Dysfunction in the workplace: Are you ready and willing to end it now?

by External25 Sep 2013

The cost and consequences of dysfunction in the workplace cannot be understated. Michelle Ray outlines why it exists and what can be done to control it.

Understanding and managing drama in the workplace is a concern shared by leaders and individuals alike.

Not only is it emotionally draining, the cost and consequences cannot be understated. In fact, one of the key reasons for soaring levels of workplace disengagement links directly to the existence of dysfunctional workplace relationships.

Drama occurs because we are emotional beings. We have a desire for self-expression and unfortunately, due to stress and overwhelm, we all have the capacity to display the worst version of ourselves from time to time.

However, some of our colleagues and managers not only HAVE problems, they ARE problems.

Many of them don’t realise the effect of their theatrics and emotional outbursts because they are operating in a state of oblivion…constantly reacting to workplace pressures, personality triggers or stressors that are occurring in their personal and professional lives, with little awareness of the impact of such behaviours on a larger scale.

The big questions that demand answers are these: why does drama persist and why does it escalate? Here are five explanations:

The show
At a very basic level, many people actual enjoy the show…either as a participant or a spectator. After all, life would be pretty dull and work would be very boring if there were no drama; nothing to gossip about? Let’s be honest, many of us willingly contribute to the juiciness of a good story by partaking in the gossip in the first place, even if we don’t spread it ourselves.

Drama also manifests on a regular basis because accountability isn’t taught or understood. It is often easier to blame others and share in the misery rather than accept responsibility, even if we do not know all the facts. Pointing the finger in the other direction requires very little effort.

Lack of action
Leaders don’t want to, or don’t know how to deal with it. This is one of the most common workplace de-motivators. Sadly, a lack of action builds resentment amongst those who desperately want their leadership to deal with these people issues.

As a result, those who once felt engaged and happy will slowly but surely find that the dysfunctional atmosphere taking a toll on their level of performance and satisfaction.

Interpersonal skills
Organisations may invest in core technical skills or training; however, the interpersonal skills that are essential when it comes to managing drama and conflict are lacking.

Practicing outstanding communication skills in the face of such challenges can make the world of difference, not only to one’s peace of mind, but to the organisation’s bottom line. When people feel disengaged and disconnected, when they do not feel inclined to express their concerns, absenteeism increases, turnover escalates and business declines as a result.

Looking at morale
High morale is a low priority. At all levels, everyone feels the increasing pressure of managing their daily workload. As a result, paying attention to the human element slowly becomes neglected.

Yet, this is precisely the issue that necessitates the greatest consideration. In addition, it is fascinating to note this is the one area that is within an organisation’s control: the atmosphere within its own walls.

About the author

Michelle Ray will be speaking at the QIPC International Health Care Conference, 25 - 28 September 2013, http://www.cdesign.com.au/aapmqip2013

Born in Australia and now based in Vancouver, Canada Michelle Ray is a leadership expert and founder of the Lead Yourself First Institute. She is the author of the newly released book: “Lead Yourself First!” (Red Carpet Publications).