Ask Marlene

Do you have a question? When you have a “mental drama” a “relationship drama” a question about gaining clarity or concerns about success, feel free to drop me a line by adding your question in the comment box.

If you have the courage to ask you will benefit hundreds or thousands who also have the same question or are facing the same challenge.

19 Responses to Ask Marlene

  1. rebecca says:

    i work in a very small, tight-knit business, only 5 employees, and my boss’ wife is one of those employees. she thrives on talking behind everyone’s back. it’s like she takes turns hating different people in the business, and now she’s on me. whenever i’m not working, she’s talking to everyone else about me, and normally i wouldn’t care at all, but all these negative comments she’s making are going straight to my boss, and it’s making me really nervous. she’s his wife, so he’s going to take some of it into account…. is there a good way to address this situation?

    • stopyourdrama says:

      Hi Rebecca
      Thank you for your e-mail. The only way to approach this is to speak directly to the bosses wife and try to make peace, that is, assuming you want to stay with this company. Your approach should be out of curiosity and non threatening. For example, “Sally, is there something I have done that is bothering you? I’m sensing that you are irritated with me.” Then hold your tongue. Most likely she will say something like, “No, you are just too sensitive,” or some other form of denial. However, you have at least brought the subject to light.

      If she presses on, by saying, “What do you mean,” you can then talk about an instance or an observation. Be careful not to use “blaming” or judging language.
      For example, do NOT say, “You are rude to everyone and we are all tired of your complaining.” Instead say, “When I asked you a question, you rolled your eyes and raised your voice. I wasn’t sure if that was intentional or if you are just frustrated with something else.”

      Now she is going to be more aware. My best advice is to be a good example no matter what she does or says, and in the meantime, start looking for another job and keep your options open. The reality is, the boss isn’t going to get rid of his own wife unless he sees that it’s necessary. I hope this helps.

  2. Hello Marlene,

    Your email bounced so I thought I’d just post here if that’s ok. Not a question – just feedback.

    I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU for your program with Joan Schramm of Career Momentum. I listen to a lot of podcasts and read a lot of books on this subject and I must say you ideas really impressed me. I’m going to look into getting your book. Stop the Drama is not only a unique idea but I think it was one I needed to hear at this point in my life.

    Here’s how I found you:
    – I set up a LinkedIN profile
    – Joined the Helium writers group
    – Received a notice that included Joan’s program
    – Downloaded some podcasts from her site – and yours was the only one that was loud enough for me to hear.

    This social media is changing things so much, and has become so complex, that it’s almost supernatural how what we need to hear arrives just when we need it.

    Thank you very much!

    Michael McClure
    Canada

  3. Jean Carter says:

    I am a new supervisor at my place of employment and I have been having trouble with an employee monopolizing our morning meeting. What would be the proper way to handle this?

    • stopyourdrama says:

      Thank you for your question. This is a very common challenge even among very seasoned managers.
      Meetings can be a big waste of time or the biggest time saver. It all depends on your skills of keeping the meeting on track and engaging your staff. The challenges that keep your meetings from being productive include going on way past the allotted time, getting off track, and meetings that turn into gripe sessions. Here are four basics to running an effective meeting that keeps you completely in charge and engages your employees.

      1. Set the expectations
      2. Acknowledge the elephant
      3. Beat the dead horse
      4. Engage them

      Set the expectations
      One reason meetings get off track is due to negativity. It could be just one drama queen who always has something negative to say, but my bet is that she is speaking for the tribe, and she gets some sort of glory from her peers for having the courage to say what everyone else is thinking. Whether it’s everyone or just one person, the way to eliminate the complaining is to set the expectations before the meeting begins. This starts with a good agenda with a time allotment for each item on the agenda. Be realistic about the time it will take for each part, and this will help you avoid running over time. When you begin your meeting you may want to start out by acknowledging the elephant in the room.

      Acknowledge the elephant
      If there has just been a dramatic or unfortunate event, don’t ignore it and pretend it will go away. Whether it’s a pay cut, a firing, a policy change or a merger, you must bring it up briefly so that your employees feel heard. It goes something like this: “I know that many of us are very unhappy with the recent changes. It is affecting all of us and some of the complaints are valid, however I am going to ask that you try to work through it. We are not going to be discussing these challenges today. We may have a forum in the future, but today we will be talking only about XYZ on the agenda. If anyone does bring up something not on the agenda, we can put that topic on the flip chart and address it at a later date, but not today. Does everyone understand?” You will get a nod of agreement, and then you can move on to your agenda.

      Beat the dead horse
      If what has recently happened is still on everyone’s mind, you may elect to hold the first part of your meeting as a “beat the dead horse” session. Here’s what you do: Get a flip chart and markers and then start your meeting by saying, “We are going to play a quick game called ‘beat the dead horse.’ I want you to write down any complaint or upset that you have and put it on the board.” (Or you can have them state it in person and get a scribe to put the complaints on the flip chart.)

      Start the clock and give a one minute warning. Read the statements off. Invite your staff to initial any of the complaints for which they have an idea for improvement that could reasonably work within company policy. Ask them to bring their ideas to you on a sheet of paper so you can address the ideas in the next meeting. Now you have empowered them to be problem solvers instead of complainers.

      Engage their brain
      Make a list of all the ideas that came to you. Acknowledge those who made the effort, even if the ideas are not valid solutions. If you do get a few solid ideas, that’s icing on the cake. If you don’t get any ideas, then you are teaching your staff not to complain if they cannot be part of the solution. Now you can schedule time on the agenda to invite problem-solving, and idea sharing. People buy into what they help to create.

      I have never had these methods fail, however if you have followed this advice and are still having problems, you owe it to yourself to have a one-on-one meeting with the disruptive employee to let him or her know that you expect them to respect the agenda and your position, then after that discipline is the next step if your warning is ignored.

  4. deb says:

    Help! How do you handle an employe that creates drama by stomping around, banging things around, ignoring others, or having very short cold answers? How do I effectively thwart the drama?

    • stopyourdrama says:

      Thanks for the courage to ask this question. For some reason this employee has gotten by with no self-discipline and no concens for other people and it sounds like it’s been going on for a long time.

      I have a BIG question for you: Why has this behavior been tolerated at all?
      This pattern should have never gotten past one incident. It sounds like everyone is afraid of this employee, or has a belief that the employee can’t be replaced.

      Take a deep breath because this may sound harsh…but this is more of a management and leadership issue than it is an employee issue. The one with the clarity navigates the ship. In this case you have a trouble maker who is more clear about pouting and drama, so that is who is navigating at this time. BUT…that can change!

      The point is, your employees either help you get to the island called profits, customer service and productivity, or they take you off course to some other island. Sounds like this one is not rowing together with the team but beating everyone else with the oars! Why is that OK? Get clear about who is in charge and what is expected!

      Doesn’t sound like someone you want to keep on the team, but there’s a bigger leadership lesson here.
      The firs thing you want to do is have an authentic conversatation with this employee and own the part you played in letting it go on for this long. Then ask for what you want.

      Your next step is to create these processes
      1. A better hiring system
      2. An employee evaluation system
      3. A standard Operations Manual with an employee handbook

      This problem is much bigger than the problem of one employee.
      Get completely clear about how you want to run this business and put standard processes in place to elminiate any obstacle that keeps you from your success.
      My best to you,
      Marlene Chism

      I highly recommend some leadership training or consulting so that this does not happen again. Please e-mail me if that is of interest. info@stopyourdrama.com

  5. barb says:

    I grew up in a household where my mom would threaten divorce alot, my mom and dad were very inconsistent had bad fights, my dad would chase my mom around, scary. Drinking caused issues. and there was always crazy times when rumors and crisis would get things going my mom seemed to love drama, triangles, intrique. I have this bad now. how to stop it I create alot of issues that I do not want

    • stopyourdrama says:

      Barb,
      You are not alone. So many of us suffer from patterns that we repeat from our past. In a nutshell, our subconscious mind is programmed by the time we are 8 years old. The good news…and this is really exciting…is that you can change your programming. Knowing this does two things: It helps you forgive the past, and gives you the courage to create a new reality. It takes commitment but it sounds to me like you are ready.
      There is no “short” answer here, but I want to give you some resources and ideas you can start using immediately. 1. Get clear on who you want to “be” in this world. I like journaling, but there are many methods such as vision boards, therapy, coaching or a combination. Journal, about what your life would be like when you are calm, caring, and can control the triggered impulses. 2. Look at those times when you are tempted as tests to strengthen your resolve. When you feel the urge, breathe and just be willing to “FEEL” what you feel. Most likely you will feel rage. Be willing to let it go through you without reacting. The more you are able to do this, the more it will dissapate. You will slowly start creating new connections of how to handle the feelings and urges.
      Some books I recommend are
      1. Heart of the Soul by Gary Zukav
      2. Practicing the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

      I believe we can heal our past through our present moments. That is why I prefer coaching to therapy, but either way I do believe you are going to need some kind of emotional support because this kind of transformation can be scary.

      If you would like to set up a consult to see if this is a fit for you please e-mail me at info@stopyourdrama.com
      Please keep me informed of your success.

  6. Ashley says:

    ok so i start drama and im trying to stop but it seems like when i try it onleys get worse now my b-day is coming up and i feel horrible! I just want there to be no drama its like oh yea she said this blah blah! I dont no how to stop and stay away from it so how can I stay away from the drama and regain my enemys to become my friends? Also how do i not spread it and start it?

    • stopyourdrama says:

      Thanks for your question Ashley.
      The great news is that you know what you don’t want.
      Now let’s get clear about what you DO want.
      What you focus on expands, so start focusing on what could be good.
      So here are some things to get clear about:
      1. How do you want to respond when things do get difficult and trigger you?
      2. What is your plan if you do feel threatened or drawn into drama? Can you walk away, or stay silent? In other words, do not plug into the negativity. Simply say, “I have decided that today is for focusing on blessings and what is positive.” Keep repeating this and walk away if necessary.
      I suggest that you jot down or journal some ideas about how you want to be and what you want to experience on your birthday. The more clear you become the easier it will be, because you are either heading to the “island called peace” or heading to the island called drama.
      When you feel stressed, do not respond, simply take a deep breath and do not contribute and in this way you cannot lose even if everyone else is having drama. My wishes to you for a peaceful birthday.

  7. anna says:

    Hi Marlene,
    I Hope you can help. I work in a small medical office. I am the oldest, have the most seniority & I’m the office manager. I have seen our office grow in the past 6 years of working here. I have seen many other employees come and go. I have been steady, steadfast and faithful. Have never missed a day of work, never late, never not performed. When the lady I started working with was fired, I had to assume all of her duties which included things I had never done before. I had to learn these on my own, quickly. I also had to take an online course which took me a year to complete, in order to do more things around the office to assist the dr. I have corrected blunders that were made prior to my arrival that generated income for the dr. I have been asked to do personal things for the dr, and have had to stay on top of the dr to get things complete in a timely manner for prompt payment. At times, I have felt like more of a personal secretary. My role over the years has evolved into one where I am the stern, serious, business person, a far cry from the easy going, relaxed person I was when I was hired. Recently I hired someone who is almost exactly like me; age, looks, personality, etc. Except she is new and hasn’t been jaded by 6 yrs of this job so she is still “fun.” The problem I am having is recognition. I do get paid a higher salary than the others, but I have more responsibilities. It seems though that the dr pays the other 2 more praise and recognition for the little things they do and the bigger things that I do and have always done, is overlooked. It’s assumed that I will do it and do it well and on time. The dr recently implemented a bonus system where we get cash for goals accomplished. They get about $10-40 per week for their goals in cash. Mine are based on financial goals at the end of each month. Mine are not cash, even though he said it would be, so mine has taxes taken out. The bigger issue is that he gives them their bonus when I am out of earshot, thanks them, praises them for their hard work. For my bonus, I have to ask for it. He knows I met the goals, yet says nothing, so I have to ask if I can have my bonus, to which he replies, sure! Am I justified in feeling left out? I feel like either he wants me to leave but doesn’t have the nerve to fire me or he is really taking advantage of me. He has never thanked me for the major things I have done to bring him income, which is his major focus. I realize that I am getting paid for a job, that I shouldn’t have to be praised for doing it. But it is difficult when praise and attention is given to others. Am I wrong in expecting to be appreciated? To add to this, the new lady I hired told him off recently in a nice way, told him that he has a bad way of expressing himself and that she almost wanted to quit. He seemed unaffected by it but a week later he was praising her for any little thing, giving her extra attention. This is affecting my sleep, my attitude, my health. Any answers would be appreciated.

    • Hi Anna
      It sounds like you feel taken advantage of and that you do not feel appreciated. It sounds like it’s time for you to schedule an authentic conversation with your boss.

      First I recommend that you take a breath and some down time and get clear about what you really want in various areas of your life.

      First get clear on what you want from your job, your pay, your responsibilities and your relationships. Think about how you want to “BE” at work as well.

      You have a right to feel anything that you feel. At the same time, only you can decide how you want to feel and how you want to “represent yourself” when the time comes to do so.

      Don’t make the mistake of approaching him while you are feeling resentful. Get yourself to a place of clarity and peace first, and know exactly what you want instead of all that you don’t want.

      Step 2. Document all that you have done to benefit the practice and how your results have moved the practice forward. This will help you in sticking to the facts in your meeting.

      Step 3. Ask for a meeting with your boss and ask for the things you want. For example, You want regular meetings each month to assess your performance. You want cash bonuses too. Etc.

      This may take some serious thought and attention before calling the meeting. Do not go in while you feel resentful. Get yourself to an emotional state of gratitude and power before asking for a meeting. I suggest that part of what is going on here is that there has been no plan, no written job description and no authentic communication for years.

      You will likely need to suggest formal written job descriptions with regular feedback reviews for performance.

      In the meantime, another thing you can do is to also start complimenting those you hired. You deserve part of the credit because you hired people who are doing good jobs. Take the doctor’s compliment as part of yours too, because if it wasn’t for you, they wouldn’t be there.

      From what you are telling me, I am sensing that your doctor is willing to make changes. After all, if an employee spoke up and he changed his behavior, he did take it to heart.

      Ask yourself why you have not spoken up before? Is this the real issue? Maybe this is an opportunity to do something uncomfortable such as ask for what you want, or have a difficult conversation.

      Many times when our attitude is spiraling down, it means we are unwilling to do something uncomfortable and the help we need is already inside of us. Let me know what you decide and how it goes.

      • Anna says:

        Thank you, Marlene. You have hit the nail on the head. You told me to do the very thing I have been fearing but it is the only way these issues will get resolved. Now- to work up my nerve to carry it out! Thank you for your sound (and prompt) advice. I’ll keep you posted!

        Anna

  8. Laura says:

    Hi there I have currently been the one fueling the drama being the leader of a club, as I have vented to various members about my frustration of things lacking thereof. I would like this drama to stop and to embark on a drama free lifestyle and have started so by sending out a formal apologetic letter, however something is telling me that there are more things brewing in the pot than what I have left in it.
    In the sense I know for sure there is one member, who always likes to nitpick at members and likes to look at the flaws of that person and bring it all to common attention.

    How do I deal with those things?

    • stopyourdrama says:

      Laura,
      All you can do is set the right intention, and have integrity. You might even get with each member and apologize for any part you played as the leader. If you can get others to follow your lead, then you have been successful. Start speaking about what you do want rather than what you don’t want. In other words, let your communication convey a positive message instead of looking back on regrets. Be willing to listen to anyone who has anything negative to say. Try not to advise, or judge. If you can maintain your own vision, you will get others to follow suit.

  9. UA says:

    Hi there, I am just writing about a situation I’ve found myself in. I am a competitive fighter in kickboxing. At first I was using positive thinking and winning most of my fights but since a year ago I have developed a kind of resistance. Everytime I have a fight coming up I have this real feeling of dread and no amount of positive thinking will shift it, it only seems to create more resistance, It’s so frustrating that I am losing fights that I have the ability to win. I would be grateful if you could help me with this.

    • stopyourdrama says:

      Hi Ursula
      Here are a few things to try. If one of them doesn’t work, then move to the next idea.
      1. Make peace with losing. If it isn’t the “end of the world” then there won’t be any resistance and you can go out and give it all you got.
      2. Remind yourself that your thoughts are just thoughts. When you feel the story coming to the surface, say to yourself, “Thank you for sharing.” Then move on. It will help you to just acknowledge what comes up without making it into a big deal.
      3. I like to journal in a specific way. I call it “Scripting.” Find a quiet place and write out the scenario as if your competition has already happened. Put emotion to it, and celebrate the way you feel after winning. In other words, see yourself winning as if it has already happened and write about how grateful you are for your training, and for your level of fitness. Rehearse in your mind what it will feel like and then script it out as if in past tense. This will help your subconscious mind to get used to winning again. Keep me posted!

  10. stopyourdrama says:

    Hi Andrea
    I’m sorry for what you are going through. What you are going to have to do is decide what your boundaries are. Can you still be there for her daughter, and not let any more of her personal drama invade your life? This is not a cut and dried answer, and you are correct in knowing that at this point you have no control other than to decide what boundaries you have. She definitely needs help, but you have to decide where to draw your line in the sand. YOu may end up having to sue for custody or do something very bold in order to help those who are innocent and force her into becoming responsible. Only when she hits rock bottom will she take responsibility for her life.

    The other thing you can do is to start “seeing her” as one who can heal. Treat her as you would if she was responsible. Don’t honor her story any more. Honor her potential. Stand for nothing less. No more feeling sorry for her. Now is the time to make her step up to the plate. You can decide how you are going to help her innocent kids, and let that be enough. She has to be the one who changes…no one can do it for her. Don’t even pull into conversations about her boyfriend. Have her get counseling, but do not get caught up in it. You aren’t helping her by letting her vent and re-tell the same story over and over. Get CLEAR about what you are going to do and things will start to shift.

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