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Defending Against 7 Energy Vampires in the Workplace

By Judith Orloff MD

By Judith Orloff, MD

The Centers for Disease Control cites recent reports finding that workplace stress is on the rise. In one study, 40% of workers said their jobs were “very or extremely stressful.” (Read more here.)

Energy vampires are often overlooked as a major cause of stress on the job. These are coworkers who steal our vitality and leave us feeling depleted. As I explain in The Ecstasy of Surrender, 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.

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Work is hard enough without  getting stressed out, tired, and discouraged by energy vampires. Here are seven common types of energy vampires you might come across on the job, and some simple ways to defend yourself against them.

The Criticizing Vampire. This workplace vampire 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.

The Passive-Aggressive Vampire. This workplace vampire may be syrupy-sweet one moment, then stab you behind your 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.

The Victimized Vampire. This workplace vampire 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.

The 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.

The Negative Vampire. This is a coworker 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 coworkers as much as possible.

The 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.

The Controlling Vampire. This workplace vampire 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.

Judith Orloff MD is author of numerous books, including the new bestseller The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life. A board-certified psychiatrist and assistant professor of psychiatry at UCLA, she has spoken at medical schools, hospitals, the American Psychiatric Association, Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women Summit, and held workshops at alternative and traditional health forums nationwide. Learn more about her at

Healthcare Business Today is a leading online publication that covers the business of healthcare. Our stories are written from those who are entrenched in this field and helping to shape the future of this industry. Healthcare Business Today offers readers access to fresh developments in health, medicine, science, and technology as well as the latest in patient news, with an emphasis on how these developments affect our lives.

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