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Everyone’s worked with an Energy Vampire. An energy vampire is someone who drains your enthusiasm for your work, who leaves you feeling powerless and discouraged, whose calls and e-mails you dread and put off replying to as long as you can.

One piece of good news is that you can ward off energy vampires. They’re persistent, so it’s not easy, but you can take actions to keep the proverbial life from being drained out of you.

1) Make them look at their own reflection.

You know how vampires supposedly don’t cast reflections in mirrors? That’s true of energy vampires in the workplace. As astonishing as it may seem, sometimes they don’t realize how they’re behaving.

So create a reflection for an energy vampire. Imitate them, behave as they behave. Not mockingly or disrespectfully, but gently and kindly. Seeing their behavior in another person will often make them realize what they’re doing, and they’ll stop.

2) Wear a garland of garlic.

Traditionally, one of the things that repels vampires is garlic. Putting garlic around the entryways into a room will keep a vampire out; wearing garlic on your person will keep a vampire away.

Make yourself “stinky” to the energy vampire. If the energy vampire is a needy team member, be even more needy (that’s an example of (1), making a vampire see his or her own reflection). If the energy vampire is your manager or someone higher up in the organization structure from you, ask “helpful” questions that will deflect an energy vampire, such as, “This is an excellent, detailed process. Could you help me understand how this helps the customer?” Or, “This process is thorough and I can see the outcomes it will create. Could you say more about whether the customer will pay for it?”

3) Force them into the sunshine.

Vampires can’t go out in direct sunlight, or they burn up and die. Energy vampires in the workplace also stay hidden, at least to the people above them in the company structure.

Find a way to make these energy vampires visible. If you can, talk to your manager, the organization’s ombuds, or HR. Be diplomatic as you need to be, complementing the energy vampire as much as you can, but also say that working with that person takes up so much time and energy, you’re having a hard time meeting your goals, or your team’s goals, or whatever you’re working on.

4) Query the people whose souls are being drained.

Vampires don’t necessarily drain their victims of all of their blood. They may take just enough to keep them feeling fed while keeping the victim alive, though weak.

If you’re a leader or manager, observe your reports. Are they weak, pale, and listless after meetings with a particular person? If you have the power to, add a question to 360 feedback. Ask, “Does anyone you interact with give you energy and inspire you? Does anyone you interact with drain your energy and wear you out?” Even if you can’t do something about that energy vampire, the second question in particular will give you data you can take to someone who can.

5) Look for the energy vampire hidden in plain sight.

Vampires are famously charming and spellbinding. The higher up you are in an organization’s structure, the less likely they are to show you their predatory side.

Start with what (3) recommends: get feedback from the people in your reporting tree. Then, no matter how charming someone seems to you, believe people if they say that the person is an energy vampire. Figure out what you can do to turn that person into someone who puts energy into the organization, rather than drain it.

6) Drive a stake through the energy vampire’s heart.

If you want to get rid of a vampire for good, you have to take drastic action, such as driving a stake through the vampire’s heart.

If an energy vampire is draining your organization of its life’s blood and energy, and you have the power to, you may need to let that person go, and get rid of the energy drain for good.

Photo credit: © 2011 Alvaro Tapia, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.


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