7 Reasons Why Your Leadership Style Is Causing Workplace Drama

Co-authored with Dr. Liz Stincelli

A leader’s job is not to do the work for others, it’s to help others figure out how to do it themselves, to get things done, and to succeed beyond what they thought possible.

Simon Sinek

Workplace drama. It’s nothing new and has been around for a while. We get it. But have you ever stopped to consider the impact of such drama to your bottom line? According to an article in Success, dramatic interactions in the workplace, as cited by Gallup, costs U.S. businesses as much as $550 billion a year.

How much can your organization afford to lose due to office drama? What amount is acceptable?

It is our belief that it is the leader who is, in many ways, responsible for the level of drama that exists within your organization. Clearly, not all drama is the creation of you as a leader, but here are seven ways that your leadership stirs it up.

You hoard knowledge and information

When your people are left in the dark concerning information that they need, you leave them no choice but to speculate and talk among themselves. This can lead to unnecessary confusion, rumors, and gossip. This action on your part fans the flames of workplace drama. How can you expect your people to perform at their best when you leave them in the dark?

You make teamwork difficult

The effectiveness and productivity of your workplace are realized when your people work as a team. But your leadership style of hoarding knowledge and information could be the reason why there’s so much drama. Perhaps you play favorites and the drama and tension are just too much to overcome. Without clear directives and unity, teams will flounder.

It’s when you create an atmosphere of teamwork that your workplace will be productive and your people will be engaged. When teams are not working together it’s just a breeding ground for drama.

You pit employees against each other

As a leader, your responsibility is to bring your people together, not keep them apart. It’s when everyone knows their roles and everyone has respect for what the other contributes and brings to the table.

If an “us vs. them” mentality exists- it’s your responsibility as the leader to identify it, stop it, and correct it. As long as your people are pitted against each other there will be workplace drama.

You create a crisis so you can solve it and be seen as the hero

You, as a leader, need to be confident in your abilities and value. When leaders feel insecure they often, consciously or unconsciously, create crisis situations within their team. This allows them to step in, resolve the issue, and get the credit for being the hero. Not only does this negatively impact productivity, but your team members will also begin to see through your veiled actions and you will lose their respect as well as the respect of any other leaders you are trying to impress. This lack of respect and continually operating in crisis mode is a key contributor to drama in the workplace.

You cause strife between other departments

Success is a win-win situation. If in striving to help your team succeed, you cause strife between other departments, you are causing failure as a whole. It is your responsibility to ensure that your team works well across departments. This collective teamwork is the solid foundation that allows your organization to thrive and you to be seen as an effective leader. Constant strife between departments feeds drama in the workplace.

Your meetings always involve the same few people or the wrong people

One of the quickest ways to cause workplace drama is to continually include the same few people or the wrong people in all your meetings. Your team needs to know that they are valued; when you exclude them from meetings addressing their areas of responsibility you send a clear message that you do not see them as valuable contributors. You also start losing their trust because you appear to be secretive and manipulative; why else would you leave them out of the loop? This contributes to the poor morale and drama that, as a leader, you are always struggling against.

You embrace an environment that creates heroes and rewards them lavishly

If we spent a day in your organization, would we be able to identify the “teacher’s pets”? We believe so. Without even recognizing it, leaders often develop work environments where heroes are created and rewarded far beyond other team members. These individuals rarely shine consistently above everyone else in the organization, they have simply become the “teacher’s pet” and as such, can do no wrong. This creates resentment among other team members who work just as hard but go unnoticed and unrecognized for their efforts. Resentment fuels gossip and drama like gas to a flame.

Credit: Dilbert

A certain level of workplace drama is inevitable, but it is a productivity and morale killer. Your organization cannot afford for you, as a leader, to be creating more drama than emerges naturally from business and human interaction. Start minimizing the drama in your workplace by sharing knowledge and information, inspiring teamwork, encouraging employees to together instead of against each other, avoiding the creation of crisis situations, helping departments to work together, including the right mix of people in your meetings, and eliminating the “teacher’s pet” environment.

You are the leader; it’s time to stop stirring up workplace drama and set a good example for your employees to follow.


Doug Dickerson
Doug Dickerson
DOUG has been speaking to audiences in the U.S. and overseas for more than 30 years. Doug knows how to spin a story, make you laugh, and how to challenge your traditional ways of thinking about leadership. Most of all, Doug is committed to helping you grow as a leader. Doug is a graduate of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida and studied Clinical Pastoral Education at Palmetto Baptist Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina. While his leadership expertise has its roots in ministry and teaching. His background also includes public relations and business. Doug understands the necessity of leadership development and why creating a leadership culture in your organization is critical to your success. He is the author of four leadership books including: Leaders Without Borders, 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders, Great Leaders Wanted, It Only Takes a Minute: Daily Inspiration for Leaders on the Move, and Leadership by the Numbers. As a speaker, Doug delivers practical and applicable leadership insights with a dose of humor and authenticity that endears him to a wide range of audiences. Doug is a John Maxwell Team member.

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