Thursday, May 19, 2016

Workplace drama: 3 scenarios to deal with

By Virginia Mburu

The  above cartoon featured  in the  The Standard Newspaper on Wednesday 10th September, 2014.  The rider is  ordering the donkey to “Stop moving” but the donkey has a mind of its  own “Forward it is”. 

Trust the cartoonist to add a funny angle to the whole story---- the rider is facing backwards! I will leave you to decipher the meaning. 

This cartoon reminds me of another donkey…Balaam’s  Donkey in Numbers  22.  In this story,  they are progressing  well towards Balaam’s destination when all of a sudden , the donkey stops. 

Balaam urges the donkey to move but it refuses. Balaam beats it until the  unbelievable  happens—it speaks in a language Balaam understands!

Over to you- the Passionate Entrepreneur and your business. Do you have  situations  when you find that you – the entrepreneur or your employees  seem to  be reading from different scripts. I bet you  get the  feeling the two riders aforementioned must have  experienced-how comes you cannot keep your team under control?

What could be happening in the two instances?

Scenario 1. The  headless chicken syndrome
Of course  without a head the chicken  cannot see what is   ahead. The  head and the  body will be  moving in different directions as they  as they are now disconnected.The donkey and the  rider do not have a  shared  vision. The donkey can see what Balaam cannot see- An angel  ready to strike Balaam with a sword. In the cartoon, one wants a referendum and the  other does not.

Now to your business, Passionate Entrepreneur;                                  

a. Do you  have a vision, mission, values and  objectives statements?

b. Are they clear, simple and communicated to everyone involved in your business  such as employees, suppliers, customers etc?

c.  Can they easily recite the vision and mission without having to refer to a manual?

d.  Are you asking the right questions to ensure that everyone understands the vision?

e.  Do they  all understand such that they should at all times and circumstances live, eat and sleep that vision/ mission? 

f.    Are their decisions and  behaviours aligned to the vision/mission? 

g.  Do you have  continuous, effective,  open communication that   promotes support  from the  majority if  not all involved? 

h.  Can everyone involved in the business visualize how the destination looks like, feels like, smells like, tastes like and sounds like for them and their significant others?

i.   Are you actively listening so that you can hear what is not being said verbally or via  body language? Are you reading between the lines?

j.   Do you have performance standards for every role (employees and relevant partners) that are also aligned to your  business goals? It is important for  the stakeholders to understand their unique  worth and the value they contribute to the  objectives and be proud of their work.

k.  Have you designed to  celebrate  short term wins at the  business and individual levels so as  to motivate the stakeholders? Keep in mind people love  to follow success.

l.   Are you leading by example?  Are you confidently  walking the talk? Remember –they will pick your ques. Can they trust you to lead them to the promised land?

Scenario 2.    Behold The drama Queen/King !

You better identify the  drama queen/king  in your business. You can easily spot them.  

He/ She is likely to manipulate situations through emotional blackmail (think of the two year old toddler tantrums), withhold information, steal ideas, be jealous, envious,  play victim,  only  see the bad in the other employees, or basically blow matters out of proportion. 

They could be that competent/ perfectionist employee who cannot tolerate others. You might actually need to gracefully identify the same traits in YOU!

 So, how can we handle our drama queen/king?
a.  Set clear Human Resource (HR)  Policies that clearly states that No Drama  Will Be Entertained

b.  In an article posted by John Halter, he advises that you quickly deal with drama before it escalates to unmanageable proportions.

c.  Understand the drama players- the victim ( Woiyeee- the I’m Blameless who is looking for love), persecutor (I’m right- the fault finder who is looking for power) and rescuer (I’m good- the peacemaker who is looking for acceptance).

d. Keep them under the radar. He recommends that you monitor their moves and know what is likely to instigate them, how it is likely to play out and what your action plan will be. 

e.   The drama affects the whole team. Call a team meeting with the aim of having the team set “Team Standards of Conduct”. In the meeting, do not discuss the situation and stick to “The Standards of Conduct” agenda only. Do not take sides or get emotionally involved. What you need is an agreed rules of engagement plus and an agreement that any issues will be sorted out between involved parties or their supervisors without involving other parties.  This code  of  conduct will be useful as……….

f.   Soon, the drama queen/king will be at it again and you can now individually deal with them. Read them the riot act based on the HR Policy and the previously agreed “Standards of Conduct” while reiterating their value to the business and request for a change in behavior. You just hit two birds with the same stone- dealt with the undesired behavior and the rest of the team knows you will  not entertain drama. 

g.   Be ready for the next drama. Now you know that donkeys can speak!

Scenario 3.    A brewing conflict 

 The conflict could arise from lack of information, poor information, no information or misinformation regarding roles, responsibilities, resources (as in the two cases above) as well as decisions based on emotions. 

As it is with the drama king and queens, deal with conflicts fast  

a.  Set a meeting where each party explains their position (without interference) as well as specific actions they expect of the other party. What can they do more of, less of, stop and start doing etc.?

b.    Remain calm, actively listen to both parties and do not take sides.

c.  While at it, stick to issues not personalities, avoid blame game and concentrate on seeking conflict solutions.

d.  Find a common ground and obtain a mutual agreement on action plans, set progress review timelines and affirm your belief in their capability to resolve the conflict.

e.  Celebration time! Appreciate the effort both parties have extended in solving the conflict and what better way than to toss to that over a cocktail, lunch or dinner? Please invite me……

What about you - Passionate Entrepreneur?
  • Which of these scenarios have you experienced?
  • How did  you deal with it?  
Please share your experiences, suggestions and questions by leaving your comments below.

Whatever you do, make sure it results in less work, more money and positive impact.



Virginia Mburu
Passionate Entrepreneurs Coach 
Virginia empowers and motivates Passionate Entrepreneurs to realize their purpose and pursue it. She then assists the entrepreneurs to clarify, prioritise and focus on management and marketing strategies and action plans that will get them to work less, make more money and positively impact within one year.   Download some of her gifts- absolutely free lessons on

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