How Office Drama Costs Your Organization, Part 2



  • A recap of the good meeting gone bad (0:40)

  • How the project manager responded to the drama (9:25)

  • How the department head responded to the project manager (10:15)

  • How the Human Resources Director responded to them both (17:05)

  • Taking a closer look at assumptions, misconceptions, and what they cost the company (21:10)

  • How to prevent this drama and chaos in your organization (23:25)

How Office Drama Costs Your Organization, Part 2

Last week, we featured this story from the staff’s perspective. This week, we’ll experience the scenario through members of the management tier.

As with Part 1, as you read this tale, notice all the places where you see key resources – time and, therefore, money – leaking out of this organization. After the story, I’ll offer questions to consider and a way to prevent this from happening in your organization.

This story is based on a situation that recently occurred in an organization I was working with. Names and details have been altered for confidentiality. ~BW

The Recap: A Meltdown in a Meeting

We’ve all had that experience when we walk away from a meeting, shaking our heads and wondering, “What the heck just happened in there?”

You know how it goes: There’s a team meeting about the best way to approach a new project, and there are a lot of brainstorming and opinions and different personalities in the room. At first, the meeting is going along just fine, just like it always does, with people offering ideas.

And then Jaden – a reasonable and steady guy who’s normally quiet and reserved, who goes along with the majority – puts forward a new idea. Unfortunately, with all the brainstorming and lively discussion, his soft voice just doesn’t rise to the top, and he’s not one to compete with strong personalities.

But in his last performance review, Jaden was given feedback that he needs to find his voice on the team and find a way to have his ideas heard. He feels pretty vulnerable in doing this, but he decides today is the day. He wasn’t heard the first time, so he starts to interject his idea again.

The discussion has been moving quickly, however, and that moment has passed. Haley, the project manager as well as his supervisor – who is quite action- and results-oriented – brushes him off with a wave of her hand and says, “Jaden, we’ve moved on from that. It’s already been decided.” This is not an uncommon response for Haley, who is a quick decision maker. She is always eager to spend less time analyzing and making decisions so she can get to solutions.

Triggered by Haley’s dismissive response, Jaden signals that he is withdrawing from further participation with more energy than seems appropriate. He says in a short, curt way, “Fine. If that’s the way you want it, that’s the way you’ll get it. My opinion certainly doesn’t matter,” and then he looks down at his notes and distracts himself by shuffling papers.

In an instant, the healthy dialogue that’s been driving the meeting shuts down, and the situation becomes awkward. Haley tries to keep moving the agenda forward, but it’s as if all the creative air in the room has just been sucked out. She doesn’t know what to do, so she wraps up the meeting.

The Management Team After the Meltdown

Haley, Project Manager

Haley’s day is jam-packed, as usual, so she tries her best to put the incident out of her mind. But the exchange left her feeling a little yucky and a little unsettled.

She’s already rushed for a meeting with her boss, Ronald. Haley was promoted to her position only six months ago, and she and Ronald are due for a check-in on goals. Haley wants Ronald to feel confident that she has everything under control with her team and her projects, so she’s determined not to let this morning’s incident rattle her or distract her.

But her distraction lasts the remainder of the day, and she’s not fully present in her other meetings. She contemplates asking Jaden to come to her office and chat, but she fears he may become angry again, and she just doesn’t have the skills to handle it. There is a task she intended to delegate to him this afternoon, but she decides to avoid him and give the assignment to his colleague, Sharon, instead.

Later, at home, Haley is speculating to her partner, Lyle, about Jaden’s reaction, and she shares her concern that she doesn’t have the skills to do her job. Lyle suggests that she ask her friend, Rosalie, the one in Human Resources, for some advice. Haley thinks about it and decides that’s not a bad idea. At about 10:00 PM, she sends Rosalie a text, asking for a meeting first thing in the morning.

Ronald, Department Head

In his meeting with Haley, Ronald senses that she’s distracted and not as prepared as she usually is, but since she doesn’t bring it up, he doesn’t either.

Later in the day, he has a meeting with Rosalie, the company’s Human Resource Director, regarding staff retention and compensation. At the end of the meeting, Ronald asks Rosalie if she has heard any rumors about Haley being unhappy or looking for another job.

Rosalie becomes very concerned. Not only are she and Haley developing a friendship, but she really advocated for Haley to get this promotion over another internal candidate who had a longer history with the company.

Rosalie promises to let Ronald know if anything bubbles up to her, and she leaves their meeting distracted. She wonders, “Did I advocate for the wrong choice? Darn it. Will Ronald lose confidence in my opinions?” She makes a note: Schedule a lunch with Haley later in the week.

Rosalie, Human Resources Director

Because of the recent changes to labor law and healthcare, Rosalie and her Human Resources team are working hard just to keep up. The processes are mind-boggling, and she knows that taking care of herself is important if she’s going to stay steady and productive in a constantly changing environment.

She has made a promise to herself to get to sleep by 10:30 PM every night, and then be up at 5:30 AM every day to work out. She has also considered setting a boundary against work texts and emails after 9:00 PM.

The challenge is that she is eager for a promotion to vice president, and she is concerned that if she isn’t available nights and weekends, Ronald and the other executives will think she doesn’t have the commitment it takes to be successful at the company, so she hasn’t set that boundary yet.

Just as Rosalie is settling into bed, her cell phone dings – it’s Haley requesting a meeting first thing tomorrow morning. Rosalie assumes this is about Haley’s dissatisfaction or to let Rosalie know she has a new job offer. Frantically, Rosalie scans her calendar for a possible meeting time. She rearranges some early morning appointments and texts Haley a time, then she lays back on the pillow and finally closes her eyes around 11:00 PM.

As she’s lying there, her brain starts to spin, “Ugh, tomorrow. It’s going to be one of those days,” and she begins running scenarios through her head—

  • What if Haley tells her that she’s looking for a job?

  • If Haley does resign, will they want her to make another offer to try and keep Haley?

  • How long would it take to find Haley’s replacement?

  • What if that horrible manager from the satellite office applies for the position – again?

  • Did she make a mistake in advocating for Haley?

  • Will she and Haley’s budding friendship disappear if Haley leaves the company?

  • She told Ronald she’d let him know if she heard anything about Haley, but being in Human Resources, her job requires confidentiality. If she withholds that information from Ronald and the other executives, will they question her loyalty?

As sadness creeps in, Rosalie is wide awake, and her brain is spinning. She thinks, “Well, there’s no use trying to fall asleep now,” picks up her cell phone, and checks Haley’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages to see if there’s evidence of a job search or hints about where she might be going.

A few weeks ago, Rosalie made a promise to herself that she would avoid taking the over-the-counter sleep aid she had grown used to taking, as it makes her feel groggy and distracted at work the following day. But it’s now 12:30 AM, and in just a few short hours, her alarm is going to go off, so she takes one of the sleep aids. Sleep finally comes at about 1:30 AM, and when her alarm goes off at 5:30, she decides to skip her morning workout and hits the snooze button.

Let’s Debrief...

How does this story reflect your personal experiences?

As you read this tale—

  • Did it sound plausible to you?

  • Did you see any behaviors you have engaged in or that you’ve seen others engage in?

  • Did you see anything that felt similar to experiences with your organization or team?

  • What assumptions were you tempted to make about Haley, Ronald, or Rosalie?

Other questions to consider—

  • Did you notice the assumptions people made?

  • Did you notice how they made decisions and took action based on their assumptions?


How to Prevent This Drama and Chaos in Your Organization

My Navigating Challenging Dialogue (NCD) Skills Training and Certified Trainer workshops can help your management and staff avoid all of this drama and confusion.

Among other things, they would learn how to ask clarifying questions, avoid making assumptions, and bring confidence to conversations they expect to be difficult. Using this story as an example—

Haley would have:

  • Effectively facilitated conversation in a meeting where many voices, personalities, and communication styles were in the room.

  • Let Ronald know at the beginning of their meeting that she was distracted.

  • Communicated to Ronald that she was feeling vulnerable managing the kind of situation that occurred in the meeting, and asked for support.

  • Directly discussed her questions about boundaries, confidentiality, and loyalty with Ronald.

Ronald would have:

  • Asked Haley directly about the unexpected and uncommon energy she brought to their meeting and clarified what was going on with her instead of going to someone else to find out.

Rosalie would have:

  • Felt secure and confident in redirecting Ronald back to Haley instead of participating in his workaround.

  • Not felt an urgency to shift her appointments around to meet with Haley.

  • Been able to keep all her health and wellness promises to herself, as well as bring her best self to work the next day.

What else do you see that could have been avoided or created, had this organization made an investment in Navigating Challenging Dialogue?

If you’d like to find out how your organization can reduce the costs of wasted time and have more ease in achieving its goals, contact us at (916) 436-5299 or, send us a note, or visit to learn more about holding a Navigating Challenging Dialogue Skills Training, or having a Navigating Challenging Dialogue Certified Trainer on your staff.


P.S. To experience the challenging dialogues faced by the staff in this scenario, listen to the podcast or read last week’s ‘episode’!