By Stacy Eads
January 3, 2023

Are you stuck in the drama triangle?

Which of these three roles do you play in your business?
Drama at work illustration

As a manager of any business you can name, in any industry, there’s bound to be drama lurking somewhere around the water cooler chatter from time to time. When that drama crosses the threshold of your door, do you know how to respond?

Sometimes that “open-door policy” bites you if you’re not equipped to handle the drama.

One terrific solution for executives to deploy is the 1-3-1 methodology. Proactively tell all your staff that we have a company culture of solutions. To best enable that culture, anytime they’d like to talk about challenges, issues, or problems with your open-door policy, they should come armed with a simple 1-3-1 technique.

Anyone in the company can ask for “open-door policy” time from an executive. And anyone in the company can do so by deploying the 1-3-1 strategy.

  • State 1 challenge.
  • State 3 solutions.
  • State the 1 solution you’d choose.

The executive will listen and either confirm their solution choice because they’re making the right decision or explain why you’d probably choose another of those three choices presented to you. Informing the company about how you think and why you make choices is a major step in developing future leaders in your organization.

This is huge. Don’t overlook how empowering this technique can be in identifying and training future leaders.

Better yet, the 1-3-1 method doesn’t allow whiners and complainers. It encourages solution-based conversations during your open-door policy.

Deploying the technique as a companywide initiative will help you and all your managers better listen to employees, empower them to seek solutions to challenges, and equip them to make the best decisions possible.

The Drama Triangle

Along with the 1-3-1 management practice, learning the Drama Triangle is essential. Everyone has a role within the Drama Triangle. Period.

  • The Victim: the person complaining
  • The Persecutor: the person or situation they are complaining about (pointing fingers)
  • The Rescuer: the person they are complaining to (hoping you’ll agree with them, wallow with them, or rescue them)

Let’s take a deeper look at the three roles of the Drama Triangle that isn’t functional or helpful in the workplace (nor in our home life)! 

Victim: They walked into your office to tell you a “woe is me” story in which they are unwilling to take responsibility for themselves or their circumstances.

Sounds like:

  1. “Poor me”
  2. “I’m not responsible.”
  3. “I can’t do anything about it.”
  4. “I don’t know what to do!”
  5. “Why is this happening to me?”

Persecutor: They walked into your office to complain that day. They are aggressively assigning blame and pointing fingers at others. They feel righteous, threatened, defensive, or angry.

Sounds like:

  1. “It’s all his fault!”
  2. “I do everything around here!”
  3. “What’s the matter with them?”
  4. “What were you thinking?”
  5. “Why did she do that?”

Rescuer: Be careful as an executive. You’re the one telling the company you have an “open-door policy.” This doesn’t mean you have to be “the water cooler office” where everyone goes to dump their problems. Ensure they know how to properly use the 1-3-1 technique to bring solutions to those challenges. Otherwise, your open-door policy becomes a Rescuer situation. You are simply shielding others from the consequences of their own actions. You often feel responsible, attached to the outcomes, or have a desire to always want to “fix” things.

You may sound like:

  1. “Let me help you.”
  2. “I’ll make it OK.”
  3. “Let’s not fight.”
  4. “I feel bad for you.”

The true role of any leader, when faced with the Drama Triangle when a Victim or Persecutor comes into your office, is to coach them and redirect them toward a new role.

Victims need to become Creators

Accept responsibility for themselves and their circumstances and self-determine a choice, an outcome, or a next step. They need to create their solution.

Help them create their next phrase. They should be saying things like:

  1. “I choose to …”
  2. “I take responsibility for my part in this. I now need to…”
  3. “The outcome I’m going to create is…”
  4. “The vision I’m committed to is…”
  5. “The lesson I’m getting from this difficult situation is…”

Persecutors need to become Challengers

More politely inspire the others to step up, rather than degrade them and point fingers.

They can utilize phrases like this to be direct, honest, and solutions-oriented:

  1. “I believe that you are better than this. Can we discuss together how to improve moving forward?”
  2. “Please come back with a 1-3-1 solution in mind so we can have a productive conversation about potential outcomes.”
  3. “This is clearly an opportunity for you to step up to the plate. Are you ready?”

Rescuers need to become Coaches

Support others by encouraging them to learn from their own experiences and actions. Don’t wallow with them, agree with them, side with them, or let them simply complain with no action. Don’t give them the answers and fix their problems. Guide them in coming up with their own solutions.

You might ask these questions to help them create their own solution:

  1. “What do you see as your options?”
  2. “What might you be missing here?”
  3. “What can you choose to do to improve this situation?”
  4. “What is it that you really want?”
  5. “What is the barrier standing in your way of that result/outcome?”
  6. “What’s the first step to addressing that barrier when you leave this conversation?”

Let’s start 2023 by crafting the culture you desire — a culture of outcomes, solutions, and goals. Announce the 1-3-1 technique is being added to your organization, and follow through to ensure it’s in action every day, every week, and every month.

Modify your open-door management policy to ensure the solutions-oriented culture you intend to deliver rather than the water cooler chatter you may be experiencing now.

Learn to recognize what role you are playing in the Drama Triangle and what words to say to coach yourself out of it.

The companies I coach are enjoying deploying this new method in the new year. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to schedule a free coaching session: www.stacyeads.com/free-coaching-session/ 

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About Stacy Eads

Edmond native & UCO Alumna, Stacy Eads, is an award-winning “Most Admired CEO” who scaled her company as a Woman in Tech before becoming an International Scaling Up Business Coach. She now empowers other CEOs from $2M to $200M to embrace their leadership potential through quarterly strategic planning. Her talent is in high demand to CEO Coach, Train Teams, and Speak at Events in both the U.S.A. and Canada.

Stacy Eads’ career affiliations include 50 Women Making a Difference award, Circle of Excellence award, Torch Ethics award, Most Admired CEO award, Edmond Chamber & UCO Mentor, Better Business Bureau of Central Oklahoma Board of Directors, TEDx OKC Speaker Coach, and Ambassador Chairwoman for the Greater OKC Chamber of Commerce.