Do you work with anyone whose presence drains you? Pop psychology has a term for that person: the Energy Vampire.
Energy Vampires can come in many forms—from the egomaniac who doesn’t let you get a word in edgewise to the passive aggressor who always makes you feel (unduly) guilty—but their effect is consistent: They leave you feeling physically and emotionally exhausted.
Working with energy vampires:
- Recognize the warning signs. Identify the people at work who regularly drain or demoralize you. Pay attention to the early physical and emotional signs (e.g. fatigue and irritability) that those people bring out in you. Once you’re aware of those signs, you can take steps to minimize the Energy Vampires’ effect on you.
- Stay calm. If you allow yourself to react negatively by becoming defensive, arguing or stewing internally, you will only further drain yourself. Instead, stay emotionally neutral. Quickly and calmly remove yourself from the situation.
- Be assertive. Learn effective ways to end conversations with Energy Vampires. When one approaches you, say “I only have two minutes to talk right now. What can I do for you?” Be honest about your needs. Say “I need my lunch break to be a time of relaxation, so I cannot get caught up in that issue right now.” Practice saying “No.”
If you’re an energy vampire:
- Pay attention to others’ behavior around you. Do the people you speak with generally walk away looking happy and energized or irritable and drained? If the latter is more common, reflect on your conversations. After each, think about what you talked about, what tone of voice you used, how you felt and how it appeared the other person felt. That will make you more self-aware in future conversations with co-workers.
- Fix what’s broken in your life. Happy people aren’t energy vampires. If your negativity is draining those around you, chances are high that there is something in your life making you depressed, angry or fearful. Spend time reflecting and journaling to identify that trigger. Then, work out a plan to fix it. As with any to-do list, make sure each item is a single task, not a whole project, otherwise your list will make you feel more overwhelmed than empowered. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. But instead of dumping your problems on your co-workers, ask for their assistance in specific ways to overcome those obstacles.
- Take responsibility for your part in every relationship. Even if you’re not sucking the life out of people around you, think about any work relationships that could be better. Perhaps you’re always in a bad mood after working with a particular co-worker. Instead of blaming that person, consider what you can do to improve that relationship. Example: Do you agonize over the thought of working with the person? That might cause you to begin each interaction in a bad mood, worsening your relationship. Try altering your own mood before your next conversation with the person, and see if your positive attitude spreads.
How do you deal with energy vampires?