Is someone sucking the life out of you at work? Adding to stress, straining teams and distracting you from what matters most?
Judith Orloff says workplace “vampires” drain our energy and vitality — and we need tools to protect ourselves against them.
Orloff, an assistant professor of psychiatry at UCLA and author ofThe Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life, has identified seven types of energy vampires and tips to counteract them.
The Criticizing Vampire. This workplace vampire feels qualified to belittle you, judge you and boost her own ego by making you feel small and ashamed. Don’t take what she says personally — and don’t get defensive. Address a misplaced criticism head-on and directly. Express appreciation for the parts of her criticism that are useful.
The Passive-Aggressive Vampire. This workplace vampire may be syrupy-sweet one moment, then stab you behind your back the next. He’s so unpredictable that you may find yourself being inauthentic and guarded around him, which is an energy drain. This person can’t be trusted. Change your interactions if you can. Try to address one issue — say, his badmouthing — and tell him you don’t appreciate it. Talk about how it makes you feel; ask how he’d feel. He may be more cautious around you now.
The Victimized Vampire. This workplace vampire thinks the world has it out for her, and demands that others rescue her. It’s not your job to be her therapist. Don’t try to tell her to buck up either. Simply limit your interactions, and don’t get involved in her self-pity.
The Needy Vampire. This workplace vampire steals your attention by doing things like standing too close to you and following you around, gabbing nonstop. This person may be perfectly lovely, but you find that you’re exhausted after being with him. Deal with a needy vampire by steeling yourself before he “attacks.” Politely tell him you are super busy, really need to focus on work or don’t feel chatty at the moment. Or simply excuse yourself and find a new place to sit or stand.
The Negative Vampire. This is a coworker who constantly walks around depressed and overwhelmed by work, but feels better after venting and complaining to you. Unfortunately, you feel worse! The best ways to defend against a negative vampire is to place an imaginary bubble around yourself and visualize all that negativity bouncing off and unable to penetrate. Smile, and walk away if you can. Try to stay away from negative coworkers as much as possible.
The Narcissistic Vampire. This workplace vampire is grandiose, self-important, attention-hogging and hungry for admiration. She is often charming and intelligent — until her status is threatened. Enjoy her good qualities, but keep your expectations realistic. To get her cooperation, show how your request satisfies her self-interest. Flattery also works.
The Controlling Vampire. This workplace vampire has an opinion about everything, thinks he knows what’s best for you, has a rigid sense of right and wrong, and needs to dominate. Speak up and be confident. Don’t get caught up in bickering over the small stuff. Assert your needs, and then agree to disagree.