I’m sure each of us could think of (at least) one or two people who have the ability to turn every situation into a crisis. Whether at home or at work, the sky is always falling for these individuals! The problem is their issues can escalate into our issues if we aren’t careful. There are many avenues to explore why a person may have dramatic tendencies, but that starts to delve into the realm of psychology which is not something I am an expert in. However, I do know a little something about workplace dynamics and the impact a dramatic personality may have on the group or the team.
When someone has an overabundance of drama in his or her life or personality, it absolutely will affect others around them. Drama attracts attention, time, focus and resources – not one of those items do we want to divert from our team objectives. As leaders, we have to do two things: 1. Temper the impact of the dramatic person and 2. Make sure we do not get caught up in or become the dramatic person! I am not going to try to suggest that leaders alter the personalities of their team members – that is way beyond the scope of our calling. However, as with any partner within a group, we must control and define behavior. Every single one of us has our own personality quirks, but the leader establishes the standards and expectations of behavior for everyone on the team, regardless of personal issues. When someone steps outside of the defined rules of behavior, the leader must take action.
In an earlier blog, I reviewed one of the pitfalls of leadership – trying to solve everyone’s problems. When it comes to dramatic personalities, there are problems all the time; it can become very time-consuming and distracting if the leader takes on the role of personal problem solver. The focus for leaders has to be on the overall team goals and evaluating if the issues presented will impact those goals. If so, the leader needs to address the problems; otherwise, the leader should de-escalate the situation and remove the problem from the table. Unfortunately, it is possible that we, as the leaders, may get swept up into the drama ourselves, which would be undesirable. Once we become wrapped up in the fury and emotion of drama, we lose sight of the big picture and guiding the team as a whole. This could be disastrous for our leadership skills with effects like a loss of trust by team members, lack of confidence by other leaders or maybe a failure to complete the goals at hand.
When it comes to drama, I suggest leaders be the cold bucket of water on the hot fire. While some problems are legitimate crisis-level items, too many can be like crying wolf. Leaders have to have the strategic and tactical thinking to separate out what is truly worth worrying about and then defusing anything else. Not an easy responsibility for leaders but one that is well worth it to keep the entire team’s attention pointed in the right direction.
– Lori Buresh
CEO, The Professional Development Team