Editor’s note: This article is adapted from the book Positive Energy: Ten Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress, and Fear Into Vibrance, Strength, and Love.
The quality of our relationships effect our health. Our relationships are governed by a give and take of energy. Some coworkers and colleagues make us more electric or at ease. Yet others suck the life right out of us. As a physician and energy specialist, I want to verify that energy vampires roam the workplace sapping our exuberance. With patients and in my workshops, I’ve seen their fang marks and the carnage they’ve strewn. But most of us don’t know how to identify and cope with vampires, so we mope around as unwitting casualties, enduring a preventable fatigue.
Here are some types of energy vampires to watch for at work and ways to deal with them.
Vampire #1: The Sob Sister
Every time you talk to her she’s whining. She adores a captive audience. She’s the co-worker with the "poor me" attitude who’s more interested in complaining than solutions.
How to Protect Yourself: Set clear boundaries. Limit the time you spend talking about her complaints. With a firm but kind attitude say, "I’m sorry, I can only talk for a few minutes today." And go on with your work.
Vampire #2: The Drama Queen
This vampire has a flair for exaggerating small incidents into off-the-chart dramas. My patient Sarah was exhausted when she hired a new employee who was always late for work. One weeks he had the flu and "almost died." Next, his car was towed, again!. After this employee left her office Sarah felt tired and used.
How to Protect Yourself: A drama queen doesn’t get mileage out of equanimity. Stay calm. Take a few deep breaths. This will help you not get caught up in the histrionics. At work, set kind but firm limits. Say, "You must be here on time to keep your job. I’m sorry for all your mishaps, but work comes first."
Vampire #3:The Constant Talker or Joke Teller
He has no interest in your feelings; he’s only concerned with himself. Initially, he might seem entertaining, but when the talking doesn’t stop, you begin to get tired. You wait for an opening to get a word in edgewise but it never comes. Or he might physically move in so close he’s practically breathing on you. You edge backwards, but without missing a beat, he steps closer again. One patient said about such a co-worker, "Whenever I spot this man my colon goes into spasm."
How to Protect Yourself: Know that these people don’t respond to nonverbal cues. You must speak up and interrupt. Listen for a few minutes, and then from a neutral place, politely say, "I’m a quiet person, so please excuse me for not talking a long time." That’s a much more constructive tack than, "Keep quiet, you’re driving me crazy!"
Vampire #4: The Blamer
This vampire has a sneaky way of making you feel guilty or lacking for not getting things just right. Whenever my patient Marie, a book editor, sees her boss, she’s on guard; her boss had a way of cutting her down that saps her energy. She always has a negative comment to make.
How to Protect Yourself: Try this visualization. Around this person imagine yourself surrounded by a cocoon of white light. Think of it as a protective covering that keeps you from being harmed. Tell yourself that you are safe and secure here. The cocoon filters out the negativity so it can’t deplete you.
Vampire #5: Go For The Jugular Fiend
This type is vindictive and cuts you down with no consideration for your feelings. He says things like, "Forget that job. It’s out of your league." These jabs can be so hurtful it’s hard to get them out of your head.
How To Protect Yourself: Eliminate them from your life whenever possible. For a boss who isn’t going anywhere try a visualization that put you at a distance from them, and refuse to ingest the poison. If you don’t want to switch jobs, realize he’s a wounded person; try not to take his meanness personally.
Judith Orloff, M.D., will present "Positive Energy," a talk and booksigning, at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, at Wayzata Community Church, 125 E. Wayzata Blvd, Wayzata, Minn. The event is sponsored by Book Case. For more information, contact the store at (952) 473-8341 or visit www.bookcaseofwayzata.com