Techniques for confronting burdensome colleagues

Colleagues in the office are not always pleasant and good. We don’t always go to work in the mood and desire.

Most of us have faced this type of emotional vampire in our lives. It could be a co-worker who keeps talking about himself or an acquaintance who leaves you feeling drained after even a short meeting. Maybe it’s the colleague from the next desk who complains to you every day or tells you about some drama in the office. In each of these cases, you are simply wasting valuable time and energy that you could be putting into making your company more successful.

As author Austin Kleon notes, you can identify an emotional vampire with a simple test (no crosses or garlic required): “If after being with someone you feel drained and have no energy, that person is a vampire,” he says.

What can you do after you recognize a person as an emotional vampire who is sucking too much of your time and energy? Self magazine recently spoke with several therapists about emotional vampires and presented this five-step plan for neutralizing their toxic effects.

Respond with empathy

Your first impulse when meeting an emotional vampire may be to simply roll your eyes and back away from him. This might work if it’s someone you may never see again, but in the case of a colleague or acquaintance, experts advise taking a different approach – by showing a little sympathy. Of course, the dramatic statements and self-absorption characteristic of emotional vampires are annoying, but in many cases, they are a reaction to the same type of insecurity and anxiety that we all struggle with. Realizing this fact will give you the understanding and resilience you need to deal with problematic relationships in the long run.

Validate and redirect

We all complain about something. A healthy approach to complaining involves clearly stating the problem and genuinely trying to find a solution. However, emotional vampires prefer to complain endlessly, seeking emotional validation rather than a solution. For this reason, therapist Darryl Appleton says the best thing to do when faced with an emotional vampire’s endless complaints is to gently guide them back to a better way of complaining.

“If a colleague complains about a particular difficulty at work, Dr. Appleton advises saying something like, ‘That sounds unpleasant. Have you thought about how to deal with this problem?” or “Have you spoken to (the person being complained about) about this? Have you sought advice from your boss?” Self points out. With these words, you will remind the emotional vampire that he has the opportunity to take action to change the undesirable situation in which he finds himself.

Don’t feed the beast

You might think that forcefully agreeing with an emotional vampire might get him what he wants and therefore make him leave. But this is not so. Like the vampires of the movies, their emotional variety also has an endless thirst – not for blood, but drama. The more you give them, the more they will want from you. Do your best to remain emotionally neutral when interacting with them.

“It’s not rude behavior, it’s a demonstration to let the energy vampire know you’re not going to be a reliable energy source,” therapist Amber Samuels tells Self.

Set clear boundaries

While empathy can give you the stamina to deal with the inevitable encounters with emotional vampires, it doesn’t mean you have to tolerate behavior that drains you. Continue to teach your emotional vampire that you are worthless as a victim by establishing clear and consistent boundaries. As an example, you might say at the beginning of the conversation, “I only have X minutes to talk,” sticking to the posted limits.

Take care of yourself

The purpose of this whole process is to maintain your mental and physical health. It’s perfectly OK to tell the emotional vampire directly just that, as long as you do it the right way. Tell your dramatic colleague that you are tired right now and that your contacts will have to be kept to a minimum for a while because you have other work. It may even lead the emotional vampire to seek more constructive ways to deal with the problems he has.

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