View from HR: Good workplaces avoid drama

We bring our warts and personalities to work every day. This can be wonderful or very sad. Successful workplaces encourage useful behaviors while proactively shedding destructive ones.

Workplace drama drains the fuel that powers an organization. Victims point their fingers at others and wallow in self-pity. Do any of these symptoms of chaos sound familiar?

“Can you believe what she did to me?” “”I want an apology.” “”I’ve done everything I possibly can.” “My boss doesn’t respect me.” “If they would do better, I could do better.” “My job is driving me crazy.” “Anyone in my situation would be angry.” “They just won’t listen to me.”

The victim mentality assumes there is an external cause to every problem or slight. The wrongdoer must be identified, deterred or punished. Bad things happen to me. They need to change their behavior!

No gossip

Perpetual victims are rarely long-term achievers or successful employees. The victim mentality takes so much energy to maintain and allows no room for learning.

Reverse the flow of victimology by looking for growth in every setting and blaming no one for your emotional reactions. Place your own conscious choice between the irritating stimulus and an overly emotional response.

Author and holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl wrote one of the most influential books in the 20th century on the search for meaning. He said “... the last of the human freedoms [is] to choose one’s own attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Are you the kind of person that causes others around you to act better? Or are you the kind of person who encourages victim thinking without even saying a word?

Groups have their own personalities and may either blame other groups for problems or choose positive paths to solutions. “Us” and “them” are indicators of a problem. Criticism or gossip among group members feeds that problem. Overly heated arguments and irrational commitment to a position damage group effectiveness. Groups are also collections of individuals and rise or fall with individual behaviors.

Act with purpose

There are tools to help us get better. There are good, regional resources working hard to reverse the flow of blaming and harmful emotional reactions.

“Becoming the Totally Responsible Person” is a branded program from TRP Enterprises in Winston-Salem that reduces individual blaming behavior by substituting choice for reactivity.

Triangle Family Services provides a multi-week certified Anger Management Program for sustained, serious behavior modification. (My firm, CAI, offers the TRP program on a fee basis. There is a sliding scale fee for TFSNC programs.)

If only more would engage with this program before life-altering overreactions occur!

Learning to respond rather than react may be the most important skill of an effective employee or manager. Acting with purpose resulting from choice solves so many problems. Giving feedback, solving problems, good communication skills: these are the mother’s milk of a productive work environment and the secrets to professional growth (or decline).

Take a physician’s look at your company culture and average employee behaviors. Diagnose the state of health, the symptoms and the causes. Some things will go away if ignored, but destructive habits will not.

Bruce Clarke, J.D., is CEO of CAI, helping more than 1,000 North Carolina employers maximize employee engagement and minimize employer liability. For more information, visit