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Leading Beyond Drama: Female Leaders' Guide to Workplace Harmony

You know that commanding respect as a female leader can be difficult. It can be particularly hindering when it comes to diffusing workplace drama.

Whether it’s dealing with office politics, gossip, or interpersonal conflicts, employee drama can hurt productivity, morale, and overall work culture.

Unfortunately, it’s unavoidable. An independent study by Pollack found that “Employees in United States companies spend approximately 2.8 hours each week involved in conflict.

And while this seems manageable on the surface, this conflict can potentially cost your company around $359 billion every year.

The solution? You need to create a positive work environment that is relationship-focused.

No, I don’t mean you need to treat your employees as your friends. And it takes more than a blanket Open Door Policy to see this strategy take effect.

Here’s how to build relationships with your employees to squash work hostility.

RELATED: Communicate boundaries to a female friend with Dr. Carole Robin

The Struggle of Female Leadership

woman manager speaking to her employee about workplace drama

There’s a fine line you have to draw as a woman in a leadership role.

If you’re too nice, your employees might walk all over you.

If you’re too assertive, you’re seen as less likable.

I deal with this frequently as a female friendship coach. Women find it difficult to create meaningful relationships because society expects us to be the “nice girl” all of the time. And when we aren’t, people tend to look at us negatively.

Basically, we’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

A study by the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin also found that male employees are more likely to resist women in positions of authority because “those men perceive female bosses as a threat to their masculinity.”

But it’s not just men. The “Queen Bee Syndrome” is a stereotype placed on women leaders by women workers who see their bosses as "Mean Girls." These workers will dub the Queen Bee boss (a.k.a. you) as someone who feels threatened by her female staff. They think you'll take any opportunity to obstruct their attempts to get a promotion.

The idea that women must inherit “masculine” traits to be leaders is flawed. Women actually have their own superpower when it comes to being an authority figure— and it has nothing to do with their ability to command a room.

RELATED: How to Spot “Relational Aggression” in Your Female Friendships

4 Steps to Navigating Workplace Drama as a Female Leader

How To Navigate Workplace Drama as a Female Leader - two women discussing work

Employee conflict is a telltale sign that your workers are unhappy. They either feel unfulfilled in their work or their hard work is unappreciated by their boss.

In other words, your employees don’t care about the work, so they’re getting caught up in unnecessary drama.

But when you can be a leader who focuses on your employees' priorities, you'll see less conflict and more productivity, morale, and overall work culture.

In short, you need to get to know your employees so you can give them a work environment they love.

Women CEOs and managers are more likely to prioritize the facets of a job that cultivate a positive work environment: flexibility, employee well-being, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

And this is where your superpower comes into play.

Here’s how you can you can use relationship-building as your superpower as a female leader to resolve conflict at work:

RELATED: 2 ways high-achieving women silently suffer in friendships

1. Be Proactive

When it comes to employee drama, it’s essential to address issues directly and objectively. Don’t avoid the problem. Don’t hope that it will go away on its own.

Schedule a meeting immediately with the employees involved and address the situation head-on. This shows that you’re empathetic and keen to help your employees eliminate unnecessary stress.

During the meeting, firmly set expectations for how employees should handle conflict first. Then, gather all the facts from each person.

2. Stay Neutral and Listen To Your Employees

Forming open and unbiased relationships with your employees is key. You don’t want to be sucked into the workplace drama, too.

Even if you (secretly) have favorites, avoid getting caught up in emotional reactions or personal biases. Instead, take a step back and look at the situation objectively.

The best way to do this is to actively listen to each point of view. Ask open-ended questions about the ordeal. Then ask what the ideal outcome is for each party.

Asking them for their story and opinion on the resolution will make them feel heard and respected.

This can help to de-escalate the situation and prevent further drama from arising.

3. Focus on Employee Well-Being

You know that Snickers commercial where a football player turns into a Betty White?

The problem isn’t really that the player is playing football as badly as Betty White. The real problem is that he’s hungry.

Hence the famous Snickers tagline, “You’re not you when you’re hungry.”

Your employees aren't themselves when they’re involved in workplace drama. There’s an underlying cause to all of this.

Ask your employees a chance to discuss what’s really bothering them. Are they bored with their workload? Do they need to take a day off? What goals do they have to look forward to at the company? Do they feel unappreciated?

Offer them an opportunity to vent. Offer them a metaphorical "Snickers bar."

4. Don’t Feed into Gossip or Negativity

Gossip and negativity can fuel workplace drama, so it’s important to avoid feeding into it. Don’t engage in gossip or spread rumors, and discourage your team from doing so.

Instead, focus on positive and constructive communication that promotes community over competition.

RELATED: How to Have a Hard Conversation with a Friend


two women settling workplace drama by talking

When negating workplace drama, the best thing you can do is cultivate a relationship that prioritizes your employees’ needs. That means:

  1. Listening to your employees (especially when there is a conflict), and

  2. Prioritizing their well-being

This, when employee drama inevitably arises, you’ll have the respect you need to nip it in the bud. You don’t need to be harsh, stern, or demanding to see results.

In fact, your power lies in your ability to empathize with your employees.

Workplace drama can be challenging, but as a female leader, you have the power to create a positive and supportive work culture.

Looking to equip your female leaders with the necessary skills to handle workplace conflicts? Book Danielle as your Female Friendship coach for your next company conference!

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