Ascendis Blog

How Leaders Can Manage Emotions and Avoid the Drama Triangle

Is there a lot of conflict and complaining where you work? If there is, it is possible that employees are trapped in what is called the Drama Triangle. This state of being comes to fruition when communication is low and emotions are high in a given area. This can happen among colleagues working on a project, departments battling for resources or customers pushing back on the overall organization. 

In the Drama Triangle, there are three roles, the victim, perpetrator and rescuer:

  • Victim: The individual(s) who feel wronged by the perpetrator, may also feel powerless in the situation.

  • Perpetrator: The individual(s) making the action, may also be seen as having the power in the situation.

  • Rescuer: The individual(s) who are tasked with resolving the issue between the victim and perpetrator, may become so burdensome that rescuers end up feeling like victims (or the individuals placing them in the rescuer role are their persecutors).

How do you get out of the Drama Triangle? An alternative framework is called the Empowerment Dynamic, and is written about by David Emerald. In this framework, the victim is redefined as a creator, the rescuer redefined as coach, and the perpetrator redefined as challenger:

  • Creator: What outcome do you want to achieve? Shift the mindset to: I can do it!

  • Challenger: How can I encourage learning and growth in the creator? Shift the mindset to: You can do it!

  • Coach:  How can I support and assist the creator in achieving the desired outcome?  Shift the mindset to: How will you do it?

This framework shows that leaders can easily get out of the Drama Triangle by shifting their mindsets. Remember, our mindset can define our character and decide how we react in various situations. As leaders, it is important to ask: What are the mindsets that we need to develop in order to embrace and implement organizational change?

How would you answer this question for your organization? To learn more, contact the Ascendis Leadership Academy to take the Organizational Leadership Skills Profile. Please contact Sue Drake at for an overview of the profile and ways in which it may be used in your organization.