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Silencing the office drama queen

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in Your Office Coach

Question: “I work with a co-worker who is in a high-anxiety crisis mode every day. All conversations are about her personal problems. Even though I’m not the manager, people often come to me to complain about her. They seem to expect me to do something. How do we keep this woman from driving us crazy?”  Not Her Therapist

Marie's Answer: You seem to have attracted an emotional energy leech. These high-maintenance colleagues can suck the life out of you with their whining and whimpering. 

•    Since conversation requires two participants, the solution is to stop participating in her pity parties. Responding to these attention-getting ploys will only add fuel to the fire. 

•    When the drama queen brings up her personal problems, just say "I'm sorry to hear that," then politely explain that you have to get back to work. Terminate the discussion by returning to your tasks. 

•    However, when she initiates work-related topics, give her your full attention. The goal is to reward appropriate conversation and discourage personal complaints. If everyone uses this approach consistently, the drama will decrease. 

•    If your high-strung colleague ever seems truly out of control, talk with someone in management or human resources. She could have a mental health problem that requires professional help.

Finally, put a stop to the group gripe sessions about your aggravating office mate. Gossiping about her is just as unproductive as listening to her complain. To evaluate your own office habits, take our Office Coach Quick Quiz:  Do You Annoy Your Co-Workers?


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Concerned January 20, 2009 at 12:44 pm

In addition to re-focusing her back to work or separating yourself from her personal issues, get her supervisor involved. Too much personal conversation is a productivity/performance issue and should be addressed through normal discipline procedures.

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