Stopping Drama in Its Tracks
“Finger-pointing (blame) and power struggles are the two most common types of office drama. And many times the two are entwined,” observes Debbie Varney, senior consultant for DeemHR in Charleston, West Virginia. Office drama negatively impacts everyone in your branch. It can wreck teamwork, morale, productivity, employee retention, and even client service. So how do you stop the drama?
“Removing the ‘third rail’—generally the supervisor or manager—can stop office drama in its tracks,” Varney says. “Many times managers want to swoop in with their capes and fix everything. Even though things may feel better for the short term, this approach doesn’t work long term. Enabling employees to work things out together in an exercise as a teaching tool of how to make things work is a better, longer lasting solution.”
Leadership Style Matters
Two situations that invite office drama are when:
“Some managers actually use this as a type of management style. But all it does is breed ill will and discontent within an employee. Then it surfaces outward toward others in the office,” Varney says. “Effective leadership takes time and effort. Training and education of your employees can go a long way in avoiding office drama. Effective, non-judgmental communication is the very key to unlocking office drama.”
Trifecta for Prevention
To deter drama, Varney advises suggests the following three strategies:
1. Hire the right people for the job. Place people in positions which are a good match and let them succeed. If it isn’t a good match, you are setting the employee and yourself up for potential drama. “Pre-employment assessments are at the top of DeemHR’s recommendation list,” Varney says. “Pre-employment assessments can help managers decide if a prospective employee has ‘the right stuff’ for a position or the work environment. Assessments can be specific to a position. For example, a teller needs to have both attention to detail and a demeanor of helpfulness toward clients.”
Assessments can also help determine the group dynamics and help management assess potential in current employees such as whether they trend toward sales or service. Getting the right person for the right job applies to promotions, too. Just because an employee can really do their job well doesn’t mean they can supervise others doing it. When promoting people into supervisory positions, make sure they have the necessary skills and assess their ability to lead others, not control others.
Tip: Leading others at its core is teaching others, whether by example or helping the employee to learn through other methods. “Controlling is like herding cattle. The cattle never learn anything but to do what the herdsman tells them to do,” Varney says. “Leading is the difference between managing and micromanaging—the latter will wear you down over time.”
2. Communicate, communicate, communicate! Open and honest communication is a major factor in preventing office drama. Honesty is the best policy and this means being honest with yourself, too. “When it comes to performance or other office issues, telling white lies to avoid hurt feelings doesn’t serve anyone well,” Varney says. “Most employees know when things aren’t going well, even if they aren’t involved.”
By focusing on the job description, you can tell the truth without being personal. Make sure the job description is well written and contains information that states specific performance goals. For example, run monthly statistics reports with a 95% accuracy rate. Then when a problem arises, state the facts and don’t make a judgment for or against the employee. Active listening can help uncover nearly any issue.
What about situations where you can’t reveal everything? For instance, you know a merger is pending and the rumors are flying. But you’re not authorized to tell what you know. “These are times when the real leader can be born. Leaders don’t sit back and do nothing; they lead by example. If asked about the rumors, be honest and say, “I’m not authorized to discuss it.” Rumors, fear, and panic are emotions that are not conducive to the work environment or on a personal level of making major decisions,” says Varney.
3. Value everyone on the team. Understand and appreciate everyone for their role in making the organization or department a success. “Often drama occurs when one or more people aren’t ‘working together’ to achieve positive results. Many times employees don’t understand how their work affects others,” says Varney.
You can avoid drama by realizing that every team member is valuable and making sure everyone knows how each person’s work affects another. Varney offers these tips:
Prior to joining DeemHR (www.DeemHR.net) Debbie Varney worked in banking positions from teller to branch manager before joining the HR department. This story appeared in Branch Manager’s Letter at www.branchmanagersletter.com and is reprinted with permission. Contact publisher Lana J. Chandler at 304-343-0206 or Lana@BranchManagersLetter.com.
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