How to Avoid Office Drama

One of the best decisions you can make in your life is to choose to not get involved in petty office drama. Unfortunately, no matter how close-knit you are with your coworkers, you’re still going to struggle to keep your cool and your dignity, when it seems like everybody around you is acting like they’re in a time-jump episode of Gossip Girl.

Limiting your interactions with catty colleagues to work-only conversations will do little to help you keep from being sucked into the black hole. Your challenge is to rise above the office drama at work while preserving your relationship with your colleagues. I have a few tips for keeping the conversation positive and staying out of office drama at work that would take up your valuable time.

Avoid the Office Drama Instigators

office drama how to avoid

We all have enjoyed our free refill of fresh and voyeuristic office drama. People who love to gossip at work will stop by your cubicle and expect you to fan the flames while they dish the dirt. Call it what you may but you’re still being held prisoner by a productivity drainer.

Workplace expert Lind Swindling, JD, CSP, in her book, Stop Complainers and Energy Drainers, shared eye-opening results from her survey on unnecessary workplace drama. According to the survey results, 78 percent of participants spend three to six hours a week listening to complainers.

The more you hang out with the bunch, the more time you’ll waste on toxic conversations. Workplace gossip will add little to no value to your perceived worth at work.

Find a way polite to put an end to this misery. For me, it is: “You know what Miles, I’d love to sit and chat, but I’m on a tight deadline and I need to get back to work. Some other time, maybe?” works like a charm.

“It’s none of my business, darling.”

how to avoid workplace office drama

What do you do when your favorite escape-phrase fails to work? You want to treat everyone equally and respectfully but there’s no end to this office drama. You can’t use your favorite escape-phrase to get out a work situation where you’re forced to pass judgment on a particular person or a situation at work.

Let’s say someone on your team says, “Katie’s marketing idea was quite shoddy. I wonder if her proposal got approved because she’s the boss’s friend.” Even if you agree, try to say something diplomatic like: “She seems really overwhelmed. I think she has a lot on her plate.”

If you can’t think of a way to avoid taking sides, just change the subject.

Follow this rule and you’ll avoid workplace drama without offending anyone at work. A workplace without drama is happier, efficient, and more productive.

Avoid Toxic Venting

office drama toxic venting

Venting isn’t uncommon – in fact, it is seen as a healthy way to express frustration in the workplace. But when you start sharing your stresses and annoyance of work with a chatty colleague, you’re spreading your personal business around the office, without any intention of figuring out how to fix the problems.

As for people on the other side of the coin, venting is the easiest way to fall down the rabbit hole. You may want to listen to the litany of woes to help your work buddy heal and move forward. But often, you become an accomplice to toxic conversations that can wreck careers and reputations.

But, venting isn’t just about complaining. When a person becomes fixated on other person’s faults, they often resort to name-calling, criticisms, and put-downs that create even more chaos. It’s telling the same story from a victim’s point of view where the other person seems lazy and stupid. The victims often make comparisons to another person or imply they don’t deserve the respect or position at work.

It is important to be selective about who you are sharing your personal thoughts with while you’re on the clock. If you’re speaking to a coworker you don’t know that well, it is advisable to help them find productive solutions.

Take a Pausehow to avoid office drama

Let’s say, you are in a meeting where your coworker seems to be attacking you or your work. So, what do you do? You get entangled in no-win, passive-aggressive debate mirroring their hostility. Couple this with previous conflicts and the pressure of deadlines, and you have yourself a recipe for workplace drama.

Whenever emotions come into play, practice the “take a pause” mantra to clear out any noise.

This advice should also come helpful when you receive a rude email at work. You could resort to the more passive-aggressive approach, where you immediately fire off a haughty reply – CCing a few key executives to make your points clear. You’re annoyed and everybody knows the reason. Suddenly, everyone is sharing their personal opinion on the matter and taking sides on what’s now a workplace conflict.

Rather, take the high road, and more importantly, learn to stay calm and diplomatic. This would allow you to hear perspectives, ideas, and opinions of your coworkers. Your calm approach also projects that you are conducting yourself professionally while maintaining professional boundaries.

“Can we talk?”

avoid office dramaSometimes it’s easier to sit and talk rather than digging on misunderstandings. While you might be tempted to complain to your boss about a coworker’s behavior, take a deep breath and give the offending coworker a chance to address the behavior. Ideally, take time to sit down and have a chat to understand your coworker’s perspective.

Often, we run away from resolving a workplace conflict out of fear of insulting or upsetting the coworker. But if you don’t bring up an issue that should be resolved immediately, you’re denying yourself and your coworker a chance to grow. You mustn’t make HR do all the heavy-lifting, rather ensure that you’re taking ownership of the situation. Over time you’ll learn that verbal communication leaves less room for misinterpretation and is one of the best approaches to reach a mutual solution while leaving feelings intact.

Workplace drama can result in low morale, reduced productivity, and diminished innovation. According to a survey, valuable employees spend as much as an additional six hours of work per week on productivity drainers like a venting coworker or a workplace conflict. This equates to a total of $10.1 billion on wasted hours per week, and more than $505 billion a year, according to Linda Byars Swindling, author of Stop Complainers and Energy Drainers: How to Negotiate Work Drama to Get More Done.

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Priyansha Mistry
Currently editor at The HR Digest Magazine. She helps HR professionals identify issues with their talent management and employment law. | Priyansha tweets at @PriyanshaMistry

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