Friday, August 12, 2011

Is there such a thing as a drama-free office? Authors tell you how to get there

Jim Warner and Kaley Klemp, authors of "The Drama-Free Office: A Guide to Healthy Collaboration with Your Team, Coworkers, and Boss," (Greenleaf Book Group Press, July 2011, 160 pp., paperback: $14.95) recently sent over an article, in support of their book, that offers "7 Steps to a Drama Free Office."

My office, like, I suspect, yours, is (sometimes) all about drama and I feel it may not be possible to have a completely drama-free office here ... but let's hear them out:

Warner and Klemp, who, incidentally, are father and daughter, first ask you to reflect on how much time you wasted at work in energy-draining behaviors that keep you from ... work.

"Think about all the infighting, watercooler talk, meaningless meetings, turf wars, pouting, rants, and other behaviors that blocked positive, productive interactions in your organization. Now, think about how many creative projects you could have completed, or how much time you could have spent having fun with friends and family if you had that time and energy back."

They identify four primary actors in typical office dramas—the complainer, the cynic, the controller and the caretaker—and offer suggestions on how to turn bad behavior into productivity. The authors say that by following these seven steps, you can shift yourself away from the drama to more productive ways to spend your time at work.

Step 1: Get Out of Your Own Drama
Before you can guide others, you must take inventory of both your interaction strengths (i.e., where you uplift relationships) and the ways you sabotage relationships. The strength inventory is usually easy. The sabotage inventory is more difficult, as it requires the vulnerability and courage to seek others’ candid observations and advice about your behavior. To find out your own drama tendencies, you can use self-reflection, ask your colleagues, or take a drama-assessment ( (It's free)

Step 2: Diagnose the Type of Drama in the Other Person
There are four primary drama roles that emerge most frequently in office settings: the Complainer, the Controller, the Cynic and the Caretaker. You’ll need different strategies for different personality types. Will the person you're dealing with respond more to direct confrontation and setting boundaries (better for Controllers and Cynics), or to appreciation and encouragement (better for Caretakers and Complainers)?

Step 3: Assess The Risk Of Confronting The Other Person
Before launching into a direct conversation with your boss or a team member, consider the possible side effects (e.g., nothing happens, it gets worse, they abruptly leave) and whether you’re willing to face them.

Step 4: Develop Rapport with the Drama-Prone Person
Get the person’s full attention and to set him/her up to be receptive to your ideas. People prefer to collaborate with those they know and like, so this step is powerful in setting the tone for the rest of the conversation.

Step 5: Have a Direct Conversation
When confronting a person about their drama, stay dispassionate and state “the facts” clearly and concisely. Also present the meaning you derived from the facts (i.e., your perceptions), and any emotions you experience — usually some combination of fear, anger, guilt or embarrassment.This next part is tougher: Share with the person how you contributed to the situation (why it’s your fault, too). Then, end with a specific request. Usually these conversations end with an agreement about what will happen next to make sure the drama ends.

Step 6: Get Their Commitment
The last step of the direct conversation in Step 5 is your specific requests or expectations of the person. A commitment to realize these expectations without excuses, sarcasm, self-pity, or martyrdom is often difficult to obtain from drama-prone people. They’ll dance around the expectation or rephrase them in vague terms. These deflection or evasion tactics are a self-protection mechanism that helps the dramatic person avoid both change and accountability. Don’t get hooked. Reiterate both your specific expectations and your need for the drama-prone person’s commitment to meet them. If she continues to resist or deflect, be prepared to calmly lay out an ultimatum, including specific rewards for meeting objectives and consequences for missing objectives.

Step 7: Validate And Anchor Their Commitment And New Behavior
Praise the person for his positive behaviors during your meeting, and honor the commitments he made. Follow up with a short note or e-mail confirming and affirming the person’s commitments. Ideally, ask them to create a summary of your meeting that includes their specific agreements.

"Now," the authors state, "you can redirect your energy toward the collaborative, meaningful projects that you enjoy doing, and work in an office free from drama."

Perhaps it can work for your office (and maybe mine ...?).

Visit the authors' website for more information. The book is available at and, as of this writing, was selling new for $8.10 on the site (big savings from the list price).

Klemp and Warner are offering a free sample of their book on Facebook by clicking here (note, you must first "like" their Facebook page in order to get to the free sample.)

About the authors:

Kaley Klemp is a facilitator, speaker and coach. She is an expert in small-group dynamics and leadership development, specializing in building trusting, synergistic teams. She works with YPO forums and executive teams to address the issues that block peak performance. Klemp is the author of "13 Guidelines for Effective Teams" of and is a graduate of Stanford University, where she earned a B.A. in International Relations and an M.A. in Sociology, with a focus on Organizational Behavior.

Jim Warner is an adviser to top executives on how to expand their leadership skills while breeding authenticity and collaboration within their teams. He is the author of two books based on his experiences with CEOs and company leaders: "Aspirations of Greatness" and "Facing Pain - Embracing Love." He is an alumnus of University of Michigan and Harvard Business School's OPM program.

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