How to handle the office ‘drama queen’ — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily
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How to handle the office ‘drama queen’

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Question: Last spring, the company hired an AA. She conducts her personal business loudly so it echoes down the hall, slams doors and comes to my desk in the front office to share her personal problems (with a new drama each week). She also complains that the fumes from the copier and shredder make her “nauseous.” Everyone knows all her personal business (and problems) even when they would rather not (like me).

When her manager is out of the office, she spends her time on the phone conducting personal business with the door open so everyone can hear. I have gone to her office and closed the door on a couple of occasions and just today she snapped at me saying if she wanted the door closed she would do it herself.

Another AA and I have tried talking with her manager, but this person won't listen to us.

Any suggestions about how to get her to keep her personal business (and drama and problems) in her office behind closed doors?  -- Anonymous


Tape recorders work wonders. Tape her rants and her reactions when you politely (also on tape) ask her to stop. Then, share them with her. If she hears how she sounds, she may stop. If not, share the tape with the boss immediately, before she has time to intercede.

I would have to say something to her the next time she stopped by my desk and started talking personal business. Kindly say you are not interested in her personal life and be firm but kind in doing so. I also would try closing her door again but this time when and if she snaps at you about it, just say that you cannot hear very well when she is on her personal phone calls and you need to close it in order to complete your tasks. Honestly if her manager isn't stepping up to the plate, go to his manager about it. She is not exhibiting consideration for others in her office environment and it is disruptive. I hope this helps. I am really just straight up kind of gal and say what I have to say BUT with respect and consideration for the other person's feelings when I do so.

I don't know if I would really tape record's going to show you have too much time on your hands to worry about things that to management may seem just never know in a situation like this. I guess if it's upsetting you this much maybe try talking to HR about the situation. In that sense the manager has to deal with it; and can't ignore it.

I would talk with her 1st away from the office. Go for a walk , take her to lunch, but do talk with her. Let her know that THE behavior is distracting YOU. Put IT on you. Good Luck.

I would definitely not make and use secret tape recordings. What if she were disciplined or, worse, fired based on your secret recordings. She might try to sue you. It's difficult to imagine that management allows the behavior you describe. If your personal approach to her is met with indifference, then I agree with the comment above. Talk to HR and let them handle it.

Depending on the state you live in you must place a notice that conversations are or can be recorded. If not you may be in a heap of trouble legally. I would first try and talk to her in person (make sure you document). I would then follow up with an email letting her know you appricate her taking the time to speak about the problem and the solutions that came from the conversation. I would make sure the email is cc to your office manager or HR.

People,people, people, do we all forget that we get paid for the work we do and that means we only do the work we are hired for and not our own personal business, whether big brother is watching or not? Second, while we all tend to share personal information about each other at work, (after all we spend 8 or more hours with these people everyday) there is an invisible line that we must not cross. Some don't like to be bothered with other people's business, some don't care, and some get so involved, it becomes the mental therapy room. Keep your conversations to a minimum. When not interested, be polite and share that thought with the one dumping on you, and last but not least, the Drama Queen has no business demanding her right to shut the door when handling her business,if it's interrupting the firm and you the right to tell her that it is interferring with your job and it is embarrasing to hear "all about her" when not asked or needed! - I also do not recommend tape recording - you will get into legal troubles ....

I agree about NOT taping the tiring conversations. A simple statement to the Drama Queen: "Why don't we meet for a coffe break sometime today and you can tell me all about it. Right now I have a deadline project to complete. Let me call you when I am finished."

If this does not work, file a complaint with your HR department for harassment. This should get her attention.

If speaking to her Manager does not show results or decrease the act, I would move to the next above all while including HR. The others that are concerned and bothered by it should do the same.

Sounds like your training officer should go back over "Professional Boundaries" as well as "Office Etiquette" with her. If that has not been addressed, now would be a good time for an inservice.

I would try to polietly tell her that you are in the middle of your work and can't be interupted. I would also document what is happening while your manager isn't around so you will remember what exactly happened. Ask for a meeting with your manager so he/she knows that it is very specific and not just part of a regular meeting, document that conversation also. Give them a couple of weeks to straighten the situation out because that can sometimes be a "slow train". If the behavior goes uncorrected take your documention you have collected and if you have an HR department I suggest having a meeting with him/her. If you don't then ask for a meeting with the next level of management. If that fails and you are still unhappy I would look for another job and when you/if you even do I would inform the company that is the reason you have choosen to leave.

Have you firmly and politely talked to the AA? When she comes to your desk, one option is to let her know (firmly and politely) you are not interested. Another option is to let her know you don’t have time right now and invite her to lunch or stop for a soda/pop after work. If you are able to meet her later, speaking with "I" statements rather than "You" often helps conversations because it is not accusatory. Another tact is using third person statements: "Many people like a quiet atmosphere at work". If she doesn’t get it, let her know what behavior is distracting and it affects you. If she still doesn’t get it, talk to your manager. If things still don’t get resolved, then talk to HR and let them deal with it. With this progression, things may get worked out long before you get to HR.

Your mention of going to her office and closing the door. This is a boundary violation for her. It could work much better to ask her if you could close the door. You could say (firmly and politely) “Hey, Barb, I cannot hear well on my phone calls. Do you mind if I close the door?”.

Consider your position in the company when someone is not productive while their boss is out of the office. Tempting as it is, as an AA, don't get caught up in what someone else is doing or not doing. Their actions will catch up with them. Let it go.

I would not tape record her.

Miss Drama queen may not realize she is so loud. I would close her door the next time once again and when she says something to you I would tell her that she may not realize it but everyone can hear her conversation and it is disruptive at times. I think a nice but firm comment back to her may do wonders. You could also tell her that if/when management gets complaints she will not get a very good review and it may affect her raise. If you do it in a positive way you most likely will get a positive response. She needs to think you are trying to help her so she doesn't get in trouble.

My daughter has a loud voice and we always have to remind her she is too loud and it appears that she is yelling. Good luck!

Whatever you do...keep a record of your progress or lack thereof and if you are forced to take it over her boss's head then you have a record of the appropriate steps taken to get the situation rectified. I worked in an organization for 17 years where our philosophy was "take the mail to the right address." No one wants to get anyone in trouble or worst yet, fired and it's not always an easy thing to do. Once you've done that and things still don't change, then go to her direct supervisor. Share with him/her about trying to ask her to change her behavior to no avail. If that doesn't work...continue up the ladder until someone in authority listens. Remember, it isn't only bothering you but your co-workers as well. Her behavior is interrupting daily work and that isn't acceptable. My only other suggestion is that you either take your co-workers with you when you have this meeting with the boss or at the very least take statements from those who have been effected by this person's actions so no one person takes the blame or ends up being called a "trouble-maker". I've been there myself. I was to be the spokesperson for co-workers regarding the work habits of another co-worker and when I went to our co-workers through me under the bus and wouldn't back me up.
Good luck!

She is creating a hostile (uncomfortable) work environment. This is now an HR issue. Your management cannot be allowed to ignore it.

This reminds me of a co-worker I once had, nice but very self-focused. It's disturbing when managers totally ignore a problem like this because they don't see it and a different personality appears when they are in the office. I think you would just get more frustrated to try anything more than what you already have because it sounds like she really doesn't care and isn't concerned because there haven't been any consequences: And without any support from others, it looks like you're the only one with a problem and the "victim" then sees the issue as a personal one between you and her. Honestly, it sounds like she may have some clinical personality issues, so it may be in your best interest to back off until others are willing to come forward with you. But it is important that you keep your boundaries and since nice doesn't do it for her, you don't have to be mean but take it to the next level like totally ignoring her when she goes into complain mode(it works for me with some people). And yes, you have every right to close her door when she is being disruptive to anyone around her. Afterall, it is a work environment.

We have a Work Area and Noise Policy in force. This is given out and covered during orientation.
Work Area: Respect this area. Knock gently when trying to get someone's attention. This gives that individual an opportunity to put up a hand signal that they do not wish to be disturbed.
Noise: Be concious of how your voice travels, and try to lower the volume of your voice when talking on the phone or to others in open areas. Try to conduct conversations in areas where the noise will not be distracting to others. These are just a few of our rules of common courtesy. You can always add others to suit your situation.
Good Luck!

If there are other admin staff who are adversely affected by the noise generated by the Drama Queen, practice "safety in numbers". You and your coworkers should document all instances of "over the top" behaviour and as a group take the appropriate steps up the ladder. Also, the comment on creating a hostile workplace: there are legal issues here and your employer could be sued by you and your coworkers for allowing Drama Queen to distract the rest of you from your work. Finally, Drama Queen may really have some health issues: while fumes from copiers & shredders don't affect most people, the fumes contain dangerous chemicals, and she may be supersensitive. In my own case, I have problems with paint fumes, and I cannot be near fresh paint or recently painted surfaces without experiencing headaches and dizziness.

I worked in an office where there were multiple noisy people. I bought headphones and listened to CDs, etc to drown out the noise. Also, if you have your head down and headphones on, it is amazing how many people will decide not to "interupt" or bother you. It also makes it easier to act like you don't hear someone. Unless they are really needing you, most people will walk away after a few tries. Hopefully, drama queen will be discouraged from bothering you.

If she snaps at you again, tell her she needs to lower her voice so everyone doesn't here her business. Tell her you do not wish to know what is going on in her life and would appreciate it if she kept her voice down. You can have this conversation with her manager as well so that there is a witness. People like this make a job hard to deal with and you shouldn't have to deal with it. You also don't need to address it alone as well. If other people are complaining as well, ask them to go to the meeting also.

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