On a recent webinar, Joan noticed a question that caught her attention: Why do so many administrative teams have drama?
She asked me to weigh in on this topic and I jumped at the opportunity.
The question of why is interesting, and I’ve found there are several reasons for workplace drama. But first, let’s talk about what that word really means.
In real terms, “drama” usually refers to interpersonal conflicts—people aren’t getting along, and it’s typically attached to petty, non-substantive reasons.
On any administrative team, you’re likely to find a wide variety of personalities. When faced with any group of people with whom you have to work collaboratively, and when placed in an environment with those people for 40 hours a week or more, it’s not surprising that drama unfolds.
Below, I’ve listed the 5 most common reasons I’ve seen for drama amongst administrative teams, along with some recommended solutions.
1. Turf Wars
This kind of drama centers around job duties. In some cases, I’ve seen assistants create tension because they’re trying too hard to protect their “territory” or intruding on the territory of others. This makes teammates feel undermined, stepped on, and at times, jealous.
In other situations, I’ve seen team members who don’t hold up their end of things, causing their colleagues to feel frustrated and put-upon as they struggle to fill in the gaps.
Solution: Work with others on your team to clarify roles and define individual expectations. Remember that you’re all in this together. In order for you to “win,” you don’t have to make others “lose.” Everyone needs to understand that, by working together, you’re all better off.
I find that gossip usually focuses on other people’s intentions, motives, hidden agendas, or secret activities. When we speak about others behind their backs, we tend to speculate. We take our past bad experiences with people out on others and allow our inner-child to vent our frustrations in very unproductive, toxic ways.
Solution: Don’t project past experiences onto others; assume everyone has the best intentions. When things go wrong, deal with them directly and at face value. Don’t say something about anyone that you wouldn’t be willing to say directly to them.
3. Choosing Sides
As humans, we all crave community, and nothing brings people together like a common enemy. All too often, I’ve seen entire admin teams destroyed because of interpersonal conflicts that really exist between two individuals. The group devolves into an “us versus them” mentality, and before long, the workplace feels like a high school lunchroom.
Solution: Don’t get involved in other people’s drama. Maintain your relationships with all by being a neutral party. Stay focused on the best interests of the team.
4. Failure to Address Issues
When real, substantive disagreements occur, it’s easy to avoid confrontation and stifle your feelings. However, in my experience, this often leads to passive aggressive behavior. Most people are much more comfortable passively showing their emotions in subtle ways, but it doesn’t go unnoticed. Others see the behavior and feel the tension.
Solution: Learn how to communicate your perspective in a way that is professional and respectful. Turn conflicts into constructive discussions that push the team forward. Avoiding the problems won’t make them go away.
5. Failure to Adapt
Finally, the biggest problem I see that creates drama, is a simple failure to adapt to the quirks of others. We are all human. That means we’re inherently flawed, but also innately valuable. On any team, you will find a variety of personalities, many of which you would likely not choose to spend time with in your personal life. That’s okay; you don’t have to! But you do have to work on a team with these people.
Solution: Respect and accept your fellow teammates, warts and all. No one is perfect. Be willing to adapt your own preferences and natural inclinations for the good of the group. Let minor irritations go and compromise when necessary.
I’m not a big fan of the word “drama” when it comes to describing workplace dynamics. But I suppose it’s an accurate descriptor in some cases.
If your administrative team is experiencing drama, consider sharing these techniques in an educational setting. Do your part and remember: This is the workplace. It’s about getting a job done. We all experienced enough drama in our teenage years—and no one wants to relive those days!
Chrissy Scivicque is a career coach and corporate trainer who believes that work can be a nourishing, enriching part of the life experience. Her website, EatYourCareer.com, is devoted to that mission. You’re invited to join the FREE Eat Your Career Resource Library where you’ll gain immediate access to dozens of tools to advance your professional skills and achieve career fulfillment.
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