Avoid getting dragged down by the workplace ‘drama triangle’

Wirral transformational coach, Alison Blackler of 2minds, on how energy-sapping ‘moanathons’ can lead to plummeting morale, disputes, fall-outs, grievances, lost time and non-productive hours

Business, office, meeting
Drama can have a negative effect in the workplace, says Alison Blackler


Have you ever been part of a great one-to-one or group conversation where there’s energy, collaboration, cooperation and empowerment?

Each person is listened too and feels valued. Yes? Then you’ll know how revitalising it feels when every word in the conversation adds value. Time spent brilliantly discussing whatever it is that needs to be talked about represents a return on investment and resource well spent.

However, the other side of that coin are the occasions when workplaces and the people in them can fall into ‘drama’ – energy-sapping ‘moanathons’ that can lead to plummeting morale, disputes, fall-outs, grievances, lost time and non-productive hours. The hidden cost of drama to your organisation could be huge.

What, why, how

When groups or individuals gather to discuss performance, identifying ‘what’ to discuss is a very real skill. When all parties understand ‘why’ the topic is important and most importantly ‘how’ best to have the conversation, it means the difference between solutions and time well spent rather than a focus on problems and money down the drain.

Sometimes teams or colleagues don’t know they are in drama never mind how they got there but what they do know is drama conversations are tiresome. The conversation goes nowhere other than round and round in circles.

The Drama Triangle

Any participant in drama begins by assuming one of three archetypical roles: victim, rescuer or persecutor and this can create a triangle effect”

  • Victims are helpless and hopeless. They deny responsibility for their negative circumstances and deny possession of the power to change them. They feel powerless to take a stand, act ‘super-sensitive’.
  • Rescuers or heroes are constantly applying short-term repairs to the victim’s problems, while neglecting their own needs. They are always working hard to ‘help’ other people. They are harried, tired, and often have physical complaints. However, underneath, they are usually angry or quietly playing the martyr inside. Worryingly, they can use guilt to get their way.
  • Persecutors on the other hand blame the victims and criticise the enabling behaviour of rescuers but without providing guidance, assistance or a solution to the underlying problem. They are critical and can be unpleasant and good at finding fault. They can blame themselves or others often feeling inadequate underneath. The dark side is when they control with threats, order and rigidity.

We can all find ourselves in the drama triangle from time to time. Sometimes the feelings are intense and prolonged. Sometimes mild and short lived. Sometimes we can alternate or “switch” roles.

For example, a rescuer pushed too far by a persecutor will switch to the role of victim or counter-persecutor. Victims depend on a saviour, rescuers yearn for a victim and persecutors need a scapegoat.

Alison Blackler of 2minds
Wirral transformational mind coach and therapist Alison Blackler of 2minds


True cost

It is true that drama is inevitable with humans although there are many ways to prevent or minimise it. How committed would you be to make changes in the business if you knew how much time was lost and wasted?

There’s the potential legal costs that drama brings with grievances and disputes. Drama can lead to poor decision-making, higher staff turnovers, sick leave due to stress, disengaged employees, individuals taking control? What’s the cost of this?

If your employees fill in time sheets, they probably don’t have a row or a column where they allocate hours lost to drama conversations or behaviours. If they did it could be horrifying, and it might encourage everyone to start shifting to have more solution-oriented coaching conversations and drop the drama.

Be honest

The first place to start is often admitting to yourself that there will be drama within teams and businesses, as there are within families and life itself. It is inevitable when people are involved.

Even when staff and teams appear to get along, there will be issues, often subtle ones between individuals, and it is likely that the leaders and managers are causing the drama.

If the position of ‘notice everything and ignore nothing’ was adopted some drama’s could be caught early, managed well and prevent them becoming deep rooted.  There is something important about the impact of historical drama – something that is often missed because time has passed.

Ensuring that leaders are skilled at employee engagement and self-aware enough to understand when they are part of the drama. I have observed a significant difference within a business when drama is named, explored and therefore minimised. 

2minds is on Facebook –  and on Twitter… @AlisonBlackler

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