Office Drama – A Necessary Evil

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As a company grows in size and the number of employees (with differing personalities and worldviews) increases, office drama ensues regardless of whether we like it.

Divides are inevitable and soon, gossiping and interpersonal conflicts surface too.

I just want to take a moment to acknowledge the fact that the COVID-19 situation is becoming increasingly dire in most countries now, Singapore included.

And while the main worry is keeping the pandemic under control, first-world problems that office workers face will still be at the forefront of most of our waking moments.

I’m still very grateful for the healthcare workers and government’s efforts in retarding the spread of COVID-19 with a Circuit-Breaker (just a euphemism for lock down, in my opinion).

And I’ve donated some money to relevant funds to hopefully help out even if it’s just a drop in the ocean.

But back to the matter at hand: office drama. It’s something everyone hates but knows that it’s present in any sizable company because people will be people.

I wouldn’t say I’m good at navigating office dramas but from my experience, it is a necessary evil that is inevitable anyway, so learning how to deal with it is an important skill.

Why necessary evil?

Office drama is interesting and even entertaining (to watch) – that’s why The Office is one of the world’s most-watched series ever, period.

But anyone who’s been deeply entrenched in an office drama in real life would say that it’s as if you’re constantly fighting a cold war between people whom you’re supposed to collaborate with.

Exhausting and counterproductive but once you’re in an office drama, it’s like a pit you can’t get out of unless the “lead characters” are out of the company.

And even innocent bystanders who are not directly involved in the drama would get affected or dragged into the war unwillingly.

Even as observers, you’ll be inadvertently forced to take a side at some point, which I’ve faced time and time again despite my best efforts to not engage.

Through office drama, though, we get to know differentiate the capable from the gossipy or overly political.

Capable as in adept in navigating distractions such as office drama while doing good work; gossipers may do good work but engaging in office politics takes up work hours that could be spent more effectively.

How I deal with office drama/politics

As I’ve written previously about workplace relationships, just not engaging in gossip whether it involves you or someone whom you don’t really like is probably the only sure-fire way to not be dragged in.

Regardless of whether you’re a manager or someone slightly more senior, make any comments with care and tact – you don’t want to offend anyone, intentionally or unintentionally.

Even if gossip or a secret somehow lands in your lap, make sure it ends in your ears. Don’t talk to anyone about it, whether it’s a trusted colleague or even someone who knows anyone in your company.

Although the above might seem like common sense, I haven’t met more than a few people in my career who can say they’ve the discipline and self-control.

It’s only human nature to want to socialise and talk about exciting and interesting topics – but the repercussion in this context is contributing to office drama and politics.

Office drama without interpersonal interactions

In Singapore’s context, working from home is something most Singaporeans are not used to – commuting to our workplace is something that even feels almost ritualistic to some of us.

With work-from-home (WFH) measures in place, it feels foreign for most Singaporeans and productivity is almost certainly to drop for as long as this COVID-19 situation persists, not just in Singapore but other countries as well.

But if office drama and politics were already present before working remotely, WFH just amplifies it since 93% of communication is non-verbal.

Text messages rarely do people justice – we sound a lot more hostile because how many of us actually read out our messages before hitting “send”?

Adding emojis does help with conveying non-hostility but when things get very hectic, it’s tough to remember to add an emoji to every message that might appear unfriendly.

It might sound counterproductive, but perhaps discussing a work matter over a voice or video call might be better if there are potential disagreements or misunderstandings.

For instance, straightforward matters like deadlines or questions with binary answers can be done through text, but complicated discussions or multiple sub-tasks related to the same project can be talked through via a voice call.

Do our best

Giving our best in tough times is easier said than done. But we should put in our best efforts not just for others but for ourselves too.

I’m not a religious person but I do believe everything will come back to you (eventually) – whether good or bad.

What happens to us can be controlled to a certain extent, so why should we be lazy about it?

With more time to reflect at home, hopefully, more people will learn to communicate better in this day of age. If not, our downfall will just be our own doing.

About the author

Vance Wong
Vance Wong

Brain-picker. Cinephile. Koreaboo.

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Vance Wong by Vance Wong

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Vance Wong

Vance Wong

Brain-picker. Cinephile. Koreaboo.