Working with an energy vampire can be draining. Although the term sounds like something from science fiction, the effects on your well-being and productivity can be very real. Even if you are someone who is efficient and hard-working, you may find yourself drained by every interaction with them.
Here’s how to know if you are dealing with an energy vampire at work and steps to deal with them.
What is an Energy Vampire?
An energy vampire refers to a toxic person who leaves you feeling depleted and emotionally exhausted. They may be your boss, a co-worker, or your client. Being around them may make you feel anxious, agitated, uneasy, and even doubtful of your own capabilities.
Learning how to identify an energy vampire is an important first step in dealing with them. Some signs of an energy vampire at work include that the person:
- Is overly negative
- Criticizes and belittles you or others
- Never takes accountability or responsibility
- Complains a lot about other people
- Acts like a martyr
- Is often embroiled in drama or workplace politics
- Tries to “one-up” or prove they’re better/more successful than you
- Has to be the center of attention in meetings and presentations
- Uses guilt, ultimatums, and intimidation to get what they want
An energy vampire may interrupt you at every turn, be the purveyor of office gossip, or take way too long to leave your desk because they have “one more thing” that is so important. You leave interactions with them feeling devoid of enthusiasm and off-kilter.
Energy Vampires and Highly Sensitive People
Energy vampires need someone to “feed” off of. Often that is caring, compassionate a person who is willing to listen and do things for them. That’s why highly sensitive, people are often targeted by energy vampires in the workplace.
As a sensitive person, your are genetically wired to be more attuned to other people’s emotions. This is a tremendous strength – making you warm and kind-hearted – but also makes you susceptible to people-pleasing and overly accommodating an energy vampire’s many needs and demands, to the detriment of your own health and productivity.
Types of Energy Vampires at Work and How to Deal With Them
Unfortunately, you can’t always avoid working with an energy vampire, but you can take actions to get back control of your time. Here are practical steps to deal with the different types of energy vampires identified by Dr. Judith Orloff. Follow these steps to minimize distraction and keep your energy safe from these difficult co-workers.
This energy vampire has a poor concept of personal boundaries. They aren’t aware of what’s appropriate to share at work and what isn’t. They lack an understanding of the context of your relationship.
Whether it’s deeply personal information (“I think my boyfriend is cheating on me”), or about a mutual co-worker’s food choices, you really aren’t interested. They take up unreasonable amounts of your time talking and seem to think you are closer friends than you assume (or want to be).
The Melodramatic energy vampire is on guard for rejection, so much so that they can’t seem to detach and move on when necessary. Whether you like it or not, you get sucked in and need to extract yourself from the situation.
What to do:
Be kind, but short. Make sure you are clearly communicating. For instance, say, “I don’t feel comfortable talking about so-and-so” or “This sounds important to you, but can we focus on A, B, and C?”. Complement your words with strong non-verbal signals too. Stand up and move towards closing your office door, start typing, or walk away.
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This energy vampire feels entitled to take up your time because they believe their agenda supersedes all else. They brag about accomplishments, drop names, and downplay the contributions of others. They may even accuse you of being too sensitive or overly dramatic if you speak up to rebut their point.
What to do:
First, recognize that their behavior is an attempt to meet a need. In this case, it’s generally a desire to feel important and valued. The person may lack the self-awareness to meet their need more appropriately. Knowing this makes it much easier to remain emotionally detached, since there’s a good chance they will take a subtle shot at you, too.
Armed with that knowledge, you will be in a good position to assert yourself and get your point across. Include something that validates their need while also standing your ground. For example, say, “I think that’s a great idea but I’d also like to explore doing…” or “I’m glad we have clever people like you on the team. Thanks for your thoughts. I would like to go in this direction we initially discussed”.
This energy vampire wants detailed instruction and reassurance on a regular basis. He or she really doesn’t want to let you down and doesn’t want to make any decisions that could jeopardize the success of your team or a project. Unfortunately, this behavior leads to learned helplessness. This Dependent energy vampire, while well-intentioned, may constantly ask questions or be fearful about taking action independently. As a consequence, they drag down productivity and your bandwidth along with it.
What to do:
Answering every single question to get them to leave you alone will only make the problem worse. Curb the need to “fix” the situation each time The Dependent comes running to you with a supposed “emergency”. This person needs assurance they’re doing fine and are capable of making decisions, otherwise, they wouldn’t have that job, right?
Provide a snippet of positive feedback upfront, then coach the person to find their own solutions or creatively problem solve. Show appreciation when the task is complete. Kindness is also key. Reacting with frustration will only make matters worse.
When Dealing With Energy Vampires at Work, Remember
Perfect the art of setting boundaries at work and saying no. Specifically, resist the urge to over-explain or to over-apologize. A simple statement such as, “I have to get back to work now,” can suffice. Remember that you are entitled to protect your time and energy just as much as anyone else.
When you start changing your behavior and reacting to energy vampires differently, you may experience push back. Keep in mind that feeling guilty doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong. Friction is a sign of growth in a relationship, and is necessary for change. Stay the course and stick with your plans.
DON’T BE AN ENERGY VAMPIRE YOURSELF
Be mindful of the energy you are giving out to your boss, team, and co-workers as well. Does it reflect your values and your best self? Be part of the solution, not the problem.
Energy vampires at work don’t have to drain you or those around you. By taking these steps you’ll find interactions are easier, freeing up your time, mental and emotional energy along with it. Most importantly, with healthier boundaries, you can bring your best work to the table.
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