How Office Drama Can Kill Your Career

Get judged for your work performance and motivated attitude instead of negative activity. Be a leader and standout for your positivity, participation as a team player and encouraging good office morale.
03/30/2016 12:29 pm ET Updated Mar 31, 2017
Tired businesswoman in the office
Tired businesswoman in the office

On average, Americans spend the majority of time working-- approximately nine hours per day, followed by sleeping in second place at almost eight hours. It isn't any wonder that many of us want to make the best of the time we spend at work to have a better quality of life altogether. Many companies recognize the importance of office morale and how happy employees are assets yielding higher productivity. On the flipside, when a company ignores the mood of its employees or fails at their attempts to boost spirits, the workplace can be a breeding ground for hostility and drama.

And sometimes -- no matter what type of environment is being encouraged at a company -- sometimes there are just some 'bad eggs' in the bunch. It rarely takes much effort for one weak link to dampen the spirits of others. Unfortunately, whether you're the ringleader or just part of the crew, there can be big repercussions on your career.

Are you the catalyst? Are you actively participating in office gossip, sabotaging co-workers or orchestrating unnecessary chaos? If so, you're at risk of damaging your professional reputation, and possibly personal reputation if you're behaving exceptionally poorly.

Keeping on top of office disharmony can lead to lackluster job performance, particularly if the work has taken a backseat to the drama. When focus is not put on the job duties themselves, there is more room for mistakes and not performing at your best capacity. I'm guessing 'unprofessional' is probably not the reputation you want.

Another reputation in the workplace -- we all know someone like this -- is the employee who gets a bad reputation. This tends to occur when the office drama queen/king is straight up malicious, sleeping with co-workers, using drugs or alcohol excessively, and more. In my line of work, I've had my fair share of clients who have had to transition into other fields because they ruined their reputations beyond repair. It's true there are some industries that encourage what some would consider 'bad' behavior. As a general rule, it's best for career longevity if you call attention to your professional accomplishments rather than personal notoriety.

Are you part of the clique? So you're not spearheading the turmoil, but associating yourself with the drama will not fare much better. Not guilty doesn't always equate to innocence. There may be some reasoning behind befriending the office drama queen. Maybe they're the more dominant employees, major players in office politics, it's better to be with them then against them, and more. My best advice here is: if you're aware of any drama going on, back away!

Guilt by association could come back to haunt a person in several ways. First, being lumped in with a group that is known for their antics may transfer that unprofessional reputation to other members of the clique, even to those who don't deserve it. In addition, if there is any jealousy amongst the clique and one of them gets promoted or called out for exceptional work, beware of the pack turning on that person.

So, how do you avoid the drama? I worked in a strip club for a year, in case you didn't know that. And with that, I bestow onto you some great stripper knowledge: go to work, do your job, get out. As you might imagine, strip clubs are a 'high-stakes' environment where many lives have been ruined based on work drama.

Spending so much time at any workplace will have an employee craving more fun. Kudos to those (usually tech) companies that acknowledge life balance and encourage team building and lunchtime Pilates classes in the conference room. But for those who don't get those perks, your self-restraint will earn you the best reputation. Get judged for your work performance and motivated attitude instead of negative activity. Be a leader and standout for your positivity, participation as a team player and encouraging good office morale.