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November 17, 2011


the drama triangle and toxic workplaces

by Andrea O'Connell

At my ISPI meeting tonight (International Society for Performance Improvement), our guest speaker was Ed Muzio, CEO of Group Harmonics, and author of Four Secrets to Liking Your Work, and more recently, Make Work Great, both popular books offering great solutions to “stopping the drama” in the workplace.  The YouTube video below, called Stop the Drama and Do the Work, is only 4 minutes, or so, but it packs a good punch of common sense.

In the video Muzio discusses the Drama Triangle Avoidance model.  There are three roles in this model, Muzio explains them like this: 

1) Persecutor – someone who blames, criticizes, shames, snipes or back-stabs a victim.  The 2) Victim role then, is someone who follows orders, deflects blame, could be cynical, displays “poor me” attitudes, displays hopelessness. And finally, 3) the Rescuer Role – they are the Cheerleaders, they fight the power or plan a coup, they help the wounded one, tend to their hurt feelings, and they are the go-to person to fix problems.

In these three roles: Persecutor, Victim, and Rescuer are certain behaviors that inhibits work from getting done.  The trick is to reject the roles.  For instance, there are nasty and toxic people in my workplace who like nothing better than making others miserable – stealing your work, undermining your efforts, and basically trying to make you look bad so they look better.  They are everywhere in my workplace, especially prevalent in leadership roles which makes their influence worse.  (Why people who hate people are allowed to lead people I will never understand.)

Ed Muzio has a solution that will be helpful both inside and outside of the workplace.  The secret?  “Behave as if the role is not real.”  If we refuse to be the victim, the persecutor cannot be real….they may act as such to all outward appearances, but without a victim they’re just a lot of hot air!

Take a look at the video- it’s all explained – I think you’ll enjoy it, too!

And then there’s the all too common toxic workplace ….

Next month our ISPI guest will be Dr. Linnda Durre, her book Surviving the Toxic Workplace, is a huge success.

Do insulting screamers, incompetent assistants and outdated equipment drive you crazy?  Are you surrounded by vicious backstabbers, sneaky idea stealers, and lazy whiners?  Do the nitpicky control freaks, negative pessimists, and office gossips bring you down? Welcome to the Toxic Workplace, a not-so-rare condition that has reached epidemic proportions. In this ingenious step-by-step guide, renowned psychotherapist Linnda Durré shows you how to diagnose and treat these problems quickly and effectively to ensure the health of your company, your career, and your sanity.

This is a book I want to read!

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Nov 18 2011

    I LOVE that video!! It could have helped me SO much at a time when I was a manager/supervisor. The drama drove me crazy! The position was pretty much dumped into my lap, but I was eager to accept it, to learn new things, to “climb the ladder” and so forth. But…the company didn’t offer any formal training to me. I was “trained” by my new boss. He came into the company as my supervisor/manager, but then somebody higher up left the company, moving my new boss into that postion, and he moved me into the one he’d just vacated. It was good in the beginning. But then…oh dear! Having to deal with personnel bickering with each other, and most of it was not even work-related! Almost 2 years into my new position, I was at the breaking point. I begged my boss for guidance but suddenly he didn’t have time for me. I told him I could go to others for help, but he kept me away from those who could help me at any cost!! Turned out that he didn’t want them to know that he hadn’t been helping me. So then…I found myself in the exact “triangle” in the video! If only I knew that back then. It’s been almost 2 years since I stepped down from that manager position, after a trip to the ER because I thought I was having a heart attack or stroke. It was actually an anxiety attack from all the stress. I’m usually a pretty thick-skinned, calm, easy-going person, but that role was just too much! Some day, I’d like to have another go at it, but of course, would like to have the proper training beforehand. Thanks for the video, Andrea!

    • Nov 18 2011

      Hey Kitt! I really like the video, too! He’s got some more on his website, too. And, you are not alone about feeling alone and clueless in a management position… the secret is to realize that you’re not alone…. everyone feels insecure and clueless!
      Anyway, I’m still thinking about what Ed Muzio shared with us last night – such good stuff. And, if you sign up for his monthly newsletter, you’ll get a chapter of his newest book – it’s a chapter about the Drama triangle…. :
      Not until now have I realized that these scripted roles can be a choice…. I can’t tell you how often I’ve allowed myself to be a victim….not a happy time.

      Anyway, I ordered his book last night…. I also ordered the book about the Toxic Workplace…. that should be interesting! I’ll be sure to tell you all about it!


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