Organizational Health: Save the Drama for your Mama…

Somebody needs to come up with a workplace Drama meter. I’m pretty sure there aren’t any assessments for this, but after working with a lot of small businesses over the last 14 years, I’m convinced that a high level of drama in the workplace is one of the best ways to tell that the business is broken.

What do I mean by drama? That’s the tricky part, it can take a lot of different forms, but in general you’ll know it when you see it. Drama can be the issue of the owner’s children/other family member who makes good money with the company but doesn’t actually do anything… or worse yet, constantly screws things up.

Drama can be the long term employee who’s perpetually grumpy and negative and the rest of the team just works around them because that’s how it’s always been.

Drama can be the salesperson that sells like crazy but treats all the other employees like crap – because they know they’re ‘untouchable’.

Drama can be the team that puts up with ‘Joe / Suzy’ never actually doing anything because they’re really nice and sometimes bring in fresh baked cookies.

Drama can simply be a high level of gossip and second guessing that goes on all the time. Politics, bureaucracy, confusion, dysfunction… all are elements of drama in the workplace.

Bottom line – a high level of drama means that you have an organizational health issue and it’s hurting your business.

What is Organizational Health?

Patrick Lencioni, in his book The Advantage describes organizational health – “an organization is healthy when it’s whole, consistent and complete, when its management, operations, strategy and culture fit together and make sense.”.

Basically the opposite of Drama…!

Consulting company Mckinsey defines organizational health this way:

We think of organizational health as more than just culture or employee engagement. It’s the organization’s ability to align around a common vision, execute against that vision effectively, and renew itself through innovation and creative thinking. Put another way, health is how the ship is run, no matter who is at the helm and what waves rock the vessel.

Mckinsey Article – Organizational Health: A Fast Track to Improvement

There are a lot of components that can go into organizational health but the top 3 for me would be Clarity, Alignment and Accountability.


In order for your business to be healthy, everyone needs to fundamentally know who the company is. Lencioni recommends having clear, concise, actionable answers to the following 6 questions:


If you want to scale your business, it’s not enough to have a general idea of where you’re going and who you are, it must be crystal clear.  Greg McKeown – the author of Essentialism calls it your Essential Intent and explains that it needs to be inspiring and concrete.  Everyone should easily be able to answer the question

“How will we know when we’ve succeeded?”

All of this seems pretty straightforward (and it is), but it’s also very challenging for most businesses. Try this – ask 5 of your employees to answer ‘Why do we exist?’ or McKeown’s question above – “How will we know when we’ve succeeded as a business?” and see how many answers you get. I’m guessing you’ll get close to 5 different answers.

A good place to start (beyond having your leadership team carve out time to answer the questions above) would be to get really clear on what your top priorities are for the next 12 months… and then to hone in even further and get clear on what needs to be done in the next 90 days (and who’s going to own getting those things done). The goal is to keep it simple


A healthy organization requires everyone to be on the same page. For all of the employees, to to bottom, to be aligned on how they act, how they treat customers and each other, and to be crystal clear on who is doing what.

Being able to answer the Clarity questions above is critical for alignment (you can’t align to something you can’t define) but then you also have to make sure that those answers are constantly and clearly communicated. Everyone needs to understand what you’re doing as a company, why you do it, how it’s going to get done, who’s doing it and how success is going to be measured. And as a leader you’re going to have to share those answers over and over again.

This may seem kind of soft and fluffy – let’s face it, you have a lot of work to do. But the best way to get all of that work done, to make your customers happy, to get paid…! is to do it as an effective team that’s all working together. And that kind of teamwork doesn’t happen without alignment – alignment with each other and alignment of your values and goals.

A couple of good places to start would be to define / uncover your core values – check out Finding your Mission and Core Values for some ideas on that. Additionally, I’m a big fan of creating an Accountability Organizational chart – a tool that clearly breaks down the who and what of how your business actually runs.


When you focus on alignment one of the first things you’ll pick up on is people on the team who are out of alignment… those who are bringing in all of that drama into the workplace. And the best way to deal with that drama is to instill a culture of leadership and accountability.

If you buy into Stephen Covey’s idea that leadership is a choice, not a position, then what are people choosing if they’re not choosing to step up as a leader?  One way to look at it is they are choosing to be a victim (or more precisely to exhibit victim behaviors). And victims are the source of almost all the drama in your business.

From my experience victims don’t take accountability or responsibility – it’s always not their fault. They tend to point fingers and place blame on anyone and everyone else. They are negative, reactive and always looking for a short cut and looking to others to explicitly tell them what to do. They are comfortable ignoring or denying challenges or things they don’t want to deal with.

To deal with victims (and drama) you need to be clear on what needs to be done (clarity), you need to have everyone agree on how, when, who and what needs to be done (alignment) and then you have to hold people accountable for following through on that. When someone doesn’t get something done or rocks the boat in other ways, you need to be willing and able to do something about that. Ideally that starts with a clear conversation about the problem and how they are going to fix it, but if that doesn’t work, then you need to be willing to let them go and find someone else.

Sound dramatic? Maybe it is – but that’s the kind of drama that more businesses need to have.

Do you have a lot of drama in your office? Do you let it continue or are you taking action on it? How healthy is your organization? We’d love to hear your thoughts – leave us a comment below.

Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach