Drama At Work?

My life’s work is helping people find more meaning in what they do.  I encourage them to take the next steps and do something meaningful for them.

I do this by speaking, talking, teaching [I was a university professor for almost 30 years], writing, and most of all listening.

Many times I listen to what people tell me about work or I get an email in response to a blog post or a speech I make.  Too often, it sounds like a drama.

Mr A talked about being abused at work, being told to stay late even though he had planned on taking his girlfriend out.  Ms. B told me she wants to do something to help her co-worker.  Her co-worker is incompetent but has 3 kids and is a single mother and needs the job.  Ms. B is getting tired though.  Mr. C is the head of an accounting firm and has contempt for the people that work for him..  He  thinks they are all incompetent and insults them in public.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?  Have you seen this where you work?

It’s so easy to fall in to patterns at work that are unhealthy for you and drain your energy. If you are in any of the above situations, you most likely are feeling exhausted. Individuals play the role of aggressor [Mr. C], rescuer [Ms. B] and victim [Mr A].

We-yes, me too, can get sucked in to playing these roles and staying in them.  Unfortunately, these roles gives us the illusion of power -we are bashing someone, helping someone or getting someone to help us.

What should you do?  Well, fortunately there is a way of analyzing work situations that can be very helpful.  It’s the Karpman  Drama Triangle and it shows the three main positions that  in unhealthy relationships.

Fortunately, we don’t have to play these roles forever, but first a little more about these roles.


A boss may yell [agressor] at a customer service representative for not doing his job well [victim], and another supervisor [rescuer] comes along and consoles the customer service rep and tells him everything will be ok. But  it won’t be.

Maybe the Customer Service Rep needs to learn how to work with the boss.  And in a surprising chain of events, the customer service rep might turn into the aggressor not against the boss, but against the supervisor who then takes on the role of the victim. “You gave me the wrong advice.”

The roles incorporate learned patterns of habit  that bond people together in unhealthy ways. They are symbiotic, destructive behaviors that affect all members of the a group.

If you notice that you are in one of these roles, don’t jump to another role, get off the triangle. Completely off. These are all unhealthy roles.

The best place to be on this triangle is no where, off the triangle.

Instead of playing the role, get in the audience. It’s the best place to be. No costume change or hysterics needed.


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