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Recognise time thieves and energy vampires...

Recently, I wrote about workplace stress, and burn out, and I believe there is a contributing factor to these very important to both of these, which is simply defined as a relationship.

How you engage with people, and how they perceive you, and what they say about you can impact your stress levels, and the likelihood of you meeting workplace stress and burn out along your career.

People set out to deliberately develop meaningful relationships, however in this blog, I want to draw attention to the opposite end of the spectrum, energy vampires. It is a known fact that everyone has a finite amount of energy to use each day and we’re exposed to people who either fill us with energy or drain us of energy. 

People who drain our energy are known as energy vampires. Such people, we encounter on a daily basis, and they come in the forms of work colleagues, so called friends, even sometimes family members, and can even be people we encounter while going about other day to day business.

When you are working with people day in day out, you start to build bonds, and emotions, that allow you to rationalise their behaviours, in essence to make excuses for it, so much so that we accept it as a norm, and alter our ways or working, and adjust accordingly to this. The first thing one should do when dealing with these people is to figure out if they are a temporary vampire or whether they are inherently an energy vampire.

Temporary energy vampires might be going through a difficult time in their life (divorce, loss of a family member, job, etc.). In the short-term, they need to lean on others and that’s okay, even though it may be draining, this is usually why people surround themselves with good friends when they are having such down moments that life is serving them in that moment.

On the contrary, inherent energy vampires are always this way; and they aren’t looking to change. The easiest way to identify this type of person is to assess how you feel after you walk away from them. If you feel exhausted, then chances are that person is an energy vampire.

Here are some common archetypes of energy vampires:

*The Victim or Blamer: They consistently talk about how they are always getting the short end of the stick in life. They find external blame wherever possible and like to make others feel guilty, n example is someone who comes into work and constantly moans about their weight but takes no steps to improve it, or when they come in to take your time to tell you how tired they are, but they deliberately generate excessive work and take on more and more, but do not accept your suggesting that such contributing factors may be causing their tiredness.

*The Centre of Attention: They always seem to make themselves the centre of attention in any room or conversation; they like to stand out. An example of this, is when you are talking to someone about a recent holiday you have coming up or have just been on, and someone in attempting to build a rapport with you, jumps in to relate to you, and starts talking about their holiday to the same place, not realising they have just stolen the conversation, and diverted it (perhaps) completely.

*The Narcissist: They are consumed with themselves and their own problems; they take very little time to think about others or how to make their lives better. This is someone, that no matter what is going good in their life, they moan about it, for example they are having a renovation of their home, which to most is quite an exciting mile stone in life, and yet all they do is moan about the cost of toilets, or the time taken by the contractors to complete some work.

*The Drama Queen: They love the highs and lows, are surrounded by drama constantly and want to bring everyone along for the ride. This person will take you on their emotional roller-coaster and can often be the person you sit next to in the office, and who you recognise is being treated with medication, perhaps for depression. Someone who perhaps fails to always look on the positive side of things, and when their life is good they are over the top, and when life is going tough for them, they try to bring you down with them.

While the best solution is to avoid these people altogether, it can be challenging if they are your co-workers, close friends, or even family members. While in life, we try to move away from such individual, it is inevitable we will continue to encounter more like it, so one must never feel guilty about moving on, and getting away from energy vampires.

However difficult, it’s essential that you find a way to break free, because energy vampires are also time thieves, these are people who knowingly pick their moments, I first read about this in an article in 2018, and it described the commonly know quote of a time thief as someone who is being paid for time they do not work, but actually there is another meaning to time thief, and this is someone who steals you time, knowingly or subconsciously, because they want self gratification from doing so.

I can identify with this, and noticed in after reading the article, and experiencing on several occasions in my working week, a colleague would steel my time at the same time of day, and energy dump on me, and would start their day by coming in and interrupting mine, and off loading all the millions of work related thoughts circling their brain, and I had to try to decipher which ones were relate-able, important or even relevant to me.

What did I do to overcome this? Well it took me a while to figure out what approach to take, once I recognised this time thief, and consequently I had to alter my diary commitments, and what tasks I carried out on which days, I would compromise on one day of the week, so the individual who was my line manager, felt that their views were being considered, on other days I would carry out tasks that they realised were important that my time could not be interrupted. Interesting enough this person went on to talk to others and take their time, and there was one individual who comes to mind, that craves attention, and has a need to feel important, included and describes herself as nosy, so this was the perfect recipient for the time thief to speak to.

What I would recommend to people is to ask yourself the following questions:

1.What am I doing is looking after myself and protecting your energy.

2. When you identify that an energy vampire is draining you, and depleting your ability to help and uplift others and be the best version of yourself, what steps can you take to avoid them, deflect them, or even leave them?

It is important to note that this is not about being confrontational, it’s about learning to tactfully avoid energy vampires and, if that’s not possible, then learning how to not engage with them. Your energy is best used elsewhere.