The Drama Triangle: A Short Fable

Joan, the town gossip and self-appointed supervisor of the community’s morals, kept sticking her nose into other people’s business. Several local residents were unappreciative of her behaviors but feared her enough to stay silent.

However, Joan made the mistake of recently accusing George, a local man, of being an alcoholic after she saw his pickup parked outside the town’s only bar one afternoon.

George, a dedicated Christian and man of few words, was confronted with this gossip by a concerned friend. He just stared for a second and then walked away without saying a word.

Later that evening, George parked his pickup in front of Joan’s house, walked home and left it there all night.

Joan’s gossiping ceased.

There is always going to be some drama. People have to talk with each other and to think that there will be no miscommunication of any kind is simply unrealistic. To think there’s no chance that someone will assume the role of unappointed keeper of righteousness at some point, is also unrealistic. There will always be that one person, whose personal drama is so severe that the only way they can compensate is to transfer that drama onto everyone and into every environment around them.

This story is very reminiscent of drama that goes on in the workplace every day. However, healthy drama is one thing; toxic drama is quite another. The reaction of most employees to toxic drama is much like the residents of this fabled community.

Unfortunately, the reaction of some leaders is much like those residents, as well. Their lack of reaction is also out of fear, along with an attitude of this too shall pass. This kind of avoidance leadership is not going to cut it.

If you scan the Internet for the term drama, you’ll find all the so-called experts classifying this topic under the banner of relationships. I get that, which is why I maintain that some healthy drama is unavoidable, if not even necessary.

However, the toxic drama I’m talking about is the kind that’s used as a weapon out of the need to disrupt or to inflict pain. I’ve been on the receiving end of that kind of drama on two different occasions in my career. It had nothing to do with my relationship to the gossip mongers and everything to do with their desire to avoid accountability for poor job performance.

Truth Be Told, the only way to deal with that kind of drama is to confront it, get to the context of it and make like Barney Fife, which is to nip it in the bud!

Published by The Leadership Consortium

Maxie Carpenter was formerly Vice President of HR & Talent Development for Wal-Mart Stores. After a 27-year career, he began to pursue a number of other interests, which included alternative education, nonprofits, consulting, writing and public speaking.

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