Five Ways to Deal With the Workplace Drama Queen

Drama Queen by Rachel Farrell

You know the type: He or she is gossipy, passive aggressive and always looking to stir up trouble. That's right: It's the office drama queen -- and there's one in every office.

"There is not one business that doesn't experience at least some drama on occasion. When there are human relationships there is potential for drama," says Marlene Chism, author of 'Stop Workplace Drama: Train Your Team to Have No Complaints, No Excuses and No Regrets.' "Misunderstandings happen even between highly evolved people who have good intentions. No matter how great the hiring practices, we human beings create a lot of drama when we don't know how to master our energy or clear the fog to see the bigger picture."

But there's an important distinction to be made between dramatic personalities at work, says Chism. There's the 'Drama Queen,' who has a victim orientation -- and the 'Queen Bee,' the persecutor. Both use manipulation, or undermining ways to get what she wants -- she may even be so temperamental that your colleagues walk on egg shells in order to avoid "upsetting" her, Chism says.

But there are differences between the two.

"The Queen Bee uses her knowledge and power to bend the rules and get her way. Instead of whining, she is more of a bully. Often she is very skilled, knows the office politics and has built strategic relationships so that she can overrule the one who is supposed to be in charge," Chism says. "The employees know who the Queen Bee is because she usually is 'in' with someone in authority, if not her own boss, then someone of even higher rank."

But what many people don't understand are the motives behind such potentially destructive behavior.

"She wants recognition, power or attention. The drama queen has more clarity about what she wants. She is the one navigating the ship and that ship is pointed toward an island that is for her personal gain instead of toward and in alignment with the company mission and vision," Chism says.

But knowing all the reasons how and why there's workplace drama or an office drama queen won't do you any good if you don't know how to effectively deal with that personality.

Here are five tips for dealing with the drama queen in your office:

1. Get support from the top.

"If you are a manager and you have a drama queen that undermines your authority, you must be willing to talk to your boss and get his or her support," Chism says. But if your boss contributes to the problem by letting the drama queen get her way, gather the courage to talk to your boss. "Let [him or her] know how the drama queen's problem contributes to lost revenue, team problems and customer service issues."

2. Clarify the roles and responsibilities.

If the drama queen is doing things she's not supposed to, hold a team meeting and clarify the roles and the due process, Chism says.

"Let your employees know that you have backing from the top executives for dealing with someone going out of due process. Give an example so your team is clear on what is changing and what consequences will result if due process is ignored," she says. "Have your employees sign and date a document confirming that they understand the new rules and expectations."

3. Initiate a difficult conversation.

Whether it's with your boss, the drama queen or both, make sure your mindset is in the right place before meeting with anyone. Create an intention to replace drama with harmony and to help everyone grow.

"When you speak about the problem, take responsibility for the part you played before asking for the new behavior. For example, 'I let this slide for too long and didn't' clarify the roles and responsibilities,' or 'I was trying to keep the peace, and now this has become a customer service problem,'" she says. "Once you have owned the part you have played, you are free to state the problem and ask for the needed change."

4. Set a boundary.

"Make sure the person with whom you are having the difficult conversation knows what the boundary is. In other words, what is the consequence of ignoring your request? What measures can you put into place so that you get compliance and commitment?" Chism says. "For example, 'Marie, if this happens again, unfortunately I will have to write you up and send you home on suspension.'"

5. Discipline appropriately.

If you've addressed the situation, and held the difficult conversation, one of two things will happen: you will either have eliminated the drama, or you will be tested, Chism says.

"If your drama queen employee decides to test you, you cannot afford to ignore the situation. You must fulfill the promise you stated when you first set the boundary, even if doing so will make you the bad guy. If the discipline includes termination, good record-keeping of attempts to help the employee grow, and follow due process will come in handy."

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I just checked on and I read that according to one study, 80% of female bullies target other females. I am submitting this info to back up comments made about women being drama queens. I ended up in therapy after dealing with on the job harassment from a couple of drama kings. One was always sexually harassing me and the other was doing a lot of things which needed to be hidden from management. Hense, he did everything he could think of to harrass me out of the department. The drama queen was there, too. She was viscious and hateful, and mean. None of her actions made any sense to me except that I felt the one, who grabbed at me between my legs and other places, was telling the drama queen things which made it seem like someone had siced her on me. I was turned into a trouble maker so that I would look like a liar if I reported the harassment I experienced. My opinion is that the bullies should be recognized as murderers, because they ultimately, according to statistics, cause people to have heart attacks and strokes. Work Place Bullying. Org has a lot of statistic data plus info on their slow moving but successful battle to help defend workers who are bullied.

April 25 2011 at 6:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My supervisor is the biggest drama queen. Whenever her supervisor talks to me in the hall or asks me into her office, my supervisor will immediately call me into HER office and demand to know what the conversation was about. This is because she is horrible at her job, doesn't do what she is supposed to do, and treats the people under her -- including me -- in a demeaning way. I'm sure her supervisor already knows all this. She's not the director of our division because she's stupid. And if my supervisor thinks she's pulling the wool over HER supervisor's eyes, she's sadly mistaken. I'm sure her supervisor is just waiting for one misstep to fire her, and well she should be fired. She's horrible.

April 25 2011 at 5:57 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I am a female who used to manage an accounting department of around 30 people....mostly women. When I was promoted into that job there was so much drama from a few of them who thought they should have gotten the position...even though they could barely do their own jobs. It took me 18 months, but I got rid of every drama queen in the department for things like refusing to attend training, repeatedly calling in sick when they didn't like a work assignment, etc. They will ALWAYS give you a reason to terminate their employment. I ended up with a lovely department full of people who knew how to behave like professionals.

April 25 2011 at 5:38 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Harry Hurt

I worked at an aviation company, and one of the pilots was a status-seeking, manipulating, back-stabbing SOB who would lie to hurt anyone who didn't see things his way. One day he nearly crashed a plane on take-off. The chief pilot fired him, but the vice-president reinstated him an hour later. Everyone was outraged. I put in a call to the FAA in Washington, D.C. and told them to investigate by first calling the company president. The pilot was fired on the spot. Another pilot had a bad habit of playing company politics. He was a favorite of the boss. I called the DEA and told them he does drugs. A week later I found out the DEA had busted him for cocain, and he had lost his FAA license. There a lots of ways to get rid of undesirables at work. I have found that almost all of them have something to hide.

April 25 2011 at 5:24 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

I know exactly what you mean with drama and women. I am a women and where I work is majority of women. Most of them are young, but there are some that are older and yes they love their seniority. People pretend to be nice and then behind your back talk about you. If you tell someone higher they don't have the balls to confront them and its crap!! I HATE WORK DRAMA!!!

April 25 2011 at 5:08 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

And what if the Queen Bee & The Drama Queen are one & the sameperson & it's your boss?

April 25 2011 at 4:36 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

What if the Drama Queen is sleeping with the big boss. What if the Drama Queen is sleeping with all the bosses. What if the Drama Queen is a guy and the guy is suppling the big boss with the Coke. And don't say it doesn't happen.

April 25 2011 at 3:27 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to lrodfiggy's comment
David S.

Where the heck do you work?

April 25 2011 at 4:01 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

You speak of the Queen Bee as being a woman. I work in a Hair Salon and there are several Queen Bees to work with and they are not women!

April 25 2011 at 3:25 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

gonna save this article for my wife to read ,lord she has plenty of these women where she works.

April 25 2011 at 3:10 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to beverlyamy1's comment

yes-and it's mostly women! They are brutally mean-and I'm a woman that has better friendships with men because THEY aren't insecure around me! BUT, I'm unemployed because of the 'drama queen', who is also a pathological lia,r and who happens to have her nose up the office manager's butt-and the owner of the business is too stupid or lacking balls to do anything about it. I think in an office with more then one female should hand out paring knives up front for the back stabbing!

April 25 2011 at 4:26 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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