The Drama Triangle at Work


Is it “take your unfinished business to work” day again?
Have you ever noticed how someone’s unfinished personal business can follow that person to work? While some of us are more prone to workplace drama than others, participation in a Drama Triangle can happen to anyone.

Processing our deep emotional needs and any past traumas is work that must be done to grow as individuals, in life and in the workplace. No matter how hard we try to leave it behind, we take unfinished personal work with us everywhere we go. It’s highly unflattering to show up at your grown-up workplace as an unexplored younger self — say, how we felt as a hurt toddler or a rebellious teenager.

Frankly, drama is compelling, juicy and distracting. It’s a lot harder to see life in all its shades of grey than as right or wrong and black or white. Yet getting off The Drama Triangle is essential for solid leadership and expedited growth.


The drama triangle is a social model (created by Stephen Karpman in 1968) that is used in psychotherapy to analyze conflict roles and destructive interactions between people in conflict. Three roles are involved — the villain, the victim, and the hero (or rescuer).

Understanding the drama triangle helps empower us to either avoid or repair the drama. What triggers the drama triangle is typically a complaint from the victim or the villain.

While the rescuer role—“Let me help you!”—may sound admirable, it’s actually part of the problem. Rescuers are classically co-dependent enablers who act from a mix of guilt and resentment yet present as martyrs. They further entangle and entrench all players onto The Drama Triangle.

Breaking Down the Drama Triangle at Work
The Drama Triangle originates from exposure to drama in dysfunctional origins where people did not know how to skillfully take ownership to resolve their own problems. This same dynamic frequently threatens to arise at work. Our perceptions and emotions and motivations all stem from our ability to make sense of what’s happening. When inner tension is too strong, we look for a way to alleviate the stress.

How many does it take to triangulate?
At first glance, it may seem that three people are needed to play the three roles, but in fact, it can exist with only two who slide around the triangle on various roles. Even a single person can slide into this pattern in an “us versus ourself” kind of way.

This pattern can also happen with entities participating in addition to individuals—think of parents, kids, and an entire school—or between branches of government, political parties, or the media as other examples.


It’s easy for practitioners to slip into the drama triangle in the workplace. Have you ever been approached by someone with a complaint and attempted to solve it?  Was your inclination to help protect or rescue the person, from a situation or from a third person or entity? You may find yourself slipping into the rescuer role.

Healers as Rescuers
Even if we work as solo practitioners, we walk a fine line between care taking and enabling our clients. At times, care taking can be empowering, but it comes with a responsibility to walk this line awake. It’s the ego’s tendency to want to be taken care of, but the ego tends to take advantage of this care resulting in an unhealthy state.

HoloBeing as Hero
Even HoloBeing itself can be dragged into the role of “hero” or “rescuer” if we are not vigilant. We take a maternalistic role with our practitioners; housing them, protecting them from the obligations and exposures of having a full time space, and shielding them from isolation.

Victims and Villains In Therapy
Often triggered clients are solidly—yet unconsciously—on the triangle when they initially come to seek therapy. People may seek treatment when they feel unfairly treated (victim) or angry at others (villain).


Getting out of this pattern may be easier said than done. Staying out of drama and operating from a place of conscious leadership requires vigilance. Living consciously and free of drama is an ongoing commitment toward a practice of living from an informed state of mind.

The reward of this constant vigilance can be great. Staying off the drama triangle can help foster peace and well-being at work. Resisting the temptation of drama can influence greater productivity, higher levels of motivation, and a more satisfying experience at work.

Address the vital questions by focusing on outcomes
At work, or in your personal life, learn to address these “3 vital questions” that come from the work of David Emerald:
Focus on creating outcomes and results rather than simply reacting.
Decide not to perpetuate “drama,” but empowerment.
Take action to solve actual business problems, rather than enlist yourself in drama.

Take ownership
Some ideas for stepping away from the drama include:
Bring awareness of the drama triangle pattern to any situation involving complaints or potential “drama.” When you recognize the game and specific roles, you can examine your own patterns and those of others.
Ask yourself questions such as “Is this my business?” when drama arises. You don’t have to take on other people’s stuff.
Stay neutral in dealing with others—avoid operating from a place of fear or a sense of obligation or guilt.


Envision the triangle “flipping” into one of empowerment by using coaching techniques when someone tries to jump in.

Flip the script — from anxiety and drama to one oriented toward personal development and growth.



15 vows for conscious leadership
According to the Conscious Leadership Forum, each person should work to:
• Take full responsibility for the circumstances of your life, including physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing.
• Be curious, and commit to personal growth and self-awareness.
• Feel your feelings all the way through to completion.
• Say candidly what is true for you.
• Stop gossip. Speak directly to those with whom you have a concern.
• Practice living with integrity — acknowledge feelings, express truth, and keep you agreements.
• Live in appreciation rather than entitlement.
• Learn to operate from your own “zone of genius.” Resist believing that you can be all things to all people.
• Commit to being your own source of security, control and approval. These can come from the inside.
• Believe and recognize that you have enough time money, love, energy, space, and resources.
• See all people and circumstances as allies, there to help you learn and grow – even the difficult, challenging and uncomfortable ones.

HoloBeing’s Fellowship Circle supports holistic businesses owners of all kinds – especially healer-types – to find their business strengths and the business growth strategies that resonate deeply with their being.  We support you through exploring your business and money light and shadow so that you can move past deep-seated blocks and grow the business and life that you are capable of.  Read more about the one-of-a-kind Fellowship Circle here, the benefits of our group and how you can join.

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