Energy Vampires at Work

Dear, Anita,

At work, we have a large special project and I have to work with a guy from another department on it. He is turning out to be hypercritical of everything I am doing. (My boss, in the meantime, seems to like and approve my work.) I go home feeling both mentally and physically exhausted. How can I deal with this [jerk] for the next few months?

Businessman_Fangs_iStock_000007557585_SmallDear, Feeling Drained,

Psychiatrist and author of Positive Energy, Dr. Judith Orloff, identifies six types of “energy vampires” and their antidotes:

  • The sob sister (or brother) loves to complain about their situation. At work, you’ll have to set clear boundaries to keep the “poor me” stories to a minimum.
  • The drama queen (or king) makes mountains out of molehills. Again, you’ll have to set limits and not get caught up in the drama.
  • The constant talker may be entertaining at first (or not), but you may have to interrupt this self-centered coworker to get back to your task.
  • The fixer upper wants your help with everything, from unjamming the copy machine to serving as a go-between in a contentious interoffice relationship. Offer solutions, but don’t rescue the fixer-upper all the time.
  • The blamer makes negative comments and tries to make you feel guilty for not getting things just right. Orloff suggests visualizing yourself in a cocoon of white light. If that sounds too new-agey, just think of it as ignoring the comments whenever you can. (Remember that kids’ chant, “I’m rubber; you’re glue. Whatever you say to me, bounces off me and sticks to you!”)
  • The go for the jugular fiend cuts you down with no consideration for your feelings. Don’t drink the poison; try not to take the pointed barbs personally.

Your coworker may be a mutant of the last two psyches (or Psychos, if the wig fits). Clinical psychologist Dr. Sophie Henshaw suggests a two-pronged approach to dealing with energy vampires. First, assess your emotional capacity to see just how much of this person you can take. Second, assess how much of a threat the vampire is to you. She even has an energy vampire quiz to help you with your appraisal.

Long dayCrazy coworkers are not the only energy vampires at work. Some of your very own behaviors can suck the life out of you. According to entrepreneur coach Helaine Iris, keeping details in your head instead of a system is not a good idea. Remembering everything on today’s to-do list – without the actual list – consumes the mental energy you could use to, say, write that major report. In an article, “Top 10 Office Energy Drains,” Forbes lists multi-tasking, technology, workplace noise, an uncomfortable environment, sitting still, clutter, boredom, and resentment as other vitality zappers in the workplace.

Feeling Drained, hang in there. Fight fang and nail to avoid the draining situations you can control, and minimize your interaction with your office vampire. It’ll be a treat once the project is complete.

Readers: Is your biggest energy vampire a coworker or one of your own self-sabotaging habits?

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Tiffany Lieu
    Oct 28, 2014 @ 13:42:01

    I have heard of energy vampires before in California. Especially the cranky ones that seemed somewhat psychological to me. Interestingly, they were not that focused on me though but did see them arguing with others. Or perhaps I did not somehow encourage them to argue with me at the work settings.


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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