We like drama in books and movies because it excites and creates tension and conflict that gets quickly resolved. We know how it turns out by the time we put the book down, or walk out of the theatre. Thank God, because it’s stressful to stay in drama states for extended periods of time.
Which is one reason why we don’t like drama in real life. Things don’t get resolved in a couple of hours and it keeps us stressed.
Everyone says things like “oh, the drama” and “I avoid drama” but yet there’s not any agreed on definition of what drama is outside of theatre, film and writing.
What is real-life drama?
Real life drama is anything that creates, heightens and prolongs stressful emotional states like tension, anxiety, fear, dislike, jealousy, and conflict.
Drama is not necessarily bad. As in the movies, drama can make life interesting and allows us to experience relief when we resolve a drama state.
Also, drama can’t be avoided as there will be drama wherever people have conflicting or competing goals, e.g. the top job, or the same client. A completely drama free life would be boring indeed.
But unnecessary or needless drama is what gives real-life drama its negative connotation.
It is needless drama that we refer to when we talk about workplace drama, or too much drama in personal situations. This drama is manufactured or artificially created by persons who benefit in some way from keeping the drama alive.
Problems occur when Real Life Drama becomes Soap Opera drama
When drama is artificially created and sustained out of mischief, politics or bad habit we have what I call soap-drama i.e.. the kind of drama soap operas thrive upon. Workplace drama is often soap drama. The features of soap drama are:
It is artificial.
It’s manufactured into existence through judgement and impulsive mis-interpretation and spread through gossip. Trouble makers exaggerate and lament a small issue, mistake or breakdown out of all proportion to it’s true significance.
Watch any random soap opera episode and you’ll see this in action.
It doesn’t go away
Persistent existence. Like an untreated case of teenager acne, soap drama doesn’t really go away because it’s designed to reinforce or sustain negative meanings about a person, group, or situation.
The ones at the source of soap drama (drama queens and office politicians) are not interested in the truth but with being right and drama’s conflict. Their ongoing drama serves to align them on the side of right or power, and if the drama were to stop they would be discovered and lose their seat at the throne.
It damages relationships, and business value.
Soap drama incurs cost in that it separates people and introduces friction to cooperative relationships which in turn ends up incurring very real financial cost to a business that must now work harder to meet its obligations to customers, employees and shareholders.
The real cost of soap drama
But the real tragedy of soap drama, especially when it’s in the workplace, is that it takes focus away from what’s really important. We focus on the drama and not on the ultimate purpose.
It drives us to focus on:
- The speed bump instead of the where we’re going.
- Blame instead of getting the situation fixed.
- A perceived slight instead of clarifying an intention.
Wherever there is a culture of workplace drama (soap drama), people focus on attacking and defending egos and not on the stuff that’s really important: the helpful cooperative relationships necessary to fulfil personal ambition and business mission.