Family Business Without the Drama
This week I want to discuss a subject that sometimes shows up in family businesses, and that’s “drama”.
But unlike some things that come and go in one business family or another, drama seems to either be largely present or mostly absent, depending on the family.
Let me try that again for the sake of clarity.
I find that some family businesses function in “all drama, all the time” mode, while other families might wonder what I’m talking about when they read this because they don’t operate that way at all.
Let’s take a little dramatic side trip now and we’ll come back to family business after.
Eliminating the Wicked Witch
I recently attended a High School play and I witnessed some unexpected bonus drama that occurred in the audience.
It was a presentation of The Wizard of Oz in a very small theatre on a Friday evening.
There were a few young children and toddlers present, presumably to watch their older siblings and cousins perform.
Everything was going as planned until the Wicked Witch of the West arrived on stage.
The girl who played her was perfectly cast.
I know this for a fact, because she had told me personally “Hey Dad, how perfect, I get to be the Wicked Witch!”
Exit Theater Left
The Wicked Witch’s arrival on stage, with her booming voice, green face, and the stage presence that only a six-foot-tall actress could pull off was simply too much for some of the younger patrons.
Crying, squealing, mothers taking their kids out into the hall, just wow. The witch’s parents were in hysterics observing this scene.
Each time she reappeared on the stage, there was palpable anxiety in the audience. Thankfully, when Dorothy finally eliminated her, a more calm and serene mood was enjoyed by fans of all ages.
Who’s Your Witch?
There are different kinds of drama in family businesses, but one common version is a variation of the witch.
I’m talking about people in the business whose mere presence has everyone on edge.
Likewise, when they are absent, everyone knows it too, and they can actually relax and get their work done.
Who Needs an Antagonist?
While a play needs someone to act as an antagonist, a business does not.
I’ve used the word “drama” here, and also talked about the “anxiety” that is sometimes felt.
They are not exactly the same but surely related. You can have anxiety without drama, but I’m not sure that you can have drama without any anxiety.
My conclusion is therefore that minimizing drama in a workplace should be a desirable goal.
Workplace Versus Homefront
Note that I chose the word “workplace” just there.
Sometimes the drama needs to have an outlet, and my argument here is that efforts should be made to limit the drama in the workplace, for the sake of the people who are there to get their jobs done.
So am I saying that people should bottle things up at the office and then bring their drama home with them?
Well, I’m not sure that would be the best interpretation either.
Drama Kings and Queens
Those responsible for the drama are quite often the same people, and they often play their “roles” in predictable ways.
It can be very difficult to get them to change their ways. But once a drama queen, well, usually “always a drama queen”.
So now what?
Well, the only person you can actually control is the person you see in the mirror, and so that is naturally where I’m going to suggest you put your focus.
Respond, Don’t React
A couple of weeks back in Your Response is Your Responsibility, I suggested that you make every effort necessary to avoid reacting, and instead take a deep breath, pause, and offer a response instead.
Drama kings, at home or at work, enjoy the reactions their tactics elicit.
When denied the satisfaction of those reactions, they may slowly, eventually, begin to subside, if only just a little bit.
Don’t Fight Fire with Fire
While it’s sometimes very tempting to fight dramatic fire with dramatic fire, I think that these fires should be fought with water instead.
Let’s end with a quote from George Bernard Shaw that makes this point nicely:
“I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig.
You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”