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Posted: July 02, 2014

Drama works at the office

Another myth about business success

Jane Miller

Myth:  Drama works at the office. 

Truth: Reality TV shows. National Enquirer. TMZ.  Got to love all of them.  But it’s so much better to be a voyeur than a participant at work.

She was leaving to take a new job and we were doing an “exit” interview.  She said that she felt she had bigger opportunities with her new company and it was a better cultural fit for her.  She was very positive about her experience working for me and was thankful for the opportunity.  I told her I would gladly give her a reference in the future.  She had done some great analysis for us and had really raised the bar in the marketing department.  I got her personal contact information so that we could stay in touch and wished her well in her new assignment, thanking her for the work she had done while she was a part of our team.  I felt certain our paths would cross again because it is, after all, a very small world.

As it turns out, too small.  At least for her.

On the day when I wished her good luck, and she tearfully explained why she was leaving, I had no idea what havoc she had created before she left.  It turns out that she told several people how much money she made.  And the people she told had more experience than her and were actually making less money.  As the story unfolded, it became clear she had shared this because she thought these employees should make an issue out of it with management. 

As she went on her merry way to the next stop of what I imagine will be a bumpy and complex career, she left behind the seeds of discontent.  Really great people were left feeling underappreciated and screwed.

Amazing the negative impact one person’s drama on an organization.

Don’t be that person.

Drama is created when someone blabs on without knowing the facts, when they try to incite others toward anger and other negative emotions, and when private issues are spoken about in public.  Salaries are confidential and private.  It is an employee’s arrangement with the company, agreed upon based on many factors that have nothing to do with other people.  Certain jobs are considered more complex. 

Often a salary at a previous job will help determine what the company will pay now. In this case, the gal in question had a job that required an elevated set of skills, was hired because she had great potential in the company, and her salary was based on a premium to what she made at her previous job.

Second, it wasn’t her business to negotiate for others.  Most of us have no idea what each employee’s particular history is.  In this example, this gal had no context for the personal performance or raises of others.  Actually, both employees had been recognized for their work and had been given appropriate raises.  She incited discontent that was entirely unnecessary.

What was the outcome of her busy work? She ruined her own reputation. I would never hire this gal again nor would I give her a positive reference.  In fact, I would give her no reference at all, which in effect is a negative endorsement.  She created her own luck, albeit bad luck.

And this is where the small world comes in.  Everything that we do in our careers contributes to our reputation.  And reputation is the most important asset you can have.  So doing things that build your reputation is key.  And don’t think you will never see that person you dissed again. You probably will!

My ex-employee obviously created some drama at the office that did not help anyone and actually will hurt her in the future.  How do you avoid becoming “that girl?”

Jane Miller is a CEO, career expert, public speaker, author and animal lover. Jane runs, a career website that provides support, resources and tools for those climbing the corporate ladder. She is releasing her first book, Sleep Your Way to the Top (and Other Myths About Business Success), in May 2014. Currently the president & CEO of Rudi’s Organic and Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bakeries in Boulder, Jane has had a 30-year career leading and managing businesses for HJ Heinz Company, Bestfoods Baking Company, and PepsiCo. Jane is passionate about helping others, outing her mistakes, telling stories and sharing her wisdom.

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Readers Respond

"How to avoid becoming 'that girl'"? Would have been better to say "that person", I have known males that have caused the same havoc. Gossip is something that hurts the company at all levels, and it appears to be gender inclusive. By Debbie on 2014 07 08
I think salary secrecy is an attempt to avoid some of the drama in the work place as opposed to keeping anybody down on the pay scale. In many businesses, its very seldom that any two people do the exact same job or have the exact same responsibilities. And face it, everyone does not perform at the same level. There are numerous sources for employees to find out what kind of pay ranges there are in the market place. They have the option of negotiating a better wage or leaving for greener pastures. If the compensation is acceptable to the employee for the job performed, what difference does it make what someone else in the company is paid? By John Gimple on 2014 07 02
As a small business owner myself, I understand the importance of leading a drama-free workplace but rather than "dissing" a former employee for revealing her compensation to co-workers, why not embrace the opportunity to have a frank discussion with remaining employees? It seems like a great opportunity to open a discussion about developing skills, increasing productivity, and giving clients/customers more value. By Casey on 2014 07 02
Salary secrecy is what holds many women and minorities at low pay levels compared with their peers. Some states are passing laws making it illegAl to require employees to maintain their salaries as confidential. Yes, there are reasons why some people are paid more than others and if you can't justify them, do the right thing for the other employees and give them a raise! By Cindy Wolf on 2014 07 02
"Gal"? "Girl"? You're a woman, don't be "that woman." I see your points, but they are negated by your condescending terminology. By Nora on 2014 07 02
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