An Introduction to Drama: The 5 Questions to Defining It


In preparation for our upcoming Ditch the Drama™ workshop, I wanted to send out some information regarding drama. During this time we are going to analyze all of its moving parts and how to deal with it in the workplace. However, before we get into analysis, we must first gain common ground about the nature of drama. These five questions will help us get on the same page about what drama is and how it affects the workplace.


What is drama?
I have adopted my definition of drama from Purna Steinitz, a notable public speaker on drama. After listening to him speak and including a few adaptations I define drama as: anything that results in unresolved negative thoughts, beliefs, emotions, or actions.


Where does drama exist?
To round out our definition we have to give it a setting. Drama exists:

  1. Interactions with others (meetings, conflicts, conversations, transactions)
  2. Within our own minds (conscious or unconscious)


What creates drama?
Based on the work of Stephen Karpman, Drama is composed of three defining aspects:

  1. A victim
  2. A persecutor
  3. A rescuer

An example of how these come together might look like: an employee (victim) hears that another employee (persecutor) is talking negatively about them, thus going to their manager (rescuer) with the problem and the manager deals with the other employee. This can play out in a number of different ways. Victims are not always employees; rescuers are not always a person. No matter the combination it usually generates some telltale signs.


What are the symptoms or signs of drama?

  • One or more person walks away from the interaction with unresolved negative thoughts or beliefs
  • You have unresolved negative thoughts about a situation or condition in your life.


Why is it bad in the workplace or in life?
Drama is unwelcome in the workplace for a number of reasons, they include:

  • It is toxic and contagious
  • Creates a negative impact on performance and productivity
  • It is a source of unhappiness and disengagement
  • It propagates negativity
  • It can spill over to customers or uninvolved employees


Next week we are going to discuss how the roles of victim, persecutor and rescuer perpetuate drama and how those roles can be changed to diffuse the situation, often before it begins. As we dig deeper into the subject, don’t forget to sign up for the Ditch the Drama™ workshop, where Sharon Sperry and I will unravel all our secrets to creating a drama-free workplace and lifestyle.

Managing Cause For Effect

One of the major things that can create success in business is understanding that every cause has an effect and vice versa. Jamshid Gharajedaghi is an expert on “systems thinking,” which is the process of analyzing how systems function, specifically in social and biological systems. He says, “everything affects everything.” It is a deceptively simple statement. The real key is understanding how to apply it in a manner that can promote a healthy system for your business and personal life.

Knowing that everything affects everything, it is important to study what can be controlled, what cannot, and what is the desired result. Every system is subject to the environment that surrounds it. The environment is everything outside of the system that influences (either directly or indirectly) any part of the system. It cannot be controlled directly by the system and consists of things like politics, community, other people and even the weather. Understanding that the environment cannot be controlled is important, because this allows for plans to be made to compensate for it as much as possible.

Compensating for this relies on manipulating what can be controlled. There are two things that can be controlled: talent and process. Talent is the information and energy that is brought into the system. It consists of all the knowledge, skills, strengths, attributes, and disciplines you bring into the project. These can be personal talents, but in a team it is what everyone as a whole brings to the system. Selecting team members that bring different talents or developing them on your own makes a big difference in how a system works in its environment.

Processes are another thing that can be controlled. These are behaviors, action and choices developed to gain the desired result. They usually require practice and time to perfect. However, once they are thoroughly worked out, they can have a strong effect on the success of the system.

Managing all possible causes will help a system thrive in its environment. However, in order to understand how to manage them requires knowing the desired result. These results can be anything from quality, efficiency, and financial gains, to status, satisfaction and happiness. Our personal lives are just as much a system as our workplaces. Manipulating every cause that we can will help us get to our desired result in both arenas. There will certainly be rainy days, and stubborn people that we have no control over, but perfecting our system will make these obstacles overcomeable.

Gharajedaghi,Jamshid.Systems Thinking: Managing Chaos and Complexity: A Platform for Designing Business Architecture. Print.

Workplace Communication: Keep It Real

People are intrinsically built to disguise their emotions; it is human nature. However, this clouds communication and can create hindrances in the workplace. In order to be an effective communicator, it is advantageous to grab the shovel and dig out what is really going on. Doing so will give you the opportunity to find the source of the problem and work towards resolution.

Somewhere, at this very moment, thousands of employees are sitting at their desks thinking about how desperately they want to quit their jobs, even though they may not even be able to define the problem they are having. How can a resolution be reached in this type of situation?

Good employees are lost every day simply because of lack of communication. The truth is that it has to begin within ourselves. First, we must find that root feeling that is bothering us. It could be feelings of neglect, a lack of appreciation or disappointment. Identifying this root emotion is essential.

The next step is to communicate this feeling explicitly. Being honest and upfront is the most effective way to communicate your feelings successfully. However, this can be tricky and it will take practice and trust in order to let your guard down and say what is really going on. Yet, without this key point, the problem is unlikely to ever be fully resolved.

Below is a simple technique that you can put to use immediately. Instead of describing feelings as judgments (e.g. “I feel like you’re not listening to me,” “I feel like you’re too controlling”), rephrase your statements to accurately describe your feelings and nothing more (e.g. “I feel neglected,” “I feel fearful”). This simple technique practiced in the workplace (and in personal settings) can keep us from masking our feelings, placing blame and essentially avoiding to-the-point statements that clearly communicate the root issue.

Successful communication is a multi-faceted endeavor, in the workplace and beyond. It requires the participation of every member of the organization. One weak link, whether it be a disingenuous supervisor or a pent up employee, and the whole system can collapse. This is why it is important for everyone to do his or her part. When it comes to expressing emotion, be real. The results can help create a more open and forthcoming workplace.