Why do some workers turn everything into a melodrama? The tendency to overreact can be a natural personality trait, but in general, "the office drama queen or king needs a lot of attention."
“And, the Oscar for best dramatic performance by a team member in a supporting role goes to … ”
Got someone on your staff whose flair for the theatrical could rival Cate Blanchett? When this aspiring diva is oversharing vivid details of her latest marital crisis, loudly lamenting a new company policy or turning the search for a lost document into a “Mission Impossible” hunt, the one thing she isn’t doing is her job. And worse yet, the person wastes everyone else’s time and energy, too.
Why do some workers turn everything into a melodrama? The tendency to overreact can be a natural personality trait.
Other drama lovers simply find it enjoyable to introduce chaos or excitement to a dull environment. However, one main reason behind the behavior stands out.
“In general, the office drama queen or king needs a lot of attention,” says executive coach Kathi Elster, co-author of “Mean Girls at Work” and co-host of the podcast “My Crazy Office.”
“They are needy and will go to great lengths to get the attention they seek. They can create drama around others or just about themselves so that everyone is listening, looking and paying attention to them.”
Unfortunately, what may begin as one person’s desire for attention can turn into the whole office’s problem. A project that should have taken an hour may now take two. The drama creator may sidetrack progress with head-turning gossip.
Or he may make an overly impassioned case for implementation of his own ideas after the group has already reached a consensus.
Maybe he’ll even unleash a string of outlandish “what if” scenarios to elevate his colleagues’ stress level. Each case offers the same result — attention shifted in his direction.
Besides the toll on productivity, such behavior can create an uncomfortable environment. Workers may scurry when they see the drama queen coming for fear of being sucked into a lengthy-but-useless conversation. Innocent bystanders get nervous about becoming characters in this person’s play when she decides to start a scene. Morale and team cohesiveness can suffer.
Managers looking to put an end to the dramatics may want to be sure to recognize the worker in question for positive workplace contributions.
Getting attention in this manner may decrease the need to act out. You even can try offering some appropriate outlets.
“Look for opportunities to give this person a way to gain attention and shine,” Elster says. “This kind of person can do well in sales and public speaking. Let them organize events, and then give them public acknowledgment.”
Another tactic is to let the person know that theatrical behavior won’t be tolerated because of its negative impact on office life.
As Elster notes, “When a manager sees this person drawing unnecessary attention to themselves or causing a problem that is not necessary, they should bring it to the drama queen/king’s attention and address this as a problem that needs to stop at work. When reviewing this kind of person, give real life examples of when this person caused an unnecessary drama, and let them know that this behavior is unwanted.”
Lastly, encourage staff members not to fuel the fire with questions, sympathy, or interest.
When others calmly walk away and refuse to add to the performance, the scene gets cut short. Who wants to perform to an empty house?