Home' Connexus : Issue 46 Contents repeatedly comes in late and, because
they’re not cor rected, others start to
follow their lead.
“If you allow something to go on and
on, you’ve got a problem. Because it
wasn’t discussed early, it’s now a diffcult
conversation and it becomes a cultural
issue. 'Well, the super visor isn't going
to say anything; everyone else does it; I
work an hour extra’.”
When Chism talks about 'relationship'
being one of the root causes of workplace
drama, she doesn't mean it in the
conventional sense, rather as a mindset
or a way of thinking.
“We have a relationship with authority,
with leadership, with time, with money,”
she says. “Some people think of money
as power instead of as a tool, as security
instead of as a means of taking care of
ourselves. That's a relationship issue and
it creates drama.”
She sees this played out in sales
environments when a high performer is
managed according to the revenue they
bring in, and not held accountable for
disruptive behaviours that affect the
entire team. She calls it "beating the
other rowers with the oars”.
“They may be great at that one thing,
but they don’t contribute to the overall
mission and goals of the organisation.
And if we allow them to get away with it,
it can lead to bullying.”
This is an example of all three roots
of drama: clarity, relationship and
resistance. There is a lack of clarity
about the long-ter m outcomes, the
workplace relationships, and resistance
to having diffcult conversations.
The drama triangle
In her work Chism introduces a model
called The Karpman Drama Triangle,
to help leaders identify dysfunctional
behavioural patterns and orientations.
The three points on the triangle are
victim, persecutor and rescuer. An
enlightened leader can identify those
patterns and not fall into that game-play.
But if the manager responds or reacts to
any of the patter ns the game continues.
Chism says there is a distinction
between ‘the’ drama and ‘your’ drama.
“If you’re a victim of a storm that
ruined your home, if you were downsized
in your job, that’s the drama. It happened
and you didn’t have any control over it.
“In contrast, your drama is how you
respond to choices that you have. You
may not like those choices, and you
have every right to your grief, but if it’s
prolonged, if the resistance is keeping
you there, you have to accept the loss
and then make the choice to start moving
again and get out of your drama.”
Similarly, if the manager doesn’t help
the victim fnd their own choices in
dealing with the drama, they contribute
to the continuation of the dysfunction.
The key is to empower employees by
helping them recognise their choices.
Chism says, “Responsibility is the
recognition of choice.”
Resistance and navigating change
The third root cause of workplace drama
is resistance. Or as Chism prefers, "non-
acceptance of what is and the inability or
unwillingness to see choices.”
Resistance often occurs when managers
fail to “lay the tracks” for change.
“If you spring change on people, they
don’t have time to process it. The frst
thing they think of is ‘What’s going to
happen to my job?’ So lay the tracks and
set a vision, get people engaged in that,
and use their wisdom and knowledge.”
Chism cautions against 'verbal ping
pong' when up against resistance.
Verbal ping pong happens when you
are coaching an employee and they
debate or distract you, she says. For
example, you try to infuence someone to
apologise to a co-worker or client, and
they make excuses such as: “I already
know what she’s going to say” and “She’s
just a bully”.
Don't get pulled in to the argument.
What they are really saying is: You don’t
understand my shark!
The question to ask is, “Are you willing
to apologise anyway?” Your goal in
coaching is to see at what point you can
create movement by their willingness.
If you keep getting road blocks,
obstacles or excuses, you have not
Once you get a frm “Yes, I’m willing…”
then you have shifted the energy and
"Willingness is the fulcrum point
of change. Until there is willingness
nothing else happens.
“To fnd the place of willingness,
the language should be: 'I understand
your point of view; it sounds like you’re
The skills involved include listening,
acknowledging their reality, and helping
them to focus on the outcome and accept
responsibility for their role in the needed
shift,” Chism says.
Cyndi Tebbel is a freelance writer.
me about an
value or is causing
problems, but they can't
pinpoint why. When they
don't understand what's
happening or what they
want to happen, that
contributes to the lack of
Marlene Chism, Author
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