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How to Avoid Toxic Workplace Drama

- January 1, 2017
Only you can prevent workplace drama

“Yumi said that Malcolm said that Juan doesn’t like you.”

“Oh really? Maybe if I sucked up to snobby Juan the way Malcolm does, I would be appreciated.”

“Yeah, that’s what everyone else thinks too. Hey, want to know a secret about Yumi?”

Do you ever catch yourself having conversations like this? These gossip sessions may seem harmless, but you’re actually creating workplace drama. And it can be addicting. Workplace drama can distract you from stress, make you feel important (you know, for possessing such juicy gossip), and release feel-good chemicals that make you want to keep talking.

In the heat of the moment, the temptation to engage in workplace drama can be strong. And in workplaces where boredom, bickering, or internal competition run high, the temptation can be literally impossible to resist.

That’s why we curated the five best tips to help you stay away from the toxic behavior and encourage healthier communication at your job. Read on, and good luck!

Credit coworkers with positive intentions

When you find yourself questioning the behavior of someone around you (Why would Malcolm tell Yumi that? Is Yumi spreading rumors about me? Why would Juan, my boss, not like me?), assume the person had a positive intention. Doing so, argues Erika Andersen of Forbes, will reduce hostility and encourage collaboration. Before you leap to a negative conclusion, consider the possibility of a miscommunication, or assume the person in question is having an off day. (Maybe Malcolm slipped that out by accident, and felt bad about it. Perhaps Yumi wanted to tell me, but didn’t know how to go about it. Juan values strong work ethic, so maybe I need to improve in that area.) Better yet, call or contact the person directly to ask if everything is okay. Keep assuming a positive intention. You will feel calmer and reach a resolution more quickly.  

Use your own behavior to set an example

When those around you are spreading rumors — or engaging in bullying, baiting, backstabbing, or exclusion — refrain from participating. Steer them toward wiser alternatives by using your own behavior to show how it’s done. Encourage your coworkers to assume good intentions as well.

Think back to the opening example. When your coworker reports that “Yumi said that Malcolm said that Juan doesn’t like you,” try a different approach. “Really? Malcolm’s a respectful guy. Maybe I need to set up a meeting with Juan to get to the bottom of this.”

Take action when necessary

Malcolm says that he heard that Juan, your boss, doesn’t like you. You can brush this off as toxic workplace drama and just focus on working hard, but you can also choose to take action. You can start by asking Malcolm why he said this, or you can ignore it.  But in either case, make your decision and then stand by it. If you choose to let it rest, don’t lose the next three nights of sleep wondering what will become of your job. If you decide to confront the issue, go all the way; don’t lose your nerve at the threshold.

Wait it out

Most drama blows over with time. Rumors, fears, crushes, and squabbles tend to rush into our worlds, take over our lives, and disappear within a few weeks. Whatever social ups and downs you’re going through, they’re likely to fade before your next three-day weekend. If you can stay steady and breathe through the initial rush of feeling, then the current issue — like most issues — will probably take care of itself. So, for example, don’t stress over how many people Yumi might have told. Instead, focus on doing your best work yet. Anyone who heard will probably forget it faster than you expect. Remember that you care about your reputation more than anyone else.  

Be fearless

At the same time, some problems will not solve themselves. In this case, you need to take bold steps. In this example, your job might be at stake. Maybe just focusing on improving your work performance will prevent this from happening. On the other hand, you might feel better if you clear the air. Similarly, you might want to ask Malcolm and Yumi to approach you first next time. If you can’t ignore the problem, face it head on. Get it solved.

For more on how to navigate a socially complex workplace while keeping your career in motion, use the tools available at MyPerfectResume.

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