Every office has a drama queen - a man or woman who saps your energy, demands constant attention and who responds to events in theatrical attention grabbing ways.
While there are strategies for dealing with this type of behaviour, experts say the problem may be getting worse at work as the cultural influence of reality television normalises attention-seeking behaviour.
Laura Raines in The Atlanta Constitution-Journal says reality TV and what passes for political commentary programs have made it all the more acceptable to make a fuss over seemingly minor issues.
Amanda Mitchell, founder of Our Corporate Life, a company that advises businesses on organisational, interpersonal and ethical issues adds: “In my opinion the ‘drama queen and king’ problem is getting worse. The prevalence of reality TV has made it acceptable for almost anyone to ‘act out’ in the office. There have always been ‘drama queens’ at work, but it seems that they are more accepted and that there are more of them now.”
Mitchell says that political commentary shows where guests yell opposing views at each other with no real interaction or attempt at resolution is influencing the office environment.
Ophelia Austin-Small in Scientific American, says drama queens might actually have personality disorders. There is even some evidence, she says, that their brains are wired up differently - all of which would make them harder to handle.
Certainly workplaces now are a lot more fluid, the rules tend to be more relaxed and things are a bit more casual. That’s all good but it also gives people like that a bit more space.
The magazine suggests some commonsense strategies like, setting boundaries on the length of the interaction and the exact ground to be covered, staying calm at all times despite their hysteria, and creating a paper or email trail.
Marlene Chism tells CareerBuilder that there are several ways to handle the problem. The first is to make sure you get support from the top. If managers allow that sort of behavior to happen and look the other way, it might be important to talk to them about it. Secondly, it’s important to clarify roles and responsibilities, particularly if the drama queen is doing things they are not supposed to do. That’s where it’s important to have backing from the top.
Another tactic is to initiate difficult conversations. That would also mean you taking responsibility for your role in the interaction and blow-up. In conversations like that, it always helps to try and see it from their perspective.
Setting boundaries and having some sort of appropriate discipline would also help.
I have some other suggestions. The most obvious is not to ask the drama queen how they’re feeling, because they will tell you - and it will be an opera so don’t even go there. It’s best to keep the conversation as professional as possible.
Another tip is to watch what you say very carefully. One of the things I’ve noticed with drama queens - in fact anyone with a personality disorder - is that they have very good antenna and pick up subtle emotional cues that others miss.
And finally, enjoy the performance and appreciate them for what they are. Drama queens can enliven dull meetings and crack great jokes. It’s like getting a front row seat to the theatre.
How do you deal with drama queens in your office?