20 Sep 2011


This guest blog is contributed by Marlene Chism, a professional speaker, trainer and the author of Stop Workplace Drama, (Wiley 2011). Marlene has master’s degree in HR development and she works with leaders who want to run their office with no complaints, no excuses and no regrets. For more information visit www.marlenechism.com or the web at www.stopworkplacedrama.com.


Negativity in the workplace is a virus that contributes to lost time, absenteeism, low morale and a host of preventable problems.  Before you take a personality assessment,  before judging your employees as incompetent, and before beating yourself up for getting drawn into the drama, take a look to see if one or more of these five areas are contributing to the negative workplace relationships.


No Policies and Procedures

When employees don’t understand the rules, or when there is no consistency in how a job is performed the eventual result is confusion and chaos which leads to bickering, and the familiar argument, “that’s not my job.”


The solution: Create standard operating procedures and solid policies. Tweak quarterly and review once a year. Be sure to connect the dots so that each person understands how the job she does contributes to the whole.


Lack of Boundaries

If your door is open all day long to welcome gossip and tattling, not only will you be time challenged, you are unconsciously encouraging a problem and workplace drama.


The Solution: Change your open door policy from any time to specific hours and preferably by appointment. This prevents casual visits to vent or tattle.


Lack of Communication

When employees don’t understand why you are making the decisions you make, they feel out of the loop.  Consider this: When you don’t know what island you are rowing to or why you are rowing, it’s easy to lose motivation.


The solution: Regular updates via memo, meeting, or other modes of communication. Set small goals that are challenging but reachable, then celebrate success. When people experience a sense of contribution and a clear direction, they work together and feel a sense of purpose in their work.


Seeing Everything as a Problem

The drama triangle, which I talk about in my book Stop Workplace Drama includes three dysfunctional positions that contribute to drama: The victim, the rescuer and the persecutor.  What they all have in common is coming from a problem-orientation.


Solution: Start viewing the situation as an opportunity to grow. Encourage problem solving instead of complaining. When an employee comes to you with a complaint, acknowledge the complaint, then schedule the employee to come back with all the facts, how the problem impacts productivity, and an idea or potential solution.


A Workaholic Culture

There seems to be a collective agreement that there is not enough time, therefore to make up for it, we skip breaks, work over time and then some day, we believe there will be a chance for rest.  This is a myth that contributes to massive mistakes, irritability, and rude behavior.


Solution: Require rest and rejuvenation. Managing energy is crucial to peak performance and productivity. Make regular breaks mandatory at least every two hours to maximize effectiveness and improve attitudes and workplace relationships.




Special thanks to Marlene Chism of Stop Workplace Drama for this great blog.  I’m especially fond of the Drama Triangle and see this play out in organizations everywhere.  In my book, “Don’t Bring It to Work” I reference these three patterns, plus 10 other common patterns in the workplace. Thanks again to Marlene for her talents and expertise.

One Response to Five Things that Contribute to Workplace Negativity
  1. Marlene – I really enjoyed this guest post.. Which is ironic, since it’s about negativity! But I guess it’s not that ironic since the part I enjoyed was the advice you gave on how to fix things and get rid of all that negative energy – because no one wants that, right?? :)

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