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How to Stop Workplace Drama from Destroying the Agent and Customer Experience

If you’ve worked in contact centers for any period of time, you’ve seen your fair share of workplace drama: the emotional responses to feedback; the fire-drill frustrations; and perhaps even a few love triangles that would make Jerry Springer’s hair curl.

Drama eats your productivity and can destroy the agent and customer experience. When agents are emotionally frustrated, it’s nearly impossible to smile through the phone and bring the empathy needed to really serve the customer. When a supervisor is upset, they’re thinking out of the fight-or-flight part of their brains, and it’s difficult for them to see even the most obvious solutions.

Although you can’t eliminate the drama, you can learn ways to de-escalate it and re-focus your team on what matters most.

7 Steps to Stop the Drama

1. Ground Yourself

You won’t be effective if you’re swept up and washed away in the storm of other people’s drama. Anchor yourself. Know what matters most , build connections that keep you centered, steep in the values you want to live, and approach each situation with a positive “we can solve this” attitude.

At the same time, be prepared for problems. After all, emergencies and disruptions are par for the course in contact centers.

When everyone else is running around with their hair on fire, your grounded energy will help your team to maintain their composure and focus. Your most important jujitsu move here is to stay calm yourself and avoid feeding their emotional response with your own.

2. Set Clear Expectations

Just as you ensure everyone is on the same page regarding key business outcomes, you want to set expectations around how the team will react to challenges, how they resolve disagreements, and what to do when someone lets you down.

Train your team on the art of the tough conversation. Talk about how the team will respond when (not if) there’s a problem. Rehearse. Practice. Role-play and be ready. You’ll prevent problems from catching fire and blowing up into unproductive drama. This technique can help.

These first two steps help you prepare for drama-situations before they happen. Now let’s look at what to do when the drama happens:

3. Acknowledge Their Feelings / Concern

When someone is fired up, one of the most effective ways to de-escalate the situation is to reflect how they’re feeling. For example, “It sounds like you’re frustrated.”

You’re not telling them how to feel or saying you agree with their interpretation. You’re just letting them know you understand how they are feeling. Until that strong emotion is acknowledged, you’re unlikely to be able to move forward. Often, this acknowledgment and understanding is all the person needs.

4. Ask Rational Clarifying Questions

After you acknowledge their feeling, your next goal is to get the problem into perspective. Ask straightforward questions that help quantify the real issue.

For example, when someone comes to you wound up because “I’m facing an insurrection! Everyone is fighting the new system, and this will never work!” you might ask: “Who is having a hard time?” “What are they finding challenging?”

It’s one thing for the world to be on fire, but it’s another when it’s just Liz in Workforce and one OM who haven’t figured out how to get the data they need.

Push for the specifics that define the real problem (not the emotional problem).

Karin Hurt Quote, Workplace Drama

5. Redirect to “How Can We” Questions

Once you’ve got the problem identified, asking a “How can we?” question helps pull the person out of reacting and into problem-solving. The human brain isn’t able to hold onto intense emotion at the same time as holding curiosity.

When you ask “How can we solve this?” you’re also communicating that you care, that you trust them to be able to come up with solutions, and that a solution is possible. That’s a lot of drama-erasing, problem-solving power for one short question.

6. Identify Next Steps

As they come up with solutions, translate those into specific actions that can be taken (the sooner, the better). Ideally, these are actions they can take to help solve the issue. Sometimes there will be steps for you to take as well.

Either way, don’t allow the situation to resolve without specific commitments to action.

7. Finish Strong

Schedule a specific time where you and the other person will meet to review the actions both of you have taken, their impact, and what comes next. This is a critical step that prevents this particular dramatic situation from happening again. Don't waste this conversation. If you do, the drama will be back before you know it. Finish strong .

Your Turn

When you use these seven steps, you’ll prevent unnecessary drama. Your team will have the tools to deal with problems productively. For team members with a more drama-loving personality, walking them through steps 3 – 7 will guide them to more productive behaviors.

We’d love to hear from you: what’s your best tip to stop the drama, calm things down, and help everyone focus on moving forward?

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