Are You Dealing With An Energy Vampire At Work? Here’s What To Do
Picture the scene. You arrive at work ready to share some good news – you finally achieved the certification you were working towards. Most of your team is delighted for you, but one colleague pipes up, “Oh wow, only four more qualifications to go and you’ll have caught up with me! I need to watch out!” It sounds like they’re congratulating you, but really, they’re reminding you of everything you haven’t yet achieved, and refocusing everyone’s attention squarely on their own accomplishments. You feel completely drained and deflated, and as though all the positive energy you were full of just moments before has been sucked out of you. Meanwhile, your colleague smiles, seemingly full of renewed vitality.
What is an energy vampire?
Also known as psychic vampires, energy vampires are people who feed off the emotional energy of others, leaving their victims feeling exhausted, irritated, anxious and overwhelmed – sometimes after just a fleeting interaction. Such people generally lack the consideration and emotional maturity considered a hallmark of adult interaction, and are addicted to preying on the validity of others as an attempt to deal with their own insecurities and shortcomings - as described in the example above. Often, this behaviour is entirely intentional.
As chilling as it sounds, there may well be one haunting the corridors of your workplace, and their presence can have a grave effect on productivity and morale. Spotting and slaying their unacceptable behaviours, therefore, is imperative. Read on as we explore how to spot and deal with energy vampires in the workplace.
Spotting an energy vampire at work
Unlike their fanged namesakes, energy vampires aren’t always easy to spot, because some of the time their behaviour might be perfectly acceptable - even appealing. They might be the person you find yourself venting to at work, because they’re always more than willing to soak up the latest gossip. Like Dracula himself, they can also be very charismatic when they want to be, which can often make them popular. In spite of this, you’ll find they tend to have the following characteristics in common.
They’re always caught up in some kind of drama
You know that colleague who’s always got some dramatic story to tell, which normally frames them as the victim? Maybe their boss has said something to upset them, maybe a team member didn’t share the credit for a project they’d worked on… they might be little things, but there’s always something. Moreover, they’ll always view their problems as more important than everyone else’s, and expect you to drop everything and listen. Drama is a drug, and they’re addicted.
How to deal with it: Avoid getting caught up in their stories – the more you listen and try to offer advice, the more they’ll feel that you’re the person to turn to in order to get the attention they’re craving. The next time they try to approach you with their latest overblown mishap, just remain calm, don’t ask questions, and make it clear you’ve got other things to do. They’ll soon find another unfortunate soul to vent to.
They’ll never take accountability
Because they’re often naturally charismatic, you’ll find that energy vampires have the propensity to slink out of trouble as and when it arises. Moreover, they’re manipulative, and are adept at pinning problems on others to save their own skin. For instance, perhaps your EV co-worker is involved in an important presentation that goes terribly wrong and ends up losing the company business. Instead of owning their role in what happened and communicating with the rest of the team to find out how they can do better next time, they might well end up speaking with their boss alone to sneakily claim that one of their co-workers took control of the entire project, and they knew it wasn’t right but felt powerless to speak up.
How to deal with it: As difficult as it may be, don’t play into it. No matter how much you’d like to confront them about this behaviour, hold back – remember, they positively thrive off drama, and will relish the opportunity to take you down with them and play the victim afterwards. As the old saying goes: don’t wrestle with a pig, because you’ll both get dirty and the pig likes it. It’s ironic, but people who perpetually refuse to take responsibility for their actions tend to be the ones to self-destruct in the long run, so part of dealing with this behaviour is a waiting game.
They cannot let you enjoy success
Remember, energy vampires at heart are unhappy and deeply insecure, so there’s nothing they hate more than hearing about you succeeding, especially when it takes any attention away from them. They also struggle to feel any genuine happiness for other people, especially if they feel threatened by them. For instance, let’s say your boss compliments a piece of work you’ve done recently, and your EV colleague pipes up to say something which insinuates they helped with or were in fact responsible for the project. They know full well that you’re painfully aware arguing will make you look petty so you’ll simply let it go, allowing them to share the glory consequence-free. The energy vampire never likes to be outdone, and you’ll notice this propensity even when you’re attempting to share sad news; they’ll interject and tell you about an experience they had which was much worse, and before you know it, you’re the one comforting them.
How to deal with it: What really sets energy vampires apart is their failure to relate to others and read social cues. You therefore can’t rely on subtle gestures to indicate your annoyance which most people would easily pick up on, so you’ll need an altogether different approach. Firstly, maintain a sense of pride in your own accomplishments; a healthy sense of self-esteem can be akin to a bullet-proof vest. If you can avoid it, simply stop sharing your positive (or negative!) news with your EV colleague, and don’t give too much away in conversations with them. Additionally, head into every interaction with the same frame of mind: all of this frustrating behaviour stems from a combination of insecurity and jealousy, which are miserable emotions to feel. Framing the situation this way will enable you to feel pity rather than anger.
They don’t stop talking
The reason? As long as they’re talking, the attention remains on them. Even for the best listener in the world, a barrage of speech can be incredibly draining, and in the workplace can lead to serious distraction and lack of productivity. If you’re a people pleaser, you might often find yourself subject to this form of vampiric behaviour, because you’re focused on trying to be attentive and polite. You’ll also notice that they place themselves squarely at the focus of every conversation, despite your best efforts to divert to other topics. You always ask how they are, yet they never ask you back because the conversations never evolves past their extended and convoluted response. All in all, it’s an exhausting experience for you which they seem to enjoy thoroughly.
How to deal with it: Interrupt them. Again, this certainly won’t come naturally to people pleasers, but your non-verbal signs of agitation and boredom won’t help you here – no amount of squirming or ignoring will deter them from their quest. Sure, it’s rude in regular conversation, but not three-quarters of the way through a monologue you never asked to hear. Try a simple, “Gosh, I’m up to my eyeballs in this project. Speak to you later!” then flounce off, revelling in your new feeling of empowerment. If you’re forced to share a workspace with your EV colleague, start taking your work into a private area of the office, telling your boss you “just need some peace and quiet” – this should be enough for them to step in and handle the matter, so you don’t have to. If a passive aggressive approach is more your style, invest in some closed-back headphones to let the whole world know you don’t want to be disturbed. Remember – they feed off your energy. If you don’t allow them access, they can’t feed off you.
What if my boss is an energy vampire?
This scenario is actually quite common; energy vampires are often narcissists, so positions of authority naturally appeal to them. If you’ve found yourself in this position, it certainly makes dealing with the situation infinitely more complicated. In the long-term, dealing with an EV boss could pose a serious risk to your mental health, so by far the best option is to get out of there. However, if that simply isn’t an option right now, you’ll have to be smart in how you approach the situation. While you start making a game plan as to how you’ll ultimately escape, you’ll need to temporarily indulge your boss’s need to feel like the most important person in any room. However, in order to make sure your thoughts and ideas are being heard, take a tactful approach. For instance, before you offer your ideas, first validate your boss’s. This might sound something like, “I think that’s a brilliant idea, but why don’t we adjust our approach slightly”, or “I actually believe you might have mentioned this yourself a while ago…” before offering an original idea of your own. Furthermore, don’t waste your time challenging them or contradicting them, as you can’t win a disagreement with someone who never backs down or owns up to their own mistakes. Additionally, the next time your boss tries to draw you into some kind of drama, resist becoming involved, even if you feel obliged – you don’t want the rest of the company to think you’re just as bad as them, or for your reputation to be tarnished as a result of their bad behaviour. Most importantly of all, keep an eye on how you’re coping; feeling permanently drained can lead to long-term mental health issues, and no job is worth compromising your wellbeing. You also don’t want to risk permanently damaging your self-esteem. If it all gets too much, know when to walk away.
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