03.20.09 Issue #367 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Energy Vampire Bleeding You Dry?
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Here she comes. You’re thinking, “Oh no. Not again.” All you want to do is turn and run. In five minutes or less, with just one conversation, it will seem as though the life has been sucked out of you. You will soon begin to feel the blood draining from your head and pressure on your chest. No, this isn’t a heart attack! Rather, it’s a close encounter with an energy vampire. No one can siphon the enthusiasm from the team faster than she can.

These spirit carnivores come in all shapes and sizes, but one characteristic dominates: they are unrelentingly negative. There are no silver linings, only dark clouds, and they cannot wait to send a downpour to wash your personal parade away. Saying they like to vent is like saying the Titanic had a leak. These people cannot stop talking about their misfortunes and oh, those misfortunes are many.

Countess Drama Queen can turn a little fender bender on the way into work into a multi-car pileup in which dozens were lucky to escape with their lives and bodies fully intact. There are no small events in this energy vampire’s life, only major calamities that require everyone to stop what they are doing and give their full attention to her.

Virtually every performance starts with a dramatic entrance, “You will NOT believe what just happened to me…,” or, “Oh, you have GOT to hear this!” She feeds on the drama—any drama—and instinctively incorporates it into her own life. The hygienist’s mom suffers a stroke? Countess Drama Queen is certain her recent headaches are an impending aneurism. If you’re lucky, after a few encounters you’ll realize that you’d better make your exit stage left immediately. Otherwise, you’re going to have to request a lunch break in the middle of today’s show. She’ll have you trapped as her captive audience; every scene and every possible scenario will be replayed in excruciating detail.

Then there’s Count Misery. He is convinced that because he’s miserable, you want to be. After all, he lives by the adage that misery loves company, and he certainly does. It’s him against the world. He’s never had a fair shake. Someone else is always to blame—his college professors, his coworkers, his staff, his wife, his mother, his father, his brother. He complains continually about work, family, stress, life in general, and he will tell you the same sob stories over and over and over again ad nauseam. You do your part by controlling your urge to tell him to just get over it already. You offer suggestions and helpful hints so that this person can get off this troubled train and onto the road to happiness. Forget it. All your caring suggestions are simply kindling for his gloom generator, which burns away at your expense.

One of the worst of the energy vampires is Count Spite. He is quick to blame others when things go wrong or don’t go his way. He is often cutting and insulting. His idea of positive feedback might be, “Well, you didn’t do as poorly today as you did yesterday.” He reduces a staff member to tears and his attitude is, “Oh well, she deserved it. She’s lucky I didn’t fire her.” He doesn’t take responsibility. He can do no wrong. He is equal parts extremely insecure and intensely competitive. He enjoys putting others in their place and making them look foolish and incompetent. Anger seems to percolate just beneath the surface, and will burst forth in an explosive geyser bordering on rage. This vampire can be downright scary.

Countess Constant Chatter isn’t necessarily negative all the time; she just needs to be the center of attention, much like Countess Drama Queen. She is only concerned about drawing attention to herself. She likes to talk incessantly about her family, her friends, her dog, her shopping, her cooking, her hobbies, and her advice. She’ll tell you how she plucks her eyebrows, what products she buys to clean her bathroom, as if you were actually interested in knowing such information. She simply cannot shut up. No matter what the direction of the conversation, she will take control and redirect it toward her. And, just like all the other vampires, she’s a master at draining the energy out of a room full of people before they ever realize it.

Next week, managing these vampires will require more than a string of garlic.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

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