How to keep your distance and conserve your emotional energy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites recent reports finding that workplace stress is on the rise. In one study, 40 percent of workers said their jobs were "very or extremely stressful."
Energy vampires are often overlooked as a major cause of stress on the job. These are co-workers who steal our vitality and leave us feeling depleted. It's important to be alert for energy vampires so you can learn how to let go of knee-jerk reactions and change your customary involvement with them.
Work is hard enough without getting stressed out, tired and discouraged by these draining personalities. Here are seven common types of energy vampires and some simple ways to defend yourself against them.
Criticizing Vampire. This person feels qualified to belittle you, judge you and boost her own ego by making you feel small and ashamed.
Self-defense tips: Remind yourself that her behavior isn't about you, so don't take what she says personally. Address a misplaced criticism head on and directly. Don't get defensive. Express appreciation for the parts of her criticism that are useful. Come back at her with a large dose of loving kindness.
Passive-Aggressive Vampire. This colleague may be syrupy-sweet one moment, then stab you in the back the next. He's so unpredictable that you may find yourself being inauthentic and guarded around him, which is an energy drain.
Self-defense tips: This angry, jealous, or insecure person can't be trusted. Address the offending behavior and change your interactions. Focus on one issue—say, his badmouthing—and tell him you don't appreciate it. Talk about how it makes you feel; ask how he'd feel. He may be more cautious around you now.
Victimized Vampire. This co-worker thinks the world has it out for her, and demands that others rescue her.
Self-defense tips: It's not your job to be her therapist. Don't try to tell her to buck up either. Simply limit your interactions, and don't get involved in her self-pity.
Needy Vampire. This workplace vampire steals your attention by doing things like standing too close to you and following you around, gabbing nonstop. This person may be perfectly lovely, but you find that you're exhausted after being with him.
Self-defense tips: Deal with a needy vampire by steeling yourself before he "attacks." Politely tell this whiny talkaholic not to take it personally; you're just super busy and will catch up with him later. Say you'd really like to focus on work and don't feel chatty at the moment, or simply excuse yourself and find a new place to sit or stand.
Negative Vampire. This is a co-worker who constantly walks around depressed and overwhelmed by work, but feels better after venting and complaining to you. Unfortunately, you feel worse.
Self-defense tips: The best ways to defend against a negative vampire is to place an imaginary bubble around yourself and visualize all that negativity bouncing off and unable to penetrate. Smile, and walk away if you can. Try to stay away from negative co-workers as much as possible.
Narcissistic Vampire. This workplace vampire is grandiose, self-important, attention hogging, and hungry for admiration. She is often charming and intelligent—until her guru status is threatened.
Self-defense tips: Enjoy her good qualities, but keep your expectations realistic. Because her motto is "me first," getting angry or stating your needs won't phase her. To get her cooperation, show how your request satisfies her self-interest. Flattery also works.
Controlling Vampire. This co-worker has an opinion about everything, thinks he knows what's best for you, has a rigid sense of right and wrong, and needs to dominate.
Self-defense tips: Speak up and be confident. Don't get caught up in bickering over the small stuff. Assert your needs, and then agree to disagree.
Dr. Judith Orloff is assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA and author of The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life.