Workplace Drama: 7 Helpful Tips on How to Deal With Dramatic People on Set

Workplace Drama: 6 Helpful Tips to Deal With Dramatic People on Set
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Every workplace has its share of drama, and it’s up to us to find the best way to deal with dramatic people. Those of us who work on set usually spend more time with our co-workers than our family members.  Finding a positive way to deal with dramatic behavior can help us do our jobs more effectively and preserve our own emotional state at work.

At the beginning of my career, I longed to leave every job with difficult people, but I realized almost every show has its drama queen and difficult situation.  It’s not in our best interest to allow other people’s actions to determine our experience at work.

In the long run, we need to focus on the important things at work and not other people’s drama.

Here are seven helpful tips on how to deal with dramatic people on set:

  1. Respond rationally, not emotionally.

One way I’ve found to control drama at work is to remain rational no matter how the dramatic person behaves.  Responding emotionally only escalates the situation and makes you part of the drama.  

By responding rationally and not being confrontational, you keep negative emotions in check and avoid pointless drama.  Stick to the facts of the matter at hand rather than getting drawn into emotional confrontations.

Some people may use drama-filled situations to be the center of attention at work because they feel they’re not getting the recognition they deserve.  Others thrive on the drama of confrontation, so even minor problems become major problems with a lot of drama attached.  We’ve all seen this happen on set.

Usually, the problem is about small issues that have nothing to do with you, so stay rational and objective about the situation.  Take a deep breath, keep a positive focus, and avoid a knee-jerk emotional response.  

If there’s a department head known to cause drama on set, you can bet everyone in that department is now dealing with the negative energy coming from the top.  I’ve seen it more than once and experienced it myself. 

Poor leadership and constant drama never bode well for anyone and the work always suffers.

A director I worked with briefly as a trainee thrived on drama and the chaos it created.  That was just his style, but adapting to it was a challenge for everyone on set and I wouldn’t do it again.  

The call sheet became merely a suggestion of what might take place each day, as scenes and locations were changed at a moment’s notice.  We even spent several hours busing hundreds of extras to another location, only for the director to decide he preferred the first location, so back they came.  

Constantly adapting to this much daily drama on set made it difficult to respond rationally, but it was a learning experience.  I wouldn’t want to repeat it, though, and I was glad I was only assigned to that set for a few days.

2. Avoid gossip on set.

Gossip on set is a bad thing and participating in it can permanently destroy your reputation.  Early in my career, I was the victim of untrue gossip that cost me work on more than a few jobs and I didn’t find out about it until years later, so I know how insidious gossip can be.  

As many of us use walkie-talkies and wear headsets or earpieces at work, I’ve used mine to extricate myself from many unwanted conversations on set.  I pretend to listen to a request coming through my earpiece and then dash off, with no further explanation needed.  The attempted conversation is invariably forgotten, and I’m too busy to listen to it if it reappears.  It’s saved me from listening to a lot of pointless chatter.  

Since we work so closely with others on set, gossip can create a toxic type of drama that erodes trust and makes daily life miserable.  

The same goes for venting about bosses or co-workers at work, too.  I’m amazed at some of the thoughtless offhand comments I’ve heard people make on set thinking no one will hear them, but someone always does and there can be unpleasant consequences.  

Save that talk for a close friend away from work, or you may find your stellar reputation tarnished and your rising career suddenly derailed. 

3. Communicate and listen effectively.

The daily routine of everyone on set involves communicating and listening effectively.  It’s essential for every department on set to have the information they need to do their jobs and to be aware of any changes that invariably arise throughout the day.  If they don’t have the needed information, they look bad and their department looks less competent.

Poor communication turns everything into an emergency and leaves everyone scrambling unnecessarily to prepare for each shot. If you’ve ever worked on a show where you never seemed to get the information you needed to do your job properly, you understand what I mean.  

To say poor communication creates drama is an understatement, as it makes a difficult day even harder by making more work for everyone involved.  People leave work feeling exhausted and frustrated, which is ironic since so many of us are on walkies to make communication easier on set.

When I was a trainee, I worked with a few a.d.s who were poor communicators, and crew members would come to me with questions about the day’s work that I couldn’t answer.  It was a frustrating situation that I had a hard time dealing with, as even little things going wrong on set seemed like major crises.

I’ve found a common drama trigger for some people is when they feel left out of the communication loop or they feel they’re not being listened to or heard.  If you work on a set where poor communication is the norm, that may be the reason for a lot of the drama.  People may just feel frustrated that they never have the information they need to do their jobs properly.

While you can’t change how people respond to situations, you can communicate and listen to others in a mature, professional manner and pass on information when you have it.  

4. Don’t blow small incidents out of proportion.

If you tend to blow small incidents out of proportion, you’ve got plenty of company.  I still catch myself doing this more often than I’d like to admit, and holding onto minor incidents contributes to workplace drama.  

Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to get out of our own heads and stop blowing small things out of proportion.

There will probably never be a day on set where everything goes precisely as planned and some things are out of our control.  There will always be small problems, toxic people, and some type of drama.  We shouldn’t take any of that personally.

We need to look at the big picture and realize that the small incidents we blow out of proportion won’t matter tomorrow or even in a few hours.  Similar situations will arise in the future that we need to keep in perspective and let go of for our mental health and well-being.

The sooner we can learn to do this, the better.  Spending time rehashing the past is not productive.  

It’s best to learn from our mistakes and move on.

5. Be honest with yourself.

Our own responses to workplace situations may be the spark that ignites the drama we’re now trying to avoid.  Reflect on your own responses to the emotions of others in drama-filled situations on set.  

Would outcomes have been better if you had responded differently?  In my own case, the answer is often yes.

We sometimes fail to see our own role in workplace drama or accept that our own negative attitude, victim playing, or need for attention may be part of the problem.  Some people get a feeling of self-importance from creating drama that they should have let go of in high school, and it’s exhausting being around them.

Holding grudges or acting petty with co-workers is not mature professional adult behavior and doesn’t belong on set. 

It’s also not a good idea to overshare about your personal life at work, as it can put you in an awkward position and make others see you as needy or attention-seeking.  Talk to a good friend, a licensed therapist, or your journal about personal problems, and keep your work life professional.

There were times when I could have responded more thoughtfully and less dramatically to situations on set, but my own dramatic side emerged instead.  It never serves us well to turn a minor incident into a big deal when it shouldn’t be.

Some people need to always be right at all costs.  If that’s you, it’s time to focus on calm and harmony instead of being right if you want peace at work.

Honest self-reflection can lead to some necessary changes in our own behavior, leading to more positive and less dramatic outcomes in our interactions with others on set.

6. Assess the situation.

Sometimes there are red flags we shouldn’t ignore, such as when drama becomes harassment or bullying.  We’ve seen many high-profile people in our industry called out publicly and fired over harassment and abuse issues.  

No one should have to suffer verbal abuse, harassment, or bullying in silence.

Fortunately, there’s much less tolerance for this type of behavior in our industry than there used to be.

Abusive behavior goes beyond workplace drama, should never be considered acceptable behavior on set, and should be documented and reported.  

7. Keep digital communications professional and drama-free.

Email communications aren’t immune to drama.  We’ve all gotten emails that have made our blood boil, and often for good reason.  

But it’s never in your best interest to fire off an immediate response to an upsetting email.  That only creates more drama, and once you’ve sent that email in haste, it’s out there forever and you can’t take it back.  Things you say in anger in an email can be used against you later on, and that’s not a situation anyone wants to be in.

Write an immediate detailed response to the email if you must, as I’ve done many times, but do not push ‘send,’ or you’re sure to regret it.  

Reread and revise your response a few hours later or even the next day, when you’re less emotional and can respond calmly and rationally.  Stick to the facts, don’t get pulled into the drama, and realize that sometimes even good people send lousy emails.

Try not to let receiving one destroy an otherwise productive work or personal relationship. We all make mistakes.


Unfortunately, sometimes poor leadership is the cause of workplace drama by those in positions of power either playing favorites with people or departments, ignoring problems on set that affect the work environment or creating drama on set.  

Here’s an example I experienced years ago of someone in a position of power creating unnecessary drama on set and making themselves look ridiculous in the process.  

A producer of a show I worked on was directing some second-unit shots.  He thought the actors were in the wrong wardrobe. Instead of discreetly asking the wardrobe person on set about it, he loudly demanded to see the highest-ranking person in the wardrobe department while the cast and crew stood around waiting.

Moments later, the wardrobe supervisor calmly appeared on set with his meticulous wardrobe book, which contained what every actor in every scene should wear down to the last detail.  Of course, the supervisor knew exactly what the actors should be wearing for the scene and they were all in the correct wardrobe.

The unnecessary drama the producer created wasted time and money, made him look like a fool, and cost him the respect of every cast and crew member who was there that day.  

A problem in our industry which I’ve written about before is that people in positions of power often have little or no training or skill in how to manage people.  It can create problems that range from unnecessary daily drama on set to complete safety fails, as happened on the set of the film Rust.

Once we’re somewhat established in our industry careers, it pays to pick and choose the people you work with carefully.  I’ve found that when the drama is created by poor leadership at the top, things rarely change, and we have to decide whether we want to remain on that show or not.  

Sometimes it’s better to move on and avoid working with such people in the future.  There are plenty of better people in our industry to work with, and we’ll have a less dramatic, more content work environment if we seek them out.


Our industry is all about creating drama on screen.  That’s what we go to work for every day.  But when the drama spills off-screen, we need to find ways to deal with the dramatic people and situations. 

We work in a stressful, fast-paced environment on set.  Our co-workers won’t always behave the way we want or expect them to during the stressful situations we encounter every day.  The only way some dramatic people know how to deal with certain situations that arise on set is with workplace drama.  

The people creating the drama are often justified in the issues they raise but the problem is the drama-filled manner in which they raise them leaves everyone feeling exhausted and frustrated.  

Working on set can be hectic enough without adding to the chaos with workplace drama.  Sometimes we need to find the fun, and exhilarating part of our jobs again.  We work in a unique industry, but in a perfect world, the drama stays on screen, not on set.

Rather than trying to get comfortable with the drama and chaos around us, we can ensure our own actions minimize the drama and focus on the enjoyable, creative part of our jobs, which is why we all got into the industry in the first place.


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