Earlier this week, my wife and partner Donna Zajonc and I presented a webinar for the International City and County Managers Association (ICMA), entitled “Stop the Drama: Shifting Office Politics.” Participants were professionals who serve city councils, county and township administrations.
The workplace dynamics they face include the mix of internal staff; elected officials and citizens. Needless to say, the realities that these esteemed professionals face are fertile grounds for a variety of forms of the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) and its toxic dynamics between the roles of Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer.
One of the coaching tips that Donna offered during our presentation was “Protect yourself from the toxicity. Remove yourself from the conversation when possible.”
During the Q&A session, someone referred back to that point and asked: “What do you do when it would be unprofessional or it is not possible to just walk away?” There are times in our work and personal lives when we are faced with just such situations.
Our advice is this: turn away without walking away. This is not about physically turning away. It means to turn away from the problem-focused, anxiety-drive and reactive Victim Orientation in your own mind and to respond from the outcome-focused, passion-powered and resourceful Creator Orientation.
Perhaps you could adopt the Coach role of TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) and ask questions to discern what it is that the other cares about that is behind their complaint or to brainstorm with them outcomes to focus on creating that addressed their concerns.
In other cases it may mean that you remain silent – though present – so as to not fan the flames or collude in the “Kinship of Victimhood.”
It is possible to turn away from negativity and toxicity without walking away (and, of course, there are times when literally walking away is reasonable and appropriate).
By staying present and responding as a Creator, we model the way for others to deal with issues and problems in ways that keep us rooted in TED*.