By Rose O. Sherman, EdD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN
It comes up in almost every leadership session that I teach. Leaders want to know how to deal with the drama queens and kings that work for them. I can relate this back to my own experience when I was a manager. My evening charge nurse while extremely competent was also a drama queen. Every afternoon when she came to work, I had to listen to how she had personally saved the night the previous evening. She was the main actor in every story she told. She was quite dramatic and emotional. She worked intently to pull everyone else into the drama through gossip. New graduates did not want to be assigned to work with her because she was demanding and critical. It was a tough situation for me because she had been there for years and was highly respected for her clinical skills. I was working in an environment with a strong union contract so I knew whatever I did – I needed to stick with specific behaviors that impacted either her performance or that of others.
Workplace drama and the gossip that accompanies it can be very corrosive to a healthy work environment. It also can consume a great deal of the leader’s energy. Some staff like my evening charge nurse have an unhealthy need for significance and it plays out in the drama that they create. These behavior become very engrained habits over time. Leadership expert, Michael Hyatt, has four suggestions on how to dial down the drama in your work setting:
- Quash all rumors directly and seek the truth in situations. Directly confront false stories and reports given by drama kings and queens. Force them to talk about the contributions of others. Let staff know directly that you are a leader who does not like drama. Former President Obama used to tell his staff – I am the no drama Obama so don’t bring it to me.
- Respect the process. Don’t get sucked into the drama. When the story involves another staff member – don’t listen to it without the other staff member present. If you are told that a staff member posted something negative on social media – bring them in and ask them to say it directly to the person. Chances are that they will not. You can never allow triangulation because that is what drama queens and kings seek to do.
- Allow pushback. Hyatt contends that you need to allow for pushback because there is a chance that you or your leadership style may be part of the problem. Maybe, you don’t communicate enough or try to avoid conflict. Ask yourself – What is it about my leadership that created this? It is important that the leader “holds the space” and listens to what is being said.
- Move drama kings and queens out of your organization or out of their role. Hyatt contends that some people are so addicted to drama that they cannot stop even inventing drama when there is none. This is so costly to organizations that it can be worth the challenges that accompany removing them.
In my situation as manager, the evening charge nurse who was the drama queen needed emergency surgery and was out six weeks. Amazingly, things functioned remarkably smoothly without her. When she returned, I had a frank conversation with her about what I observed while she was gone. She agreed to move to a staff position. Did the drama end – no not completely but she had much less influence over staff than when she was in the charge nurse role.
Read to Lead
Hyatt M. (October 2nd, 2018 Podcast) How to dial down the drama at work.
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