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Free your workplace from drama dysfunction with these proven tools for increased office efficiency, harmony, and productivity.
In The Drama-Free Office, authors Jim Warner and Kaley Klemp interweave humorous and relatable case studies with the three key skills you'll need for managing office saboteurs—be they subordinates, coworkers, or the boss. You will see your coworkers ...
Free your workplace from drama dysfunction with these proven tools for increased office efficiency, harmony, and productivity.
In The Drama-Free Office, authors Jim Warner and Kaley Klemp interweave humorous and relatable case studies with the three key skills you'll need for managing office saboteurs—be they subordinates, coworkers, or the boss. You will see your coworkers (and yourself) in this entertaining and practical blueprint for addressing the dramatic behaviors that cripple so many teams.
The authors' research draws on years of experience working with more than 2,500 CEOs and their executive teams. They define the four major drama roles—the Complainer, the Cynic, the Controller, and the Caretaker—found in most organizations and lay out a detailed roadmap to help you:
• Skillfully initiate difficult conversations and defuse dramatic moments
• Reclaim the time, energy, and resources wasted in drama-riddled meetings and interactions
• Reduce your own dramatic tendencies and take control of your work life
• Create and sustain a collaborative, authentic, and fun work environment
Tips on how to check your drama—and that of your colleagues—at the office door.
Is your office full of drama queens, and nothing seems to get accomplished? Father-daughter duo Warner (Facing Pain—Embracing Love: The Map to Authentic Living, 2009, etc.) and Klemp are here with solutions in this often-humorous guide to stamping out unnecessary and distracting office theatrics. The authors, who have worked with some 2,500 CEOs in their consulting business, define drama as "interactions that drain energy or deflect the team from the vibrant and shared pursuit of goals." They identify four primary actors in typical office dramas—the complainer, the cynic, the controller and the caretaker—and offer suggestions on how to turn bad behavior into productivity. First off, readers are instructed to control the dramatic flair they themselves exhibit: "You can choose to be 'right' or you can choose to be curious and take responsibility for whatever is happening in your life." Moving forward, they provide strategies on how to rein in others, such as how to offer compliments when a complainer does well, how to be fair and accurate when dealing with a cynic and how to instill milestones on a project for a caretaker. Using these tools, the authors write, will foster behavior change and implement effective interoffice communication and productivity. Other highlights include ways to approach tough business meetings and how to handle visible emotions.
A quick-and-easy read that seeks to dampen office drama and ramp up efficiency.
Laura took one look at her colleagues sitting around the conference table and knew she had a tough meeting ahead of her. Clearly, no one wanted to be there. And who could blame them? Riva Corporation had a crisis on its hands: The company's cornerstone client for the past decade, Highline Enterprises, was threatening to take its business elsewhere. Cliff, Riva's CEO, had formed this cross-functional SWAT team, with Laura as the lead, and ordered the group to "fix it—now!" No wonder all four managers looked like they'd just heard they were getting audited by the IRS.
Highline's president, Peter, had been a college buddy of Cliff's, and their relationship migrated to supplier-customer when Cliff launched his business services company. It was a risk that paid off for both of them: Cliff got a foothold in the industry, and his friend got a sweetheart deal on customized software and outsourced services. For several years, both firms flourished.
But as Riva Corporation boomed, Cliff focused more on growth and less on product development, customer service, internal systems, and financial management. Charismatic, gregarious, and ambitious, he had little time for the finer points of operating checks and balances, organizational development, or interpersonal dynamics. And now, a combination of screw-ups could destroy both his long-term friendship and a crucial source of revenue. Cliff's push for growth over the past eighteen months, with accelerated product development and quality assurance shortcuts, was coming back to haunt the company in a seriously flawed new product release.
Peter's frustration was justified. His friend's customized software had become an integral part of Highline's operations. Sam, Riva's VP of Sales, had guaranteed Peter enhanced functionality, increased performance, and total repair of the bugs from the previous software release. So when the new version turned out to be "less than robust," as Peter politely described it, he expected quick action from Cliff's people.
That was four months ago, and very little had changed. Fortunately, since Peter and Cliff had a lot of history with each other, Peter chose to call Cliff directly rather than simply pull the plug on the relationship.
"You guys promised me all kinds of improvements—and what we got was a raft of new bugs and a slower system," said Peter. "I'm used to working with your team to sort out new releases, but this time your Customer Service people appear to be on a permanent vacation. All we've gotten is empty promises and a litany of excuses or finger-pointing. And then you send us an invoice with a 20 percent bump in maintenance fees?"
"Peter, look, I—we—" Cliff stammered.
"Cliff, you helped me when I was just starting Highline, so I feel I owe you one more chance to make this right. However, I need to see some tangible changes soon, or I'll have to go out to bid. It's not my first choice, but several of your competitors have approached me over the past year with early-stage—and pretty attractive—proposals for switching suppliers. So far, I've politely defended our choice to go with Riva. But my patience is running out. I'll give you two weeks."
"We'll make it right, Peter. You've got my word."
They hung up—and then panic set in. Cliff was way out of his comfort zone and needed help in a hurry. He started pulling together a team to handle the disaster. As he mentally scanned his company for someone to take the lead, he locked in on one person who had the guts, experience, and skills to pull it off: Laura. He raced to her office, blurted out the problem, and then told her, "I want you to work with Sam, Theresa, Foster, and Candace on this. Set up a meeting with them immediately."
A little dazed, but grasping the importance of the project, she agreed.
"Laura, I need a workable plan on my desk by Friday. I'm counting on you to clean up this mess—you have two weeks."
The SWAT Team
Trained as a software engineer, Laura knew both the adrenalin rush and dark side of software development and project management. She joined Riva in its second year, working first as a Sales support technician and then as a Customer Service manager before being promoted to director of Operations after only three years with the firm. With her cross-department experience and dotted-line relationship with Cliff, Laura was the natural choice to lead the team for the Highline project.
Sam had hired on with Laura, but he had remained in Sales and was now managing the company's larger accounts, like Highline. He was a gifted networker, kept extensive files on his clients' situations, belonged to several prominent clubs, and relished the entertainment side of his job. As a result, many of Sam's customers socialized with him outside work. He had come to count on the perks of his position to enhance these friendships.
A generalist by nature, he liked to stay out of the details, instead relying on a couple of engineers to handle the technical questions and post-sales support. His trademark response to clients' technical concerns was, "I absolutely agree with you. Trust me—we'll get on it immediately." He protected "his" clients, always assuring them he would do whatever it took to keep them happy.
Sam had managed the relationship with Highline for several years. The account had become a big piece of his annual projected sales target—and his own bonus—so he had eagerly gone along with the product price increase. Sam had known that Peter's people were a little grumpy about the last software release. He'd flown in his best Technical Support team twice for emergency repairs. He'd also repeatedly asked the Customer Service team to give them even more special attention, so he figured everything was being handled. When he heard that Peter was about to terminate their relationship, making a serious dent in his personal income, he felt betrayed and helpless. Sam had certainly done his best, and it clearly was not his fault.
Theresa was relatively new to project management, after nearly a decade in product development. She knew Riva's software family inside out and enjoyed the cutting-edge innovation, technical challenges, and innate elegance of the company's products. It irritated her that most of the executive team—especially the Sales force— knew so little about the richness of Riva's technology and even less about the expertise required to craft it and bring it to market.
She would reluctantly attend presales calls, biting her lip during the flash-and-glitz presentations, enduring the wine-and-dine evening galas, and finding solace in the technical exchanges with the clients' internal technical teams. Since these technicians were instrumental to the buying decision, Theresa's expertise and ability to connect with them became a vital component in the sales process.
Theresa had seen the Highline meltdown coming for some time. She'd allowed the accelerated product release dates, despite knowing they would have to face a high-pressure quarter or two as bugs surfaced—just as they had so many times in the past. She had also predicted that the Riva technical team would have to endure several all-nighters to fix the problems. Here we go again, she thought, when she heard she'd been appointed to the SWAT team.
Foster, the director of Finance, was relatively new to the company. He'd been recruited from a large national accounting firm with the promise of line management responsibilities and the eventual opportunity to run a business unit. For his first assignment, Cliff had wanted him to restore order to the company's fragmented financial systems and act as watchdog on cash. Relishing the role, Foster quickly cleaned out the deadwood employees in the department while personally getting into the details of every project. Intolerant of mistakes or oversights, he demanded that no one in his department make a move or decision without his approval.
Like Theresa, Foster had watched the current crisis unfold over several months and felt both frustrated and angry as he witnessed the cost overruns, product delays, and lavish spending on sales calls. A couple of times he'd hinted to Cliff that he could really increase profits if given more authority. Cliff's answer—"Not just yet. Let's wait a while and see what happens"—infuriated Foster. He was ready now!
Normally, he could hold his temper, but once in a while, he admittedly lost it when other managers danced around difficult issues during meetings or when his own people turned in mediocre work. There were a few times when he reduced departmental budgets or vetoed capital expenditures when the managers couldn't produce crisp rationalizations for their requests. His nickname throughout the company had become "Frugal Foster," which actually pleased him. After all, if he didn't take charge and do the right thing, no one else would. He'd done his best without overstepping Cliff, so the Highline situation was certainly not his fault.
Candace wore two hats as the manager of both Customer Service and Quality Assurance. She had the rich satisfaction of ensuring that Riva's diverse products worked as advertised and then helping customers put the products to use in real-world applications. Several groups within the company saw her as the glue that bonded the company to its customers, and she loved that role.
Since her promotion from Customer Service specialist to manager two years before, she had continued to personally troubleshoot knotty customer problems while concurrently managing her two teams. Often, when her staff members would approach her with a problem they just couldn't seem to solve, Candace would cheerfully take it on herself, both to puzzle out a technical challenge and to relieve struggling colleagues. Despite an overflowing inbox and missed deadlines, she couldn't turn them down.
Recently, she had a shining moment when Sam panicked over a prospective customer he had been cultivating for a long time who was starting to consider a competitor. Immediately coming to the rescue, Candace took three of her senior QA specialists off their project, flew them in for a week to work with the prospect's analysts to build a prototype, and helped Sam seal the deal. Foster grumbled about the excessive cost, and she fell further behind in QA testing— aggravating Theresa—but, as always, she promised to work harder to catch up.
The First Meeting
"Let me begin by thanking everyone for dropping everything and getting here so quickly," Laura said to the four managers. "I'm sure we can all think of other ways we would rather spend a Monday morning."
Everyone murmured in agreement.
"Cliff wants a solid plan from us by the end of the week," Laura continued, "and some serious movement toward fixing the problem within two weeks. So we haven't got a lot of time. Our goal for this meeting is to brainstorm ways to address this situation. As a first approach, I thought we might—"
"Laura, this is more than a 'situation,' it's a nightmare—a meltdown!" Sam interrupted. "We've done everything we can from the Sales side to hose down Peter's people, but they're still fuming. I've made personal calls to no avail. Nothing seems to be working. We need an all-hands-on-deck, whatever-it-costs blitz from every department to fix this, or we're all sunk. If Highline goes out to bid, word will get around the industry that we've lost our edge, our customers are jumping ship, and—"
"Yes, Sam, we all know this is serious," Laura said, attempting to regain the reins of the meeting. "And our job here today is to pool our best ideas for dealing with this while—"
"Oh boy, here we go again," said Theresa. "Another Mayday call from Sales. How many times have we seen this movie? Just once I'd like to hear Sam admit that he sold something we didn't have. And Sam, when was the last time you read a product manual—or even a product spec sheet? That's assuming that you can actually read. We all know you can talk." She crossed her arms and smirked. "But whatever. I'm sure you'll all come up with some clever way to dodge this bullet. Everyone will jump through hoops for a couple of weeks to bail out Sam and cover up for our lukewarm product testing. And then in a few months, we'll all end up right back here again and—"
"Gee, Theresa, that seems a little unfair," Candace said, entering the fray. "I know a few bugs got by us in the last round of testing, but we can clean those up easily in two to three days—well, maybe a little more. I think if we can just stop our bickering and work together, as Laura says, we can fix this. I've worked with the Highline analysts personally and would be happy to lead the Customer Service side of this effort. Theresa, your team needs to continue working on the next-generation products, and Sam, even though many of your field technicians started in Development, they don't have the immediate contact with it that I do. So, if you'll let me, I think I can turn this around."
"Thank you, Candace," said Laura. "Your willingness to jump in is appreciated. But I found out this morning that you are currently behind on three other Quality Assurance efforts, and one of your top Customer Service people just resigned. So, while your heart seems to be in the right place, I'm concerned that you don't have the personal capacity to take the lead here. Now, I'd like to get back to this meeting's agenda—"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, Laura," chimed in Foster, no longer able to contain himself. "With all due respect, this isn't a time for brainstorming. It's a time for action. Right after you called this morning, I began putting together the plan that will both solve the immediate Highline problem and lay the fiscally responsible groundwork for hitting our P&L targets, which is what we all want, right?"
"Yes, Foster, but this is—" Laura attempted to interject.
He raised his hand to silence her. "The first step—and this is the one place I agree with Sam—is to assemble a small, top-notch team of people to resolve the Highline situation. That's easy. Sam, we'll need two of your support engineers. Theresa, we need your ace developer, plus one. And Candace, probably you and two others. That should do it. Since I'm pretty insulated from this mess, I'm the best one to lead the cross-functional team. It's also important that I do it because we need to make sure costs don't run amok as they have in the past."
Laura tried again to jump in, but Foster talked over her. "Meanwhile, we'll use this crisis as the company wakeup call to cut costs. Remember Cliff's number-one mantra: Increase shareholder value. We need to prune out all the excess, like Theresa's weird projects and all Sales 'entertainment.' And we'll put a hold on all the open positions, like the technician in Candace's department, at least until we get our quarterly profits back in line with projections. The only exception is the accounting manager position in my department, which has been open for nine months and is a must-fill." Foster sat back in his chair and folded his hands, looking satisfied.
An awkward silence filled the room. Laura saw an opening to try again. "Okay, now that everyone has weighed in, let's—"
Excerpted from THE DRAMA-FREE OFFICE by JIM WARNER KALEY KLEMP Copyright © 2011 by Jim Warner & Kaley Klemp. Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Setting the Stage 1
Part I Overture
1 The Drama at Riva 15
2 Overcoming Drama with Authenticity 27
Part II The Four Drama Roles
3 The Complainer 41
4 The Cynic 49
5 The Controller 57
6 The Caretaker 67
Part III Getting Yourself Out of Drama
7 Review Your Own Scripts 79
8 Shifting Out of Your Drama 87
Part IV Guiding Others Out of Drama
9 The Tools for Defusing Drama 101
10 The Seven Steps for Dealing with Drama 121
11 Putting the Tools and Processes to Work 133
12 The Team Meeting 161
13 Managing Up 171
Conclusion: Being an Authentic Leader 181
Appendix A Mature Responses to Dramatic People 185
Appendix B The Drama Self-Assessment 193
Online Tools for Assessing the Authenticity of Your Office 197
About the Authors 203