Healthy Workforce

Slaying the Workplace Energy Vampires

Don’t let them drain your enthusiasm and productivity

Sarah is an experienced staff nurse who never has anything nice to say. The other nurses hate giving her report because Sarah sighs and rolls her eyes any time they make a positive comment about patients, families, the unit, the weather or anything else.

To Sarah, every assignment is too hard, no reward is good enough and any achievement is “just a waste of time.” Gloom and doom are the only languages she knows — and it can be contagious.

 

Let’s say you’re having a great day. The sun is shining, and you had a good night of sleep and a nice breakfast with your kids before dropping them off at school. Then, you walk into the break room at work, and there she is — that coworker who is ready to sour your mood and leave you feeling as drained and dour as she always seems to be. You’re about to fall prey to an Energy Vampire!

Creatures of the Dark

Energy Vampires exist in every organization. Some seem to have an almost hypnotic ability to paralyze others with their sheer negativity, which can wreak havoc on morale. A powerful Energy Vampire can destroy any signs of happiness, joy or positivity on the unit.

Nursing Education

Of course, nursing is hard work, and we all have days when a dark cloud seems to hang over everything we do. There’s no need to sharpen your wooden stake just because a colleague happens to be in a bad mood every once in a while.

Here are three telltale signs for recognizing true Energy Vampires:

◗ They’re ALWAYS gloomy, even when things are going well.

◗ They dismiss or belittle everyone’s victories and accomplishments (including their own).

◗ Dealing with them inevitably makes YOU feel worse.

Don’t Get “Bitten”

If you’ve spotted Energy Vampires in your workplace, you need to employ the right tactics to protect you from their “bite.”

1.  Avoid their stare.

When Energy Vampires have your full attention, they will lure you into the vortex of their misery. Your best bet, therefore, is to minimize interaction so you don’t get drawn in. Limit your communication with them to current work (patient care, assignments, etc.) and set a clock on your interactions.

When they start talking, interrupt politely and say something like, “I only have 30 seconds.” When that time is up, excuse yourself and walk away.

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2.  Don’t try to fix them.

It’s tempting to try to “stake” Energy Vampires, confronting their sour behavior and its impact on coworkers and patients. Unfortunately, this may just make things worse.

Remember, most Energy Vampires make people miserable because THEY’RE miserable. They may see your call-out as a sign that you’re out to get them, especially if they already have a persecution complex. If they resist your attempts to cheer them up, criticizing them probably won’t help either.

3.  Flip the switch.

Energy Vampires’ goal is to spread their misery to others. Don’t give in. If they complain or downplay someone else’s accomplishments, counter the negativity with something positive.

This includes being as nice as possible to them without being patronizing. Simply smile, say good morning, compliment others in front of them, say good things about the patients and the unit, and avoid any negative comments. (This technique is effective not only with negative colleagues, but also with patients and families. It really does work!)

Set Boundaries

I know from personal experience how draining Energy Vampires can be. I once worked with a perpetually negative colleague who sometimes managed to “trap” me in the break room or supply closet for 20 minutes or more with her vitriol and bad vibes. That was time I could have used to educate my patients or finish my charting so I could get home to dinner with my family.

Ultimately, Energy Vampires only have power over us if we let them. Guard your time and well-being. Don’t let an Energy Vampire suck you in!


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