Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2015 06 Office Drama 1

Is your dental team getting carried away with workplace drama?

June 8, 2015
Workplace drama can lead to a toxic environment. The drama queens and kings can take over the dental practice if they aren't reigned in. There are manageable ways to take care of the drama before team members start to turn on each other. Here are some helpful tips to lead to a healthier work atmosphere.
Gossip and backbiting. Schedule turmoil. Employee blowups. Whining about everything from patients to equipment to each other. Resisting change. These are some of the symptoms of a drama-infested workplace.

Have you ever dreaded going into the office because you know you’ll have to deal with the drama? Do you feel like your work energy is being sucked down a vortex? Does it seem like the same few troublemakers are behind it all, draining your enthusiasm and vitality with their complaints and negativity?

This article is for you.

Many of us feel like workplace drama is just a fact of office life. But is that true, or is it what the drama queens and kings on our teams want us to believe? Believe it or not, it is possible to cancel the soap opera and regain control in your practice. Here’s how to understand what the whiners, prima donnas, and other drama majors are after. By understanding this you can steal their spotlights and get what you and the rest of the teamneed.

Why can’t we all just get along?
We already know part of what makes drama queens or kings tick. These employees thrive on gossip, attention, and the big pots of trouble they’re constantly brewing. But what do they really want? Their goals can vary, but here are some common ones:

They want to prevent change. Problem employees often create drama or obstacles to generate fear or doubt and block change.
They undermine the praise or advancement that would otherwise be given to someone else.
They want to destabilize office relationships so that you and other team members don’t form alliances that will threaten them.
They grasp at power or control in order to claim or protect their work “territory.”
They clamor for appreciation and attention from you and the team.

Various personality characteristics play into these goals, including insecurity, control issues, and outright malice. Not all of your drama-prone employees are consciously undermining the practice or your authority—some may be good workers when managed effectively. But others are truly toxic, so be careful!

Comparing bad apples to melodramatic oranges
So how do you pitch a more effective battle against your practice’s troublemakers? First, step back and look at the big picture. There are several different types of drama queens and kings.* Why does this matter? To get the upper hand, you need to understand which type of person you’re dealing with so you can choose your strategy.

Here are some of the most common drama generators in an average practice, and which management methods are most likely to work with each type:

Prima donnas love the limelight and are great at relationships. Don’t get caught up in their drama, and you need to form alliances before they do. Avoid putting them on the spot because they will use it!. Likewise, asking them to “tone it down” does not work. The best path is to acknowledge their behavior and publicize their new goals—they won’t want to lose face.

Whiners need to vent and whine about everything. To deal with them, listen and empathize to an extent, and then ask them for solutions. Solving the problem for them or telling them to grow up will not work with whiners.

Complicators place obstacles in every path. Try to get them to slowly upgrade rather than change. Enlist their help and acknowledge their efforts. Don’t try to change their mind or ask them to be a positive team player.

Controllersand bullies are vying for power. Stand your ground and be assertive, deliver on your promises, and give them narrow options. Don’t get defensive, don’t antagonize them, and do not finger-point because they have more experience than you.

Toxics are manipulative and may not care whether their behavior is right or wrong, so don’t try to appeal to their ethics or show them the impact of their actions (they may enjoy seeing it). Instead, take precautions and get help from an HR expert. Document everything, and use stealth or micromanagement as needed so you can get them out when it becomes necessary and minimize their harm.

Whatever type of drama you’re dealing with, it can be too easy to put off any unpleasant confrontation, even if you have a plan. But unchecked drama will have unending repercussions on your practice. Eventually, complaining and excuses become contagious, causing good employees to quit or lose hope. Your business will suffer from lost productivity, loss of reputation, and increased legal dangers.

Ready, set, calm down
Once you’ve adjusted your perspective and taken past interactions into account, plan your next conversation and the specific, measurable goals you will set with each of the dramatists on your stage. If the goals aren’t met, document the results and get support as needed so you can take steps toward dismissing the employee. If goals are met, move toward repairing and rebuilding your team.

Dealing with workplace drama is never fun, but you can learn techniques to handle it better and pull your practice back on track.

*Thanks to Linda Swindling and her book, Stop Complainers and Energy Drainers, for these complainer categories.

ALSO BY PAUL EDWARDS:10 steps to a great team in 2015
Preparing for the unthinkable: Violence in the workplace
Down with stress! How to be happier in your dental practice

Paul Edwards is the CEO and cofounder of CEDR Solutions. Since 2006, CEDR has been the nation’s leading provider of individually customized dental employee handbooks and HR solutions, helping dentists successfully handle employee issues and safely navigate the complex and ever-changing employment law landscape. For more information or a free employee handbook evaluation, visit