the drama triangle

The Drama Triangle: A Toxic Work Dynamic, Fuelling Burnout


We’ve all experienced dysfunctional workplace dynamics. You know, the ones that suck the life right out of you. Where everyone gets caught up in unproductive power struggles and blame games. The drama triangle is a psychological model that explains this toxic pattern. It’s a huge driver of employee burnout that savvy organisations must address.

What Is the Drama Triangle?

The term drama triangle was first coined by psychologist Stephen Karpman in 1961. His model outlines three roles people can get stuck in during dysfunctional conflicts:

  • Victim
  • Persecutor
  • Rescuer

It goes something like this…

The Victim starts by portraying themselves as oppressed or helpless in some way. The Persecutor then blames, criticises or undermines the Victim. Finally, the Rescuer steps in to “save” the Victim by enabling their victimhood.

These roles can rapidly shift between coworkers. However, the disempowering dynamic remains, draining everyone’s energy and productivity.

A classic drama triangle situation might look like this.

Janet plays the Victim (“I can never get projects done on time”). Mika is the Persecutor (“That’s because you’re so disorganised!”). And then Sam the Rescuer swoops in (“Here Janet, let me take that off your plate.”)

See how draining that feels?

The Draining Toll on Teams

Neha Sangwan, MD is a burnout and communication expert. She is the author of Powered by Me: From Burned Out to Fully Charged at Work. Dr Sangwan believes that:

The Drama Triangle is a destructive dynamic that undermines teams. It can result in an enormous, unquantified financial cost. This is due to suboptimal performance and lack of employee engagement.”

The drama triangle breeds a dysfunctional culture. It destroys trust and collaboration, driving stress for all involved. It’s no wonder so many report feeling burned out.

Those caught in the Victim mentality become apathetic and detached. Rescuers exhaust themselves by overworking. And Persecutors create a culture of fear, stress and disengagement. It’s the perfect storm for burnout.

Disrupting the Toxic Cycle

Here’s the good news… By recognising these patterns, we can disrupt them. Build your self-awareness to catch yourself falling into a disempowering role. Then make the conscious choice to opt out.

How? Get objective and focus on personal accountability rather than blaming. Set healthy boundaries. Have honest, disarming conversations.

We can help your people build skills such as:

  • conflict management
  • healthy leadership
  • emotional intelligence
  • ‘clean’ communication

Ultimately, less time wasted on power struggles means more energy for productive collaboration. Plus, employees gain the autonomy and resilience to manage stress more sustainably long-term.

No workplace can avoid disagreements altogether. But progressive companies realise just how insidious the drama triangle dynamic can be. And they’re getting proactive about promoting a more positive, energising culture.

So let’s call out and dismantle this toxic cycle to stem the burnout crisis.

Get in touch to book a virtual cuppa with us and see how we can work together.

Create Customer-Focused Teams

Breaking the Silo: How to Create Customer-Focused Teams

approach, teams

We’ve all seen it happen – teams get so hyper-focused on perfecting their internal workings that the customer’s needs fall by the wayside. Engineering obsesses over technical perfection, marketing chases vanity metrics, and sales pushes numbers without considering downstream impacts.

Many leaders simply accept this siloed mentality as the inevitable trade-off for having specialised expertise on each team. But rampant misalignment means the products and services hitting the market underwhelm and leave customers disappointed. That’s not a recipe for long-term success!

So how can we start shifting that inside-out approach to a more outside-in, customer-first mentality?

Well, it starts with some mindset adjustments.

How can we create customer-focused teams?

Promote Shared Ownership

Rally everyone around the full customer journey rather than just optimising for their isolated contribution. Sure, sales ‘owns’ revenue. But marketing, product, service – they all share ownership of creating a delightful end-to-end experience. Make rewards about cross-functional collaboration.

Incentivise Interdependency

Speaking of rewards – tie compensation and recognition (the good stuff) to goals that involve trade-offs between teams. Not just individual results. Basically, reward-checking department-level egos at the door to advance that higher-level shared mission of putting customers first. Make sure metrics align with real-world outcomes, not just functional targets.

Instil Immersive Empathy

Close the customer feedback loop already! Get everyone’s hands dirty by mandating regular rotations through support and success roles to hear the voice of the customer loud and clear. Conduct immersive customer research days. Inject real user stories and struggles into your usual meetings and planning. That frontline discomfort should be informing your prioritisation trade-offs.

Bring the voice of the customer into the room

Identify impassioned customer champions within each team to evangelise for user needs in every discussion and decision. Give these advocates formal influence by baking customer obsession into expectations and criteria. Make the voice of your customer feel tangible and ever-present.

The journey from silos to symphony requires deliberately infusing customer empathy into your cultural fabric, processes, and leadership priorities. But that collective sense of shared purpose? It’s absolutely worth the work.

Need help building customer-focused teams?

That’s literally our speciality! Our empathetic and experienced coaches work closely with you,  patiently guiding teams towards confidence, collaboration, and true customer-centricity.

Find out more here, or book a virtual cuppa and chat to explore how we can help you break down those silos, align around customers, and work better together. 

The Expensive Truth About Staff Attrition

The Expensive Truth About Staff Attrition: It’s Hurting Your Business

people first, teams

Most companies are hyper-focused on the big numbers – revenue, profits, market share. But there’s a sneaky factor that can seriously mess with your bottom line and long-term success: staff attrition. Sure, the upfront costs of hiring and training replacements are obvious. But the hidden impacts of high turnover? Those can be the real budget-killers.

The Productivity Drain

When someone leaves, their absence creates a void that ripples through teams and departments. The remaining employees get weighed down with extra work, leading to overload, burnout, and a productivity slump. Quality drops, deadlines get missed, and customer satisfaction takes a hit. It’s a vicious cycle.

Brain Drain

Those seasoned veterans walking out the door? They’re taking a goldmine of institutional knowledge with them – intel on processes, relationships, contacts and industry ins-and-outs that’s hard to replace. This brain drain cripples operational efficiency, decision-making, and the ability to navigate complex challenges. It’s like flying blind.

Culture Crush

A company’s culture relies on a stable, tight-knit workforce that shares values and understanding. But high turnover? It erodes that fabric, making it tough to maintain a positive, cohesive environment. Morale plummets as great talent exits, breeding more disengagement and attrition. It’s a self-perpetuating problem.

Strategic Scramble

Successful businesses run on long-term initiatives driven by dedicated teams working towards shared goals. When key players leave, critical projects get derailed. Momentum screeches to a halt, delays pile up, and costs skyrocket. Your ability to achieve those big-picture objectives is compromised.

The Money Pit

We’ve covered the obvious stuff like hiring costs. But high turnover creates a massive money pit through lost productivity, missed revenue opportunities, customer churn, and mounting expenses from restructuring teams. It’s a serious profitability issue that can sneak up on you.

What’s Causing Staff Attrition?

Leadership Burnout

When bosses are running on fumes, communications break down, teams get lost and misaligned. Cue mass confusion and disengagement that pushes your best talent out the door. Fast.

It’s up to the whole organisation to support leaders to beat burnout before it happens with preventative measures.

Additionally, in the absence of strong leadership, teams are likely to feel disengaged and unmotivated…

Team Burnout

According to Mercer’s 2024 Global Talent Trends Report, over 80% of employees are at risk of burnout this year. 40% of those said that exhaustion was a contributing factor, while 37% said they were struggling with an excessive workload. It’s a serious problem, characterised by cynicism, lack of motivation, difficulty concentrating and serious health problems.

Unsurprisingly, two of the things found to make a real difference to employees were psychological safety and a sense of purpose. These are crucial to cultivating a culture where staff feel safe to ask for help, prioritise what is important and take steps to combat burnout with our treatment package.

Change Resistance

Mandating sweeping changes from on high, without any staff buy-in? Get ready for those resentment and retention levels to skyrocket. On the other hand, involve your people in co-creating solutions and they’ll stick around.

The bottom line? Invest in your workforce for serious dividends. Prioritise retention strategies, build a supportive culture of self-care and give folks room to grow. Engaged employees are way cheaper than playing catch-up on turnover costs.

Are staff attrition and burnout throwing a wrench in your operations?

Burnt-out teams are having a ripple effect, resulting in lost talent, unhappy clients and decreasing market share. We’ve worked with many companies, experiencing these kinds of issues. We’ve been able to pinpoint the root cause…
and it might not be what you think.

Sound familiar? Need help cultivating a thriving, people-first, workplace? We’ve got your back. Book a virtual cuppa with us and let’s talk solutions.

Product Strategy

Beyond Products – Why Product Strategy is so Important

teams, vision

A strong product strategy is essential for delivering successful products that meet customer needs and drive business outcomes. Here are four reasons why it matters so much.

Set a Targeted Direction

A clear product strategy provides direction for product development and decision-making.

“The two most fundamental strategic choices are deciding where to play and how to win.”

Roger Martin
Product Strategy defines:
  • Target customers and key user needs
  • The product’s value proposition and competitive positioning
  • Strategic business objectives and KPIs
  • An aligned vision that guides what gets built

With strategy as a North Star, product efforts stay focused.

Drive Innovation & Key Investments

The right product strategy sets a platform for meaningful innovation. By identifying market gaps, emerging trends, and future needs, a strategy frames where to allocate resources for maximum R&D and innovation return.

It guides big bets, shaping the long-term roadmap. These major innovations propel competitiveness.

Creates priorities for the Product Roadmap

An intelligent strategy leads to efficient roadmaps, optimising for the highest business impact initiatives, given constraints. With priorities and strategic initiatives defined, roadmaps avoid waste and distraction.

Teams can sequence the roadmap with confidence, knowing that features ladder up to key objectives. Progress moves the needles that matter most.

Enable Stakeholder Alignment

Product strategy gives executives and stakeholders visibility into the path ahead. It outlines the vision, the WHY behind investments, and expected outcomes.

With strategy alignment across leadership, resources get secured. Initiatives receive sustained backing rather than wavering support.

The above reasons make product strategy indispensable for any company serious about building great products customers value. It keeps efforts grounded in purpose and business value. 

Our Experience with Product Teams

Bryter Work have supported product teams to understand market opportunities and create value hypotheses based on what is most important to their business strategy.  Following our unique approach, which develops knowledge through training core skills, uses workshops to solve real-world problems, and coaching to help product teams develop an entrepreneurial mindset, Product Teams working with us have been able to:

  • Carry out user research to rapidly identify areas of high opportunity,  and cancel work of low value that otherwise would have taken up valuable developer time and resources. 
  • Create value hypotheses and metrics that can be tracked across a portfolio of work.
  • Map their stakeholders and understand how to create communications that are appropriate to various groups, to leverage support and minimise friction.
  • Understand the risks and opportunities associated with releasing new products to the market, and actively manage these for product success.

Finally, if you’re wondering how to improve your strategy, take a look at our new SPARK program. Spark is the product capability accelerator that upskills in leadership, strategy AND delivery.

SPARK ignites your people’s talents to get them firing on all cylinders. And your customers go from meh to wow!

Seeing the unseen princess and the pea

Seeing the Unseen – revealing hidden blockers

coaching, people first, teams

As a leader, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations of your organisation. You might be focused on meeting deadlines, managing employees, and making sure everything is running smoothly. However, it’s important to remember that there may be unseen problems lurking beneath the surface. Just like the princess in Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, you can sense that there is something wrong, but can’t quite put your finger on what it is. And without knowing what is wrong, you have no way of resolving it. Our coaches are experts at helping organisations with seeing the unseen blockers preventing them from achieving their outcomes.

Using Systems Thinking to see the unseen

One way to discover hidden problems and reveal the elephant in your office is systems thinking. This approach involves looking at your organisation as a whole, rather than just focusing on individual parts. By examining the relationships between different parts of the system, together we can identify areas where changes in one area may have unintended consequences in other areas.

Seeing the unseen with Visual Thinking

Another useful tool for uncovering these hidden issues is visual thinking. This approach involves using metaphors, diagrams, maps, and other visual aids to represent complex ideas and information. By visualising the workings of your organisation, you can gain a deeper understanding of how different parts of the system are interconnected and clearly see where potential problems may be lurking.

Making change with the help of a Systems Coach

Once you’ve identified potential problem areas, it’s important to take action to address them. This is where systems coaching comes in. Our systems coaches can help you develop strategies for addressing complex problems and implementing changes in a way that minimises disruption to your organisation.

Of course, it’s not always easy to identify unseen problems. It can be difficult for a busy leadership team to step back and take a broader view. That’s why it’s important to cultivate a culture of open communication and encourage feedback from employees at all levels. By listening to the voices of everyone, you can gain valuable insights into areas where your organisation may be struggling.

Ultimately, the key to uncovering unseen problems at work is to be proactive. Don’t wait until a problem becomes too big to ignore before taking action. By using tools like visual thinking, systems thinking, and systems coaching, we can help you can stay ahead of the curve and ensure that your organisation is operating at its full potential.

Are your teams high-performing or entrepreneurial?

collaboration, teams

Let’s look at collaborative team structures…

There are two collaborative team structures (and only two) that work well in fast-moving, innovative organisations. These are high-performing teams and entrepreneurial teams. Both have their place, and which one suits your organisation will depend on a number of factors. We can help you choose the right one for your context.

high performing collaborative team structures

High-performing teams don’t have dependencies and work with team members with the right skills. They also have the safety (guardrails or constraints) to work autonomously to deliver the outcomes for which they are responsible.


entrepreneurial collaborative team structures

Entrepreneurial teams take this one step further by defining and owning their budgets and outcomes. This kind of team is more innovative and acts more like a start-up within the larger organisation.


Collaborative teams are crucial to deliver value efficiently to your customers. However, creating teams like this isn’t easy. A mindset shift is needed in order to fully leverage the power of collaborative, customer-centric teams.

We trigger the ‘lightbulb moments’ for your team members to realise what’s possible. Through coaching, mentoring, and training, we help you overcome common challenges to realise the benefits that your new team structures bring.

Find out how we can help.