Stop the Drama Now



To say the least, drama at work is bothersome and it drains productivity.  So, how do we stop it?  First, it helps to understand a psychological model called The Drama Triangle.  This model was developed by Stephen B. Karpman.  It explains how people play games to get their needs met rather than clearly communicating what they want and what they mean.  This lack of clarity in communication is usually where drama begins.  Another source that provokes drama is when a person uses a command and control approach to get others to do what they want.  This approach causes resistance and escalates drama.

Here is how The Drama Triangle works.  There are three roles, the Victim (child), the Rescuer (parent), and the Persecutor, and these roles are played by two people.  The people in the drama switch between these roles to get their needs met in dysfunctional ways.  For example, the Victim usually starts the drama by asking the Rescuer for help rather than trying to think for themselves or take any risks.  The Rescuer tells the Victim what to do or does the Victim’s job for them rather than asking them how they think things should be done.  Often the Rescuer is controlling and just wants things done his way or he needs to be needed by the Victim to feel important.  The Victim is manipulating the Rescuer to take responsibility for him.  Regardless of the motive, both parties end up feeling persecuted by the other. The Rescuer persecutes the Victim by assuming he couldn’t figure things out for himself.  The Victim persecutes the Rescuer for discounting him and treating him like he is helpless.  The Rescuer feels victimized by the Victim because he feels unappreciated for all he’s done to help the Victim.


The trick to eliminating drama is to maintain healthy adult-to-adult communication.  A way to do that is to ask before you tell when speaking with an adult.  This allows the other person to be valued for their ability to think rather than being told what to do, how to think, or how to feel.  This “telling” and “imposing our thinking on others” is typically a trigger for drama.

Communication that includes drama or lacks clarity can be a setup for manipulation or negative influence. Remember, it is frequently not so much what you tell another person as it is the questions you ask that determines how you influence the outcome of a situation and avoid drama.

This content is adapted from my book The Influence Matrix: Strategies for Engaging Others to Get Results.  To read more about The Drama Triangle, go to