Have you ever finished a day at work, absolutely exhausted but puzzled as to why? Your workload hasn’t changed drastically, and your routine has been consistent. You suddenly realize your tiredness was a result of you dealing with your co-worker, who droned on and on about how everything is wrong. Sometimes the most energy-consuming part of our day is dealing with the negativity of a toxic colleague.
Judith Orloff, the author of Positive Energy, calls these individuals “Energy Vampires” as they (whether they intend to or not) drain everyone around them with their negative attitude. If you’ve ever had to deal with an Energy Vampire around you, you know you can feel symptoms of demotivation, exhaustion, and stress.
Orloff identifies five types of Energy Vampires:
- The Narcissist: giving credit where credit isn’t due – their focus is always on themselves and not lifting the team around them,
- The Victim: Similar to the Narcissist, they draw attention to themselves but thrives on the sympathy of others,
- The Passive Aggressor: uses comments and actions to sap the energy of colleagues by never directly addressing issues,
- The Rageoholic: causing tension with fits of extreme emotion which causes people never to know what mood they are in,
- The Centre of Drama: there’s always an issue, but never a solution presented by this individual to help the group move on from the problem.
I recently had this conversation with a Client who had been feeling frustrated, tired and unmotivated because of her colleague’s consistent behaviours of being a perpetual Victim. My Client, ever the friendly colleague, tried her best to be supportive, but it became a strain on her own energy levels.
What can you do to prevent being weighed down by a colleague who is an Energy Vampire:
- Be Aware and Present – Start by noticing how you feel when you are with each colleague. Be more present in your body and mind by paying attention to who leaves you feeling energized and who leaves you feeling tired. You’ll know as soon as you start interacting with them – do you change your usual behaviours? Do you feel more open or find yourself being more closed in interactions? Start to be intentional with how much of your time you spend with them.
- Set Boundaries – As colleagues, it’s not your job to be always check-in, or be the one that helps them through what your colleagues are going through. Manage your time with them, set your priorities and focus on accomplishing them.
- Just Listen – Most Energy Vampires just want an ear to bend. I suggest you just listen but take a less active role in engaging in trying to solve their issue. Keep the questions open-ended, rather than your input to keep them talking. Try your best to listen without being pulled into their frustrations.
- Refuel your Energy – Work out, sleep well – keep getting those endorphins and dopamine. Get up and go for a brief walk during the day either in the office or better yet, go outside and get some sun and fresh air. Take the time to release the negative energy from the office.
- Meditate or Focus Breathing – Take time to focus on your breathing through the day or even better, try to meditate daily or pause and focus on your breathing. Inhale (with your inner voice say: “Let…”) and exhale (“Go…”). And repeat: inhale (“Let…”), exhale (“Go…”). You won’t believe how this basic activity can help.
While we can’t always cut Energy Vampire colleagues out of our lives, there are plenty of helpful ways to deal with them. Start by identifying those sources of negative energy and apply these steps to help manage your life in their proximity. By making these conscious decisions and actions, they can help us avoid any lasting impacts on our energy levels.