You sit at your desk and are about to start another day at work when a colleague approaches you. After 20 minutes of chatting, your colleague finally leaves you alone, but you find that you are too exhausted to complete any task efficiently.
You became the latest victim of an energy vampire.
Energy vampires are toxic people who drain your life force, leaving you emotionally drained, whether they are selfish, manipulative, or just overly talkative. One of their favorite hunting grounds is the office, so employees need to exercise caution when returning to face-to-face work, according to Tessa West, an associate professor of psychology at New York University and author of “Idiots at Work: Toxic Colleagues and the what to do about them”, in free translation.
“I think of these people as exhausting because every time you interact with them, it’s a stressful experience,” Tessa said.
Detecting an energy vampire in the wild
Some of these predators are easier to spot than others. However, the most obvious signs are feelings of uncertainty and apprehension before getting involved with them, she said.
“If you can actually feel your heart rate and your palms are physically sweating, that means you are in a very difficult situation because most of the time the stress responses are not noticeable,” Tessa explained.
Feeling trapped when talking to someone who doesn’t contribute to your work goals can also be an indicator, she said. You feel like you’ve been busy all day, but you’ve barely completed any tasks, she added.
These people can disguise themselves as extroverts who give suggestions at meetings and volunteer to sit on committees to be seen and recognizedbut rarely complete tasks alone, she noted.
Other times, energy vampires are blatant pessimists, said Peter Economy, author of “Wait, Who Am I Working With?!?: The Essential Guide to Dealing with Difficult Coworkers, Annoying Managers, and Other Toxic Personalities.” .
It’s the people who walk into a room with a rain cloud over their heads, and over time the victim can become more negative too, he said. Managers aren’t exempt from being energy vampires either, Tessa said.
One leader who distributes work to other people without offering to do anything and invents problems that do not exist could also be an energy vampire, she said.
A vampire’s favorite prey
Introverts and people who see the best in others are often prime targets for energy vampires, Economy said.
“I think most people assume that people are good and are not going to try to harm them,” he said.
Energy vampires can sense weaknesses, so they also go after those who are conflict-averse and easy to control, Tessa said. They try to attack those who are not comfortable facing them at the moment, she added.
They also avoid coworkers who have a rich social network because those professionals act like a metaphorical set of bodyguards, Tessa said.
learn to fight back
The first step in stopping an energy vampire from attacking is recognizing that you’re being targeted, said Economy. Once you’ve identified these warning signs, refuse to play the game.
It’s always best to avoid interactions with this type of colleague if possible, but if it’s unavoidable, you need to develop a direct communication style, Tessa said.
Say phrases like, “OK, it’s time for you to go, this conversation is over,” she explained. Tessa also uses a simple but effective trick when trying to dodge an energy vampire: she physically stands up.
Don’t sit at your desk because energy vampires don’t pick up subtle, nonverbal signals that it’s time to leave and will stay there forever, she said. “When you’re on your feet, it creates a kind of urgency or discomfort that this interaction isn’t going to last long,” she said.
To end the conversation, tell the other person you need to go, leave your place of work and quickly go to the bathroom or somewhere else, he added.
Like traditional vampires, energy vampires avoid sunlight. They will avoid employees who have a bright, positive personality, Economy said. “If you are naturally very optimistic and deviate from their behavior, they will find someone else who is weaker and doesn’t have the same defense,” he said.
Could you be an energy vampire?
One indicator that you might be an energy vampire is if you feel like your work contacts are being sent down a black hole, Tessa said. One example is that you might be constantly trying to set up meetings or write multiple lengthy emails without getting much or anything in return, she said.
This is a sign because most people don’t want to say anything negative, but they don’t have anything positive to say, so they don’t get involved, he explained.
To combat this, take stock of your communication style and set strict guidelines with yourself for step back and respect boundaries. For example, just send someone short emails three times a day, and if you don’t get a response, just let it go, she said. Also, make it a rule to only go to someone’s workplace once a week, recommended Tessa.
Most people tend to think that everything they do is very good, so you might not be able to recognize if you’re an energy vampire until someone points it out to you, Economy said. In most cases, you have to figure it out yourself, he added.
“Part of the answer is being very sensitive to the impact you are having on other people,” he said.
If you notice that your coworkers are avoiding you in the hallway, turning in the other direction when you enter a room, or feeling uncomfortable around you, these could be indicators that you are an energy vampire, he said.
For those fortunate enough to receive feedback, act accordingly, said Economy. “I think a lot of times people ignore the feedback they get because they can’t see themselves as a negative person,” he explained.
No one is immune from potentially falling into these traps, so be kind to yourself during this process, Tessa said.
Source: CNN Brasil