Working with an Energy Vampire? Learn how to protect yourself from the bite!

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Do you work with someone who when she speaks, every word coming out of her mouth is gloom and doom? Let’s say you’re in a good mood. La la la…You walk into the break room and there she is.  You find yourself face to face with a creature so vile she can turn the happiest occasions, someone’s greatest accomplishments and all good moods into dust! Yep. She is the Energy Vampire. How do you know? Because after an encounter, you feel you’ve had the life sucked out of you!

Sarah is an experienced staff nurse. Sarah never has anything nice to say. The other nurses hate giving her report because Sarah sighs and rolls her eyes anytime you say something positive about patients, their families, the unit, the weather, etc. Every assignment is “too heavy” and she makes it known to everyone how “horrible this place is” every chance she gets. Finding yourself alone with Sarah in the break room is a fate worse than death! Gloom and doom are the only languages Sarah knows.

Sound familiar? Energy Vampires exist in every organization. They have their reasons why they are so miserable; however bringing their “baggage” into the workplace can wreak havoc on unit morale. An Energy Vampire’s mission is to observe any signs of happiness or joy on the unit and deflate them like a balloon until only gloom and doom are left. A powerful Energy Vampire can destroy any positivity on the unit, contributing to an unhealthy work environment.
The trick is to employ the right tactics to protect you from their bite!
1.  Avoid her stare
When an energy vampire has your full attention, she will lure you into the vortex of her misery.  Just like a real vampire, once she locks eyes with you, she knows you are powerless to resist! Your goal, therefore, is to avoid all communication with her that doesn’t involve current work (patient care, assignments, etc).
Tip:  Give her a 30 second limit: Once she starts talking, interrupt politely and say, “I only have 30 seconds to talk. When 30 seconds are up, walk away.
Note:  Under no circumstance should you stay and listen to her rant and rave because you don’t want to hurt her feelings. Telling her up front that you only have 30 seconds to listen will help you set boundaries and avoid getting sucked into the vortex of her gloom and doom.
2.  Kill her with kindness
Remember, the Energy Vampire’s mission is to make you miserable. If she sees that no matter what she does, you are still happy, she’ll move onto someone else.  Make it a point to go out of your way to be as nice as possible without being patronizing. Simply smile when you see her, say good morning, complement others in front of her, say good things about the patients and the unit and avoid any negative comments.
I really have tried this technique not only with colleagues but with patients and families too! It really does work.
3.  Name it
Everyone talks about the Energy Vampire behind her back, but rarely does anyone call her on her behavior.  Don’t worry about getting her to stop. Just focus on providing her with objective feedback on her behavior by “naming it”. This tactic can be powerful but you need to have a bit of moral courage to use it. 
If on the unit where patients and families can hear:
“Excuse me. I can hear you complaining and I’m sure patients and their families can hear you too.”
If in the break room:
“Excuse me but we are trying to promote a positive work environment and what I hear is a lot of negativity in your conversation. Our break room needs to be a place of peace.”
Notice, you are not telling her to stop. You don’t have to drive a stake through the Energy Vampire’s heart and try to “fix” her. Sometimes just naming her behavior out loud will help bring awareness and may lessen her negative impact.
Ultimately, you deserve to work in a nurturing and supportive environment. Allowing an Energy Vampire to exist decreases your chances of making that happen. While everyone can have a bad day, it’s the repeated patterns of negative behavior over time that acts as a destructive force.
Do you work with an Energy Vampire? How have you handled her? Would love to hear your Vampire slaying strategies!!

Thanks for reading. I hope these tips help to create an ideal work environment for you, your colleagues and the patients you serve. 
Take care and stay connected

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2 thoughts on “Working with an Energy Vampire? Learn how to protect yourself from the bite!”

  1. Hi Renee,

    Great post. I love what a cute spin you put on a "blood…I mean energy sucking" person. Great analogy.

    Learning to deal with challenging people is so important. As nurses, we deal with so many people, some more challenging than others.

    These are excellent tips. Really love the one about "naming it", instead of just talking behind someone's back. That solves nothing.

    Thanks again

  2. Thanks for your comments Alicia-Joy. My intent is to inspire all of us to be more positive at work and to minimize the negative impact of others!

    We know they're out there! Lurking in every organization. The problem is, sometimes it's us! We can easily become mini energy vampires if we aren't careful.

    Thanks again.

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