Interpersonal drama is one of my least favorite things, but my team is made up of people so sometimes I just have to deal with it. In fact, I just finished leading my team through a situation that, even though it seemed like middle-school stuff to me, could have become a hostile workplace complaint.
Here are a couple of things I was reminded of.
Don’t add fuel to the fire. I was tempted to do some venting of my own. That just adds to the drama, though. You kill a fire by removing fuel and oxygen; you end drama the same way. You need to be the consistent, calm weight that smothers the passion.
Don’t let them get historical. The people involved want to point out every negative thing the other guy ever did, going back to the start of time. There’s no purpose to that. I said, “Look, everyone has flaws. Let’s talk about today.” Keep the focus very tightly on the incident at hand.
Go back to commonly accepted values. In my case, I leaned heavily on the company’s respect policy. “Remember, everyone deserves to be treated with respect. You need to do that even when you’re hurt.”
Finally, give it some time. No one can keep up a full head of steam forever, so a cooling-off period can be a big help. I separated some folks for a few days, and reminded them of expectations and consequences before I put them back together.