Enterprise Software

Leave the drama to actors


I have a relative (looks over shoulder) whose everyday life experience is a drama. Nothing is just ordinary or boring -- EVERYTHING is a production, every problem a crisis. I bet you know someone just like this. Needless to say, this behavior carries over to her work world. I know she is a very hard worker and she is very skilled at what she does -- but I can also imagine what she is like to supervise.

As a supervisor of someone who exhibits these traits, you are put into a situation similar to the townsfolk in the story of the little boy who cried wolf. With everything being a drama or a crisis -- how do you know when there is a real crisis? Furthermore, how can you actually judge how a person is doing in regards to their workload, if every response to a stimulus is drama?

As a manager, I try to make sure my staff is challenged, but I do not want to burn them out. As a manager, I also know that I have staff that will go "above and beyond" and work themselves until they are "crispy" around the edges. I try to gauge how close they are coming to crispy during "plate checks," which are reviews of their workload, as well as the quality of my day-to-day interaction with them. However, if you combine the drama king/queen behavior with the hard worker's intense desire to please, suddenly, I am in a quandary. Because I do not know what to believe - what the employee tells me or the behavior I observe.

Before someone takes this the wrong way, let me point out that we all act out at work sometimes. Perhaps more so during some periods than others; after all, we're human and we all have to release pressure. When I say act out, I don't necessarily mean yelling or screaming, but perhaps being more dramatic than we normally are or complaining more than we usually do. This is perfectly normal. However, if it gets to the point where people around you cannot distinguish between what is extraordinary and what is normal behavior -- that can be a problem.

Getting back to my relative, she has complained to me that she has been passed over for promotion and cannot see why because she performs well and gets good evaluations. In fact, she believes that she does her job better than the people that were promoted over her. I listen politely but usually don't say much other than perhaps they (her supervisors) were looking at other qualities that are harder to quantify.

Inside, I am thinking, well of course! Perhaps it's just my quirk, but I like my managers to try to be as level-headed as possible. I need to know when there is a real crisis that requires my attention and when a situation is just a regular workday problem.

Her dramatic behavior hurts her in a number of ways that she doesn't realize -- such as the possibility of being passed over for promotions. Another is that people have a hard time taking such persons seriously, always believing that they are just crying wolf again. And if that personality type happens to supervise other employees (like my relative), then there are other problems: Employees may be fearful of their reactions or simply discount them as impossible to work with.

All of this is terribly unfortunate, because my relative has some real skill and finding a way to address her behavior constructively might cause her to tone it down a degree or two in the workplace be appreciated for the hard worker she really is.

As managers, we have to deal with a lot of personalities. It goes without saying that some are more challenging than others. This one is tricky because it combines a strong work ethic (positive) with a flair for the dramatic (not so much). For those of us that have to deal with this type of employee, we need to be able to develop a "baseline" of their behavior so that we can determine what is out of the ordinary and what isn't. We also have to make sure that this employee is secure enough in the relationship with you that they will tell you when things are REALLY not alright. All of this depends on good communication between supervisor and employee.

Having said all of that, this is not easy behavior to change. It is more of a personality type - and as managers we are not clinicians, we just need to make sure we can get the best out of each employee as possible. In the case of my relative, that may be the exact place she is in and that's where her supervisor keeps her. I will continue to go along and be sympathetic (trust me, it is not my place to try to open her eyes to the situation) and enjoy her as a human being; unfortunately I have to take each thing she says with a grain of salt and if it is important, verify the information.

As supervisors, this may be the best we can do as well -- and if the employee is performing -- so be it. If you happen to be one of these dramatic types yourself, realize that sometimes the glass ceilings we bump into are self-created. In order to break through them, you are going to have to outperform your own drama. A good example of this is Terrell Owens of the Dallas Cowboys. T.O. has great skill as a wide receiver. However, his penchant for drama has clouded his image so much that it has overshadowed his performance. In my opinion, if he doesn't have some outstanding years with the Dallas Cowboys, he can forget about demanding the kinds of salaries he is accustomed to in the future. However, if he can cut back on the drama and perform to his ability - he may just get to the next level in his career.

12 comments
hafizullah
hafizullah

Many people derive their sense of self --- even to their felt-sense of /existing/ --- from the amplitude of their emotions. These sorts of people will resist suggestion that they dampen the melodrama; it's like telling them that there is no room for them at all. They may need the coaching of a therapist to find a better balance.

carolyn
carolyn

I am living this situation. All I can do is say a little prayer. My co-worker has not been given any duties as a manager and is a coordinator. I know the difference because a long time ago I was a coordinator that was promoted to being a manager when upper management saw that I was reasonable with people. Actually I feel sorry for this person who wants what they want when they want it and demostrates no ability to view projects top down and develop and assess priorities. I actually feel bad when I have to cut issues down to process and take the emotions out. This person feels really bad but keeps on doing the same thing over and over again.

jdepascale
jdepascale

Having to work with a few drama kings and queens, I wholeheartedly agree. Also, I just LOVE how the drama adds unnecessary stress to an already long workday. I find that this type of worker tends to work well within a rigid structure which is rare in my environment. They also seem relunctant, and at times, incapable of making a decision even if it is within their power. This is where I see much of the drama starting.

luther
luther

It?s true! There is no age limit to being an idiot. IT-Idiots are usually the worst amongst all idiots. If you think about it, you would have seen or work with an IT-Idiot at some point in your career. IT-Idiot are usually egocentric people. In most cases IT-Idiots have mastered a repetitive work process, such as fix a printer or run a backup or install software or create Active Directory membership based on the company policy and very proud of it. Yes! IT-Idiots are usually good at what they do sometimes. That?s all they know anyway. IT-Idiots are usually very hesitant and reluctant to change because they are incapable of pioneering independent thinking or solutions. IT-Idiot will run up to the boss and complain bitterly as soon a single process changes. They have to! You are invading their domain, there stronghold,---an area they think they have mastered and captured for good. IT-Idiots are usually less educated (minimum of an associate degree) they acquired through technical training and therefore are resentful of people with higher degrees---who are usually much more adventurous and willing to try new things or find solutions that fit or solve local solutions. Perhaps I am being na?ve here, but I think it is safe to say that in terms of having access to materials and information regarding how to solve daily IT issues, the environment has never been richer but IT-idiots are also resentful of finding solutions that are not native to them. There are many ways to ?kill a cat,? but IT-Idiots don?t like that as well. IT-Idiots are also very resentful of new hires because new hires---, in most cases usually arrived with their own idiosyncrasies or ways to go about fixing or troubleshooting daily IT issues. IT-Idiots are also very narrow-minded. If they have never seen a solution or an IT-situation in their perennial years of experience (usually less than 3 years), it must not be normal. The last IT-Idiot I worked with disagreed with everything I say or do. An example was when he disagreed that a terminal server could become inaccessible to normal users if the previous users failed to formally log off their sessions. Such a situation will produce a message that says something to the effect that ?you have exceeded normal user logon?. The solutions are (1.) a simple re-boot of the terminal server, (2). Log into the server and kill the sessions that are still running. When you ask an IT-Idiot a simple question about a process they usually reply with a question of their own, especially if they have no idea what you are talking about. For fear of being seen as unintelligent or not as good as they claimed to be, IT-Idiot usually become defensive when a new hire make suggestions. Of all the smart IT people that I have seen, the usually truly smart once doesn?t even know that they are smart. Unlike the IT-Idiots, the usually smart IT people just want to get the job done. They listened when you ask questions, they are eager to learn from you. They want to see how things are done elsewhere and they understand the concepts of there are many ways to ?kill a cat,? but IT-Idiots don?t like that. IT-Idiots usually complain at every turn of event, run to the boss within a twinkle of an eye and make a big deal of a simple mistake of others. To the IT-Idiots, it is always a crises situation. The point is that, an IT-Idiot forgets that his current co-workers (maybe) were not around when he/she (the IT-idiot) was making his/her own mistakes of trial-and-error learning---three years prior and none of the current workers were around (in most cases) to criticizes his/her msitakes at that time. A departmental IT-Idiot will show up early morning------into a vast office full of other IT-workers without saying good morning or speaking to anyone---because, in his little egocentric mind ?I know everybody needs me but I don?t need anyone of you? attitudes. IT-Idiots think that technology is more about them than the business they support and the patient users that uses those technologies. Former CIO Harwell Thrasher who has spent over 30 years working in and around IT organizations: as a developer of information systems, as a manager of software development groups, and as a technology vice-president said recently that ?IT is more about people than about technology and that most IT problems come from the misunderstanding caused by some egocentric IT personnel.? I likened Mr. Thrasher?s summation to an IT-Idiot for short. After working with an IT-Idiot for weeks, you start to wonder if he/she might not be happier working in a family grocery business. At least then everyone would look just like him, think like him and like ?a red neck? that he is---will expect everyone to have his best interests as their primary focus. I urge you to be careful! Two wrongs don?t make a right. Perfection is elusive, how you handle diversity, and even tyrannical co-workers including ?everything is a crisis? IT-Idiots are part of being a professional. So much of what we do is ultimately judged on perception that we must develop a way to cope with unreasonable situations and difficult personalities as a pre-requisite for the job. What do you think?

MakingITclear
MakingITclear

Just so no one gets the wrong impression, I'm being misquoted in Luther's comment. What I said was, "I've always believed that IT is more about people than about technology, and that most IT problems come from misunderstandings between business and technology people." I don't believe that IT people are any more egocentric than any other part of the population. There are all kinds of people in IT, just as there are all kinds of people in business. Harwell Thrasher www.makingITclear.com

IT cowgirl
IT cowgirl

The IT person(s) you are describing exhibits ADD and/or Asperger's Syndrome, which s highly prevelent in the IT field. It has nothing to do with education or personality and you are mistaking these symptoms for purposeful thoughts and behavior. You should not rush to judge others by you own standards, but take people as they are.

M_Ski
M_Ski

In an attempt to tie this back into the original subject: If you are not "well liked" by your managers and the folks you come into contact with, your competence will never be acknowledged, much less rewarded. I can identify with your frustration. I generally change jobs every 18 months or so. It seems like there is one of these characters everywhere. I disagree on a few points: The character you are referring to in many cases is the only one with any longevity (even though (s)he is unable / unwilling to pass along anything useful), and often is the recipient of a much higher salary than the transient grunts who actually accomplish the organizations's goals. (Me, of course...;) While it is mystifying at first, eventually you will come to the realization that this character type is the only individual in the IT department who is "liked" by the staff and ("highly educated") managers who are not in the IT department... You (We) really are your own worst enemy.

levi.rogers
levi.rogers

Could it be that you are overreacting, maybe you are dramatizing this situation. I agree with a few of your points, however, I think you are missing the point of the article. This article wasn't written about people that are stuck in there ways, or people who refuse change within there IT department; this article was written about people just like you, that take a situation which could be overcome with a bit of patience and possible some understanding and turn it into a big dramatic event. For example: You could have written the above tirade in a couple of sentences not in a full page epic saga of your poor situation. As I said above you just showed that you are exactly the type of worker that this article was referencing, you would do well to read this article and take something from it.

gagandeep.singh
gagandeep.singh

Drama to actors In my view its necessary to be level headed at managerial positions, being dramatic is creates allot of negative stress in the team and affects the work environment. Being dramatic can be good but then it should be in control and also allot depends on what type career the being is pursuing.

iain
iain

I've encountered something like this in the past. The employee in question was a good performer but was dragging everyone else down. They had a number of very annoying traits, one of which was a constant running commentary: ?Pressing this, typing this, omg whats happinging now? why is it doing that?? all very loudly. I had to act in the only way possible ? I confronted them in a private, stating what I had observed. I did this in a very neutral way and asked them how they thought their behaviour affected everyone else. It could have gone one of two ways and in the first instance they were every positive and made an initial improvement. Then the old habits crept back in and I had to speak to them again. This cycle repeated several times and the employee accused me bullying them. Fortunately I had been very calm about it all and on a few of the later meeting I had taken a reprehensive from personnel to take notes and the accusation of bullying was dismissed. In the end the person in question moved on and is driving staff at their new company mad. A sad fact of life I think. As a manager I have to treat everyone as an individual to get the best from them but when a staff member ?to much of an individual? and is constantly disruptive action has to be take to ensure the whole team isn?t dragged down. Just remember not to act purely on what other staff members say ? observe the behaviour yourself. Then confront the staff member in a dignified way and in private with what you have seen. And, most important of all, keep calm and remember you are trying to help them.

johnolson
johnolson

Allow me to point out one area that seemed to be missing in your conversation with that employee. Your quote: "I confronted them in a private, stating what I had observed. I did this in a very neutral way and asked them how they thought their behavior affected everyone else. It could have gone one of two ways and in the first instance they were every positive and made an initial improvement." This a proper, emotionally mature way of dealing with this person. I commend you on your respectful approach. If I may, one area of the conversation that I felt was missing with the problem employee is.... Instead of just asking how the employee's actions affected others, we should always remember to ask the reason WHY they are behaving this way. As is stated in another post farther down on this list: "Many people derive their sense of self --- even to their felt-sense of /existing/ --- from the amplitude of their emotions. These sorts of people will resist suggestion that they dampen the melodrama; it's like telling them that there is no room for them at all." What ever the reason for the behavior is: SOMETIMES, asking why may help to identify a more lasting solution to the problem.

TownsendA
TownsendA

Drama kings/queens limit their upward mobility. To start with they get results because of their whining and moaning,but done too often labels start to stick. Some managers and fellow workers can take it, many cannot. They have to be put in their place despite their "worth" to the organisation, one that actually diminishes over time as their behaviour gets worse. One experience on taking a new position was that everybody in one Dept reported to me except a person who did such a good job and who threatened to resign if she did not continue to report to the big boss. They should have let her go. She just upset the whole apple cart. The one rotten apple spoiled it for everyone else.