I've been reading and listening to Cy Wakeman lately and enjoying her work on being “emotionally expensive.” At first, I thought this was a small subset of our colleagues and it certainly couldn't relate to me. And then, after some assessment and introspection, I realized there are lessons for all of us on avoiding workplace drama, even those who may think they're immune.
Here are some questions for you. Do you have negative reactions to caller ID names? They're emotionally expensive. Is there a box of tissues in your office for the criers? Drama. Do you have to do damage control because of things you (or others) have said? Yes, emotionally expensive. Does it take a lot of energy to deal with some colleagues? Do you allow “venting”? You can probably think of a few more easily: frequency of “bad days,” anyone?
I had thought of venting as a stress reliever—it isn't. First, it's negative, complaining with another name, especially if you're talking about someone else. Secondly, being critical of others is basically destructive. You can change the narrative. As Cy would say, what would make the situation great? Spending your time plotting greatness instead of venting is a much better use of your precious moments engaging in conversation with colleagues or staff.
Do you find yourself apologizing for overreacting, being negative, or making cynical comments? How about composing long, emotional emails of complaints or explanations? Your first email response to something that hits your “hot buttons” is most likely not positive. There's no harm in rereading, removing excess verbiage, and being upbeat. If you end with “How can I help?,” you may have hit the right tone.
Having bad days isn't okay! Well, perhaps once in a blue moon, which usually only occurs once every 2 to 3 years. No one should have to worry about what mood a colleague is in when planning the day—another sign of workplace drama.
Cy also mentions resisting change and blaming others as emotionally expensive behaviors. That energy can be used to help the team rather than hold them back. What about getting triangulated and stuck in the middle of others' drama? Not a good place to be. As the leader, everyone is looking to you for guidance, and you know how draining that can be. Step out of the triangle, pull the opposing parties together as soon as possible, and promote a drama-free environment.
We should look to ourselves first. Go deep inside and be aware of your own behaviors, actions, and words. Looking in the mirror is always the first step before leading others down the path. You can seek peer feedback as well. Lack of self-awareness in and of itself is emotionally expensive to others.
Our mission and purpose as leaders can be waylaid and impeded by overreactions, excessive emotions, and dramatic approaches. Let's be our best and help others to do the same. We don't need theater in the workplace.