Is it just me in my role as business advisor, or is emotional drama in the workplace increasing? Team members seem to be spending more and more time venting to anyone who will listen about the motives and actions of others, and less time introspectively focused on their own productivity and accountability. The result is less real engagement and more negativity for all to endure.
According to a new book, “No Ego,” by international keynote speaker and business consultant Cy Wakeman, the average worker spends 2.5 hours per day distracted by drama. She presents a convincing array of real examples that we have all seen, and offers the following reality principles for business leaders and professionals who want to turn this trend around in their environment:
- Always give others the benefit of the doubt – assume noble intent. Drama is all about assuming the worst intent in team members and leaders, and wasting time venting wasteful thought processes and unproductive behaviors. The best leaders are highly focused on hiring only the right people, and modelling a high level of trust and respect.
- Remind people that venting doesn’t resolve anything. It only ramps up negativity, and is ego’s way to avoid self-reflection. Smart co-workers and managers refuse to listen to venting, and are quick to turn the discussion to reality, by bringing the relevant parties together for resolution of suspected or real differences. Actions speak louder than words.
- Diffuse suffering from imagined stories rather than reality. We all have a human tendency, developed in our childhood, to make up stories which paint us as a victim rather than the problem. In business, the best leaders diffuse this tendency by asking good questions, insisting on decisions based on real data, and not edicting results.
- Use empathy when employee ego is creating doubts and chaos. Self-reflection, accountability, and reality are an affront to egos. Avoid ego’s trap by avoiding sympathy and using empathy instead. Sympathy exacerbates the pain rather than healing it. Empathy bypasses ego, shares an observed reality, and makes a call to greatness.
- Confirm that challenges are the only reality for success. As long as people believe that business realities are hurting them, they will remain victims. Real leaders improve the readiness, training, and preparation for these events, so that circumstances are not a source of pain, but are expected and can be accomplished with personal satisfaction.
- Remember that engagement requires accountability for results. Engagement without accountability leads to entitlement. Low-accountable people may appear to work hard, yet find complaints about everything. They come to believe that making them happy is someone else’s job. Hire, incent, and reward people that accept personal accountability.
- Remove resistance to change as a source of drama. Traditional change management techniques need to be replaced by business readiness training and focus. When people are fluent in the now, and ready for what’s next, they won’t feel the pain, and will feel a sense of excitement and eagerness to capitalize on the possibilities change can bring.
- Communicate that personal preferences don’t drive the business. Business leaders must convince the team that the decision makers today are customers, the marketplace, competition, feedback, innovation, and breakthroughs. The personal preferences and ego of anyone in the company has little to do long-term business success and satisfaction.
- Check your own ego before you attempt to engage another. People who are prone to emotional drama are also super-sensitive to ego and emotions in their leaders and peers. Countering drama with more emotion or violently shaking them up is not productive. Humbly make the call to greatness as you gently spur self-reflection and confidence.
- Develop accountability through coaching and mentoring. Building a culture of accountability with minimal emotional drama is a key element to organizational success today. High-performing companies formalize these coaching and mentoring programs, and apply them universally, rather than activate them only to solve specific problems.
I’m convinced that every entrepreneur, team member, and business leader needs to practice these principles to eliminate workplace drama, end entitlement, and drive more satisfying results. None of these deny the fact that business today is hard, and requires rapid adaptability to change and opportunities. Yet smart people make it a source of satisfaction, rather than continual pain.