trying to inciting chaos on your team and show him or her that you won’t tolerate it.

Whatever your role, refrain from engaging the drama. This is a choice you get to make. Here’s how.

Control How Much of Your Ego is Tied up in Your Work

It feels great to do a good job at work and to be a part of a successful team. There’s nothing like the buzz of operating at full capacity. But there are all kinds of people at work. Some are not happy, and they may take that out on those around them. Sometimes they are in leadership positions, and their drama is especially hard to dodge.

While working in the right environment can be fulfilling, it is only one stream of affirmation that validates your sense of self. Develop other parts of yourself, too, so that your identity and your success doesn’t just come from one source. Cultivate other affirmation streams. Join a club, coach a team, take a class. You are full of talents and abilities. The more you explore them, the more affirmation you get back. This fortifies your psychological immune system, and it makes it harder for those who may try to rattle your cage.

Developing your other interests helps you to know yourself better. It creates genuine self-esteem. Drama hounds–the bullies, busibodies, etc.–like to engage easy prey. You can’t change this about them. When you fortify yourself from within, you make yourself less vulnerable to others’ chaos.

Know Your Truth

Drama seekers excel at creating confusion among their contemporaries. When gossiping, bullying or other bad workplace behavior takes root, less work gets done and the drama seeker who started it can assume a faux leadership role. It’s a breakdown of professionalism that causes discomfort and dissatisfaction. If you manage the unit, nip this in the bud.

But if you don’t, and this is happening on your team, then your best approach is to hold tightly to your own truth. It’s hard to have a clear vision of reality in a culture that doesn’t seem sane, so don’t look to that culture for clarity.

Trust yourself. Also know what you are willing to stand for and what you won’t. If you feel that the drama has crossed a line and your manager isn’t showing leadership despite your urgings, then it may be time to look for a new job.

You deserve a workplace culture where colleagues don’t have the opportunity to needlessly ramp up the level of emotion. Your manager should have the leadership skills to nix that behavior.  


Work isn’t supposed to siphon off emotional energy that you need for your personal life. The point of professionalism is that it’s a code of behavior that keeps unnecessary emotion out of your worklife. If someone is blurring those lines, then he or she is invading your personal space. You don’t have to put up with that.