Drama Therapy in the Workplace

You might think it’s best to keep all drama out of the workplace, but it can actually be therapeutic. Drama therapy uses processes from drama or theater to encourage people to “act out” problems, feelings, or issues as a way of resolving them and reaching constructive solutions. The technique is used most in schools, hospitals, and psychiatric facilities as a way for people to express themselves more freely and creatively. Although it may sound a little way out, this sort of exercise can be useful in the workplace too.

People often feel frustrated at work, because they have issues with coworkers or management, or they may be having trouble coping with the workload. Through drama therapy, a professional therapist can help employees work through their issues and get to the root of the problem by having them act out the situations that are bothering them and coming up with solutions. This method can help employees understand the main causes for their dissatisfaction, and set them on a path to improving the situation themselves.

With hands-on supervision from the HR department and under the direction of a licensed therapist trained in the methodology, drama therapy can help employees work through some of the most common workplace issues, such as:

  • Bullying. If an employee makes fun of a coworker or makes derogatory comments about him or her, this sort of behavior can negatively affect the person being targeted, diminishing productivity at work, even driving him or her to avoid coming to work or quit altogether. Drama therapy can help shed light on the circumstances surrounding bullying and teach employees coping skills so they can work through these situations by confronting the bully in a safe and open environment.
  • Harassment. Any kind of harassment should be addressed immediately in the workplace. When appropriate, drama therapy can help employees learn more about harassment situations, perhaps through a role-play that includes harassment scenarios that may not be so obvious, like an off-hand comment or something said as a joke. From there, employees can work through what to do or say if they feel harassed by a coworker.
  • Communication problems. Employees sometimes find themselves at a loss when it comes to effectively communicating with each other and/or management, especially when it comes to the issues most important to them. Drama therapy techniques, such as soliloquy exercises in which an employee speaks his or her thoughts aloud in order to build self-awareness, can teach employees how to speak up, ask for what they want, and communicate better at work.
  • Gossip. Like bullying, workplace gossip can lower morale among employees and thus affect their productivity. Role reversal—a common drama therapy technique in which employees portray each other during a scene—can help illustrate how damaging and hurtful gossiping can be, and can help clear the air and encourage them not to talk behind each other’s backs.
  • Low motivation. More common than you’d think, low motivation is something that can affect workers’ morale, and therefore their productivity. A drama therapist can set up scenarios to get employees talking about why they’re feeling demotivated and what would help them regain interest in their work.
  • Performance issues. Frustration can often result from a feeling of inadequacy in one’s performance. Drama therapy can get to the root of these feelings—whether their cause is personal or professional, and why they’re there in the first place—to help employees figure out how they can improve.
  • Issues with authority. Employees can sometimes develop resentment towards their managers and supervisors if they feel like they’re being talked down to or misunderstood, or if they are desperately seeking some kind of approval that they’re not getting. Acting out scenarios between managers and employees—especially through techniques like doubling, where one person speaks out loud the thoughts that the other person might be thinking—can help employees and their managers work through these issues.
  • Company unity. In some cases, employees may feel like outsiders within their own teams, departments, or the company as a whole. Drama therapy can be a useful activity to bring employees together and give them a stronger sense of company unity and spirit, especially when it’s done in conjunction with other organization-wide activities like company retreats.

Workplace issues can quickly lead to decreased productivity and performance. They can even drive employees to avoid interacting with each other or even outright quit. Addressing them is important in order to maintain a safe, appreciated, and happy workforce. Have you ever considered drama therapy for your company as a method deal with workplace issues?

Eric Friedman

Eric Friedman is the founder and CEO of eSkill Corporation, a leading provider of online skills testing for pre-employment assessment and benchmarking. Eric has degrees in Psychology and Business, and a fascination with matching people with roles they're best at, and that they enjoy.

5 Comments

  • AvatarSamuel Hopps says:

    I once participated in drama therapy at work and I can say that it’s really very helpful in finding out the root of the problems. Quite often employees are not willing to speak out about the problems that are bothering them and keep being dissatisfied. Drama therapy helps them not only see why they are dissatisfied, but also find solutions to the problems.

  • AvatarCathy M. says:

    I would definitely like to participate in drama therapy. Sounds like it might be really helpful in solving a lot of workplace issues. I agree that more often than not employees do not openly speak about the problems that are bothering them, thus, they would feel more relaxed about revealing the problems while playing them out.

  • AvatarProf. Dr. Asif Mahmood says:

    I remained In charge of Dramatic Club whist my Teaching Career as a University Professor, these techniques are really useful in most of the cases. Especially when there are some communication barriers. Dr. Asif Mahmood

  • AvatarBen Young says:

    Four drama therapy sessions saved my life. If I hadn’t experienced those sessions, I wouldn’t have kept my current job. At that moment I had some problems with low motivation despite the fact I loved what I was doing. I was thinking that my work was not as appreciated as it should be, but after the sessions I realized that I was the only one who was under that impression. I learnt to be more self-confident and to better communicate with others about my problems.

  • AvatarChristofer says:

    Drama therapy is an interesting way of solving problems but I still think that a frank discussion with your manager or co-worker about whatever is bothering you is the most simple and efficient way of fixing things.

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