Donna's Blog

Sometimes managers are one of the players in the Drama Triangle

Sometimes managers are one of the players in the Drama Triangle…..and don't even realise it.


In the late 60s, Dr. Steven Kaufman published his work on the drama triangle.


The drama triangle was used as a way to describe behaviours that are happening in dysfunctional conflict. But I reckon it's not only when conflict is happening. I think the drama triangle shows up in many places at work.


In the drama triangle there are three players in any given conflict. There will be one who is the victim: “Woe is me”. One who is the rescuer: “Let me help you and solve your problems for you”. And one who is the persecutor: Usually the person that the victim is complaining about or running from.


What is interesting about this dynamic is that any time one of these players exist the other two magically appear. And it doesn't necessarily have to be a massively dysfunctional moment.


One thing I've discovered about middle managers is often that they feel, in the interests of looking after their team, they want to help them and serve them in every way possible. This can sometimes put them at risk of playing the rescuer. In this moment they are either creating the victim, or enabling the victim. Either way, it can create long term difficulties.


The opposite of the drama triangle is learning triangle. Instead of rescuing, we coach. The role of victim becomes learner, and the role of persecutor becomes teacher or challenger.


And when we start to play this game we approach people differently and we get quite different results.


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