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This article was published 26/8/2010 (4048 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
They walk among us, lurking in the shadows until they corner their next victim.
"Energy vampires" are co-workers and colleagues who suck the life out of us with their negativity. Unfortunately, you may not recognize who they are and the serious damage they can cause until they slowly but surely leave you exhausted, unfocused and depressed. They will literally drain the joy out of coming to work.
In her book Positive Energy: Ten Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress and Fear into Vibrance, Strength and Love, Dr. Judith Orloff identifies six workplace energy vampires that you may already be very familiar with:
The Sob Sister: "If she's talking, she's whining -- and she loves a captive audience." This complaining co-worker is known by her "poor me" attitude and shows no desire to actually find solutions to her problems.
The Drama Queen: "A flair for turning small incidents into off-the-chart dramas." The more you pay heed to their mine's-much-worse-than-yours mishaps (they never just get the flu bug, they're on their deathbed!), the more mileage they get out of it.
The Constant Talker: "He has no interest in your feelings; he's only concerned with himself." At first, this person may be genuinely funny and entertaining, but when the chatter soon turns irritating and incessant, your nerves will quickly fray.
The Fixer Upper: "Desperate for you to fix their endless problems." This endlessly needy co-worker thinks nothing of monopolizing your valuable time as their personal sounding board.
The Blamer: "Has a sneaky way of making you feel guilty or ineffectual for not getting things just right." You may have done everything right, but they will never fail to point out some flaw or fault and leave you with a deflating comment.
The "Go For the Jugular" Fiend: "This type is vindictive with jabs so hurtful it's hard to get them out of your head." They will ruthlessly cut you down without pausing to consider your feelings or the long-term ramifications of their remarks.
The key to fending off these workplace energy vampires is to recognize them, understand them and then do your best to avoid them. This may be easier said than done, as most of us deal with persistently negative co-workers on a daily basis. If this true in your case, here are some tips for dealing with the negativity and keeping your energy intact.
-- Set your own limits. If you must work together, do not get drawn in to any discussions that stray from the task at hand. If they try to lure you in with gossip or disparaging comments, remind them that you are busy and only have time to focus on what needs to be done. Minimize contact and keep your association professional.
-- Avoid becoming a captive audience. Once they sense that you'll accommodate their grumbling, you may become their go-to person. Limit the time you spend listening to their whining by reminding them assertively (but kindly) that you need to get on with your work.
-- Remember, you're not a personal therapist. Even if it's in your nature to be empathetic, it's crucial not to accept the role of "rescuer" to needy peers. You can be supportive and still resist offering solutions and advice that will keep them coming back. Instead, suggest they solve the problem on their own or seek out a counsellor.
-- Try not to take meanness to heart. Before someone's toxic comments take their toll, tell yourself that you don't need to ingest their brand of poison. If it helps, remember that their outward meanness has more to do with their inward insecurities than with you personally.
-- Make the most of your own positive energy. Even if there's a vampire in the cubicle next to you, there still are effective ways to block them out. One is to try visualizing. Whenever you feel Negative Ned or Nellie encroaching on your good mood, imagine yourself surrounded in a protective bubble that filters out negativity and deflects spiteful comments.
When it comes to protecting yourself from becoming an unwitting victim of an energy vampire, your best safeguard is to proudly display your positive attitude like a potent string of garlic around your neck. Keep a smile on your face, stay persistently focused on your work and know when to make a quick escape from a potentially energy-draining situation.
Most importantly, don't enable an energy vampire's negative behaviour because once they sink their fangs into you, you may soon find yourself emulating it.
- With reporting by Barbara Chabai
John McFerran, Ph.D, F.CHRP, is founder and vice president of executive recruiting with People First HR Services Ltd. For more information, visit www.peoplefirsthr.com