Over the past couple of years, I’ve learned that workplaces have drama. Who’d have thought?  I have two instincts when I hear about it. One is to curl into a ball like a porcupine, and the other is to prick my ears and say, “Tell me more.” Here’s how to navigate between those instincts. Hint: The curl up in a ball one usually works better.

  • Smile and wave like the Madagascar penguins. This works in social situations too.
  • When my boss mentioned some drama, I once said, “I have no idea how to fix that” and made a little cross with my fingers. Do what I did, only more tactful.
  • On the other hand, everyone gossips. Don’t expect your office mates to walk around with duct tape over their mouths—that itches.
  • Be kind. I told my mother that I valued kindness in the workplace even though it was archaic. She shook her head and said that we were truly living in Trump’s America. Etiquette rule one: Think of the most obnoxious thing possible, and then tweet it.
  • Judge your co-workers by what you see them do, not what others tell you they have done. This is a modified quote from a Horatio Hornblower movie. The person who says it later ends up shooting a guy in the back after he tries to cheat in a duel with the protagonist.

Duels in the work place are generally a bad idea.