How lack of clarity leads to workplace drama

Jul 22 2011 by Marlene Chism Print This Article

Where there is backstabbing, gossip, insubordination or any other type of drama, there is always a lack of clarity in some area. And when employees are unclear about policies and procedures, when there are too many dropped balls or hidden agendas, or there is confusion about who is leading, drama is sure to follow.

If you are experiencing the signs of drama and negativity, look at these seven easy-to-spot areas to see where you might be giving incongruent messages leading to a lack of clarity.

Mission Statement
Having no mission statement is not much worse than having a bad mission statement. What makes a bad mission statement? If it's too long, if the employees can't recite it, or if you aren't walking your talk, your mission statement does little to add to the clarity of the organization and may in fact give mixed messages to the employees.

Tell the truth about what your company is committed to and make your mission statement so easy to remember that the guy on the front floor can recite it. The point here is that any activity or behavior that does not align with the mission statement is a distraction or drama waiting to happen, and when you don't understand the mission you don't know when you are off course.

If you have policies in place that you don't enforce, either start enforcing the policy or tweak the policy so that it's fair, easy to understand and easy to enforce. Whether you decide to start enforcing the policy or decide to adjust the policy, give fair warning about the changes so that you keep everyone clear on what is expected and how this change will impact the employees.

Be careful what you promise. Unfulfilled promises are an energy drain that fosters resentment and breaks down trust. For example, don't say "I'll get back to you next week" unless you schedule the communication and actually fulfil your obligation.

The same applies for any new management practice, project or initiative that you want to implement. Employees are weary of new management theories that get started then fizzle out.

What do you do to manage your promises when you are getting ready to introduce a lengthy project or a new practice or theory? I recommend a process that I call "shortening the gap." This means that instead of declaring a change that might take a year, institute a trial period for three months at which time you will analyze the results and shift direction if necessary.

Hidden Agendas
Employees have a sixth sense for hidden agendas. For example, I have seen upper management try to integrate the front line employees with executives on a steering committee, yet the rules for attendance, and behavior were different for the executives than they were for the front line employees.

Another example is when a company changes the job description and title, reduces the pay and keeps the tasks and workload the same. Shuffling words around on a document to justify pay cuts or workload increases contributes to loss of trust and respect.

Make sure your motives are pure and you are transparent about the decisions you make, and ask for employee feedback when you restructure or redesign a job.

Lack of Resources
Your plans to downsize might work on paper but not in the real world. You cannot give your employees more than 10 percent work load increase without increasing their resources in some area. The resources might be in the form of training, a rotation system, a new tool, or some new technology. Get clear on what is realistic and what kind of resources you need if you adjust the expectations or you will get drama in the form of excuses, finger pointing and absenteeism.

Processes and Procedures
It takes time to document your processes but without this clarity, your drama will come in the form of customer complaints and inconsistencies in your product or service. Once you have the processes and procedures written down, you take away the power of the queen bee who tries to gain job security by making sure she is indispensible. In addition written processes and procedures give you a foundation for cross training, and a map for documenting changes as you go.

Who is really in charge? An all too familiar example is in private practices and small businesses where there is the leader who has the title, but there is the real leader, perhaps a star employee who has seniority or specialized knowledge, or a relative of the top executive. This person has the ear of the owner, the president or the CEO, and as a result can manipulate or override the designated leader.

For example, the private medical office that has a queen bee nurse who overrides the administrator by going directly to the doctor when she doesn't like the administrator's leadership, policy or guidance.

Often, the owner, or in this case, the doctor is oblivious to the drama that is being created internally by the inconsistency and lack of clarity. The other employees know what is going on, and needless to say the administrator is frustrated, but gets no backing from the doctor who is the final authority.

It's just like when the kids pit their parents against one another. If mom says "no" then go to Dad. This level of inconsistency regarding how decisions are made and enforced will land you an employee who knows how to play the game and get her way. Get clear on who is the boss and you eliminate a majority of power struggles and game playing.

About The Author

Marlene Chism
Marlene Chism

Marlene Chism is a speaker, author and founder of The Stop Your Drama Methodology, an eight-part empowerment process to increase clarity and improve productivity and personal effectiveness.