Do You Work With An Energy Vampire?
We’re all familiar with this idea of the classic Bela Lugosi vampire; a fanged, pale mythological creature who roams the world at night in search of human blood to feast upon. They’ll stalk their prey, drain their blood, and leave them a dried-out husk of the person they used to be. Because people usually aren't too willing to part with their own blood supply, these types of vampires have to be charming, cunning, and it doesn't hurt if they are also darkly handsome or preternaturally beautiful.
But there is another, lesser-known, type of vampire, aside from the exotic, blood-sucking variety.
The Energy Vampire
An Energy Vampire (EV) is an especially sinister type of vampire. For instance, they aren't limited to hunting their prey at night. They can be out in broad daylight. They don’t need to be particularly clever or charming to trick their prey into offering up the goods, they just need to suck high-achievers into their energy-draining orbit, where their narcissistic and sociopathic tendencies will do the rest. And since they feed on a person’s energy, positivity, enthusiasm, and willingness to listen instead of their blood … they have no need for fangs. Instead, they’ll just find an existing dip in your own self-esteem, open it up like a vein, and bleed the life force right out of you.
EV’s are so dangerous in no small part because they are so ubiquitous and can appear to be so innocuous. But they can have devastating effects on the people around them. A single EV can quickly sour a workplace, create productivity black-holes, and worse of all, their life-force sucking tendencies will fan the flames of burnout among high-achievers and empaths — the very people companies rely on to grow and thrive.
But fear not! Energy Vampires can be vanquished! And while you don't need garlic or wooden stakes, identifying EV’s in the workplace is half the battle. So, have a look over this list, and if someone you know has more than one of these traits, you may well have an EV in your midst.
1. Are manipulative. They’ll use trickery like feigned kindness to get you to reveal an emotion or agree to something, only to use it against you later on.
3. Are instigators. They LOVE drama. They gravitate toward it, feed on it, and will create drama out of thin air if none exists.
4. Are incapable of taking responsibility for their actions. Steer clear, if things go south, they’ll blame whoever is nearest.
5. Thrive on sympathy, attention, and martyrdom. They’ll often be hypochondriacs and insist that the most minor paper cut is a severe war-wound that they alone are capable of bearing.
6. Are insufferable one-uppers. They physically cannot resist the urge to one-up someone, anyone, in either a positive or negative direction. If you’re having a bad day: that’s nothing, theirs is way worse. Upset at the news of a sick relative? That’s nothing, their relative is way sicker. Oh, you won an award for services to the company? That’s nothing, they’ve got 10 of those in their basement, just stashed away in a box somewhere because they’re so humble.
7. Are extremely selfish. And they tend to be terrible tippers.
8. Lack empathy. Sometimes the lack of empathy seems to border on psychopathy. They tend not to have many close friends, or even pets, because honestly, they just can’t be bothered.
9. Are incredibly certain of their own superiority. The way that they choose to live their lives is the only real way to do things. Everything else is dumb. And they won’t hesitate to let you know it.
Just the other day, a known EV in my orbit successfully deployed a manipulative tactic on me before I even had a chance to register what they were doing. They started in as I pulled out my notes for the day’s meeting ahead:
“We’re going to have to do some reorganizing at the company, and Sarah Beth is not working out.”
“I mean, I don't want to say she has a learning disability or whatever, but like… she just cannot follow directions…”
“Don’t get me wrong, I like her as a person, we’re totally friends outside of work, but she’s super hard to work with, isn't she?”
“She’s really hard to work with, right?”
“Yeah. So, about today’s project ….”
And of course, I find out through the grapevine later, that Sarah Beth had indeed been demoted and moved to another department, and my “agreement” that she was hard to work with had been used as cannon fodder against her. *Sigh* Score one for the Energy Vampire.
Ok, by now you may have identified one or two EV’s in your own workspace. Don’t worry, we’ll get to how to deal with EV’s in a second, but first, here are a couple of things NOT to do:
1. Don't try and fix them. Remember, vampires can’t see their own reflections, and so they probably have no idea they’re an Energy Vampire in the first place. Trying to address their negativity head-on is risky and could send up their defense mechanisms and bring out their more vindictive qualities.
2. Don’t take the bait. The bait can come in lots of forms, and sometimes it is tasty, tasty bait. Like a whipped-cream-covered chocolate mouse with ganache sprinkles. But be strong, my friends. Remember, no matter how tasty that bait looks, it is always a game of bait-and-switch with them. Don't get sucked into the drama. They want your reaction. They need your indignation. But remember, whatever you say can and will be used against you. Whatever that bait, whether it comes in the form of office gossip, politics, boss-bashing, client-bashing, whatever … Just disengage. Run off to “send an urgent email” or “pick the kids up from school.” Quick as you can.
Now that we’ve learned how to identify the EV’s in our orbit and we know what NOT to do, here are a few things we CAN do:
1. Center yourself. It's going to be way harder for someone to knock you off balance if you start the day confidently calm and centered. Take a few minutes either during your commute or before you get to the office to just breathe, reflect on your purpose or your tasks for the day.
2. Avoid the EV. Give them a wide berth; maybe take the long way to the bathrooms instead of walking by their desk. Also, walk with purpose or pop in earbuds to make yourself look less approachable if you see them coming.
3. Say something nice. Energy vampires hate this. They want drama, they want to stir the pot, they want to suck you into the latest gossip so that they can cast you in a principal role in their ongoing imaginary saga. If you find yourself sucked into one of these conversations, try Complimenting the person they’re gossiping about. “Sarah Beth is the best dresser, excuse me, I’m going to go ask her where she got that blouse.” Boom. You shut down the negativity, and you have an excuse to leave their presence.
4. Detach. Let go of what you can’t control. There’s a quote, often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt that I simply love: “What other people think of me is none of my business.” I’m a natural people-pleaser (another trait that EV’s LOVE) and so I have to remind myself of this, pretty much constantly. And I like to expand on this quote and add: “what other people say about me behind my back is also none of my business.” I can’t control what other people say or think, and so I just have to let it go. My energy will be better spent focusing on what makes me awesome.
A little bit of awareness goes a long way when it comes to identifying and vanquishing Energy Vampires in your workplace. Once you’ve learned how to spot them, resist the urge to help them “fix” their negativity or get sucked into whatever ongoing drama they’re stirring up. Take care of yourself first, avoid the EV’s if you can, and be a fountain of kindness and positivity if you can’t. At the end of the day, you can’t control what other people think, say, or do, so focus instead on what makes you awesome. And if you need to, take a cue from Elsa and Anna and let it go.
What tips do you have for dealing with Energy Vampires? Leave your advice in the comments below!