3 Strategies to Slay the Workplace Energy Vampires

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I used to dread working with Cindy. Cindy was overly critical and found fault in everything I did. And it wasn’t just with me. Cindy seemed to walk around with a black cloud of gloom and doom over her and just loved to rain on everyone’s parade. At a staff meeting when our boss shared that we earned a pizza party because we increased our patient satisfaction scores, Cindy would complain that it wasn’t good enough; that we should all get huge pay raises instead! Or when someone would pass a certification exam or graduate from an advanced program, Cindy would remind her that it was a waste of time – after all, “you won’t get any more money for it!”

But I have to admit my worst experiences with Cindy is when I happened to find myself in the same room with her alone; like in the med room or supply closet.

That’s when Cindy’s true identity as an energy vampire revealed itself.

When alone with Cindy, she would gossip, complain, and criticize EVERYTHING!!!! And for some reason, I couldn’t get away. I’d find myself trapped in that supply closet for 20 minutes!!! Perhaps like a vampire, she hypnotized me with her vampire stare while she slowly sucked the life out of me!!
The only thing that would break the spell is if another colleague would walk into the room (which I hoped and prayed for). And then I’d have to play catch up with patient care because Cindy had me trapped for so long.
Are you working with an energy vampire too?
We all work with people like this (hopefully, you’re not one of them). Yet the most common strategy people use to manage them is avoidance. Well, like me getting trapped in the supply closet, avoidance isn’t a very successful strategy in the work place.
The best way to deal with an energy vampire is to set boundaries. Here are 3 ways:
1.    Recognize who the energy vampires are by taking the vampire test.
After you’ve spend any time with this person, do you walk away feeling good about yourself or do you walk away feeling like someone’s sucked the life out of you?
If you feel drained, you’ve been with an energy vampire!
2.    Flip the switch.
Any time the energy vampire complains or downplays someone else’s accomplishments counter her negativity with something positive. If your co-worker Sarah gets certified and the energy vampire reminds her that she won’t get any more money, say, “I’m really excited for Sarah because I know she got certified for internal not external reasons.” Just flip the situation from negative to positive. Doing this consistently, over time, sends a very powerful message that you are NOT putting up with their gloom and doom.
3.    Limit time spent with them.
When you find yourself alone and trapped with the energy vampire, say up front, “I have 2 minutes to listen and then I have something I need to do.” And then stick to that 2 minutes. If the energy vampire keeps talking, leave.
Seriously, if you say you have 2 minutes but then allow them to keep talking, you’ve just taught the vampire how to hypnotize you! Even if she is still talking, leave.
Energy vampires only have the power we give them. By letting them spew their venom and sink their fangs into us, we are enabling them to hold us hostage. When I think of the amount of time I willingly gave to Cindy, it makes me feel bad because that we time I could have used to educate my patients, finish my charting so that I could get home in time to have dinner with my children, or eat in peace!

No more. Set boundaries. Your time is valuable. Don’t give it up to an energy vampire!
Thanks so much for reading. Take care and stay connected!
About the author: Dr. Renee Thompson is a keynote speaker, author and professional development/anti-bullying thought leader. Renee spends the majority of her time helping healthcare and academic organizations improve the work environment. To find out how you can bring Renee to YOUR organization or nursing event, click here.

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4 thoughts on “3 Strategies to Slay the Workplace Energy Vampires”

  1. Thank you for sharing this timely topic. In today's complex health care settings, we are easily deflected from positive work environments by individuals who dwell in negative energy. Let's shed some light on our vampire colleageus and role model the "art of the possible" in respect to uplifting collaborative behaviours!

  2. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. It is amazing how some people seem to LOVE dwell in negative conversations. I think the best approach is to set boundaries (as written in the blog) and to start engaging people in positive conversations!! It's about influencing others in a positive way.

    Thank you for taking the time to comment. I'm so grateful!

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