“Energy Vampires” are bullies at work.  They’ll suck your motivation and drive, and destroy morale and productivity.  But because they’re usually not recognized and labeled as bullies, they’re allowed to flourish.

Rather than give a wordy description, let’s identify and label some common examples of their bullying:

  • The Know-It-All.  He’s right about everything – what the president should do to solve everything, why our sports teams lose, why kids are worse today, what’s wrong with our education, health, and legal system, why the ocean is blue.  Arguing with him is a waste of time and most people have stopped trying.  But just hearing his voice gets you too frustrated and angry to get back to work.
  • The Angry Victim.  Her life stinks because everyone picks on her or “the system” is a mess and doesn’t adjust itself to her needs.  She’s indignant if you dare to disagree or if you’re not sympathetic or helpful enough.  If you don’t give her all the credit she wants, you’ll pay.  Since she goes on and on about co-workers and bosses who are jerks, you know she’ll run you down to everyone if you don’t please her.  There’s no reasoning with her; she’s too angry to see anyone else’s side of things.  So you try to be invisible or walk on eggshells.  Of course, you’re too scared to be productive or creative.
  • The Blackmailer.  He won’t give you the reports or data he’s supposed to unless you listen to him babble for an hour.  You’d better listen or he’ll bad-mouth you publically as unfriendly and not-a-team-player.  He won’t send things electronically; he insists on lengthy personal contact.  By the time you’ve told four friends his latest antics, you’ve wasted half a day.
  • The Mousy Victim.  She’s hurt and weepy, but tries to put on a brave face.  Everything anyone says or does hurts her feelings; she’s a genius at taking things the wrong way.  Her hyper-sensitivity has rallied everyone to come to her defense and cater to her every whim.  She creates a continual soap opera revolving around her hurt feelings.  Everyone must take their precious time and energy to salve her feelings and bring her identified persecutor into line.  The result is another day focused on melodrama instead of work.
  • The Loud-Mouthed Bigot.  He frequently makes sexist, racist and other intolerant and vicious remarks about co-workers and anyone else who attracts his attention.  He’s more interested in broadcasting his opinions and winning arguments than in getting work done.  If you engage him, you’ll come away too drained and angry to get back to work.
  • The Bore who’s Fascinated With Her Life.  She’s so wonderful and important that you must listen to all the excruciating details of her life – especially the very personal ones about her bodily functions or love-life.  You want to close your door and hide.  In order to appear caring, you almost feel compelled to tell her similar details of your life.  She counts on your politeness not to throw her out.  In this case you feel more slimed than drained, but you’re still too upset to get back to work.
  • The Whining Slacker.  He’s lazy and won’t lift a finger to meet deadlines; he’s a no-show at crunch time.  He whines, complains and wants sympathy and help.  Everyone has to pitch in and do his job or the team looks bad.  He’s never grateful and doesn’t return the effort to help others.  Since they keep paying him for slacking, you grit your teeth and feel like slacking also.  Slacking is a communicable disease.

These energy vampires control the turf and productivity plummets.  They leave a wake of frustration and anger; co-workers and managers feel drained by every interaction, like someone took a quart of blood.  And then we go home and drain our families, either by repeating the details of what happened or by taking out our frustration and stress on our loved ones.

These vampires go from team to team, leaving a wake of corpses, but hiding their harassment and abuse behind good-sounding excuses and justifications.  It’s always someone else’s fault and everyone’s against them.

You can’t change a vampire by begging, bribery or appeasement.  The first step in stopping these workplace bullies is to recognize and label them.  You must maintain your individual boundaries, protect yourself from getting emotionally drained or enraged, and get back to work.

Energy vampires can be purged by a concerted effort of managers and their teams.  If you aren’t willing to do that difficult work, you must start looking to work in another department of your company or for a new company.  But wait; there’ll be vampires there too!

Ben Leichtling, Ph.D. is author of the books and CDs “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids” and “Eliminate the High cost of Low Attitudes.” He is available for coaching, consulting and speaking.  To find practical, real-world tactics to stop bullies and bullying at home, school, work and in relationships, see his web site (http://www.BulliesBeGone.com) and blog (http://www.BulliesBeGoneBlog.com).

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