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Are co-workers draining your energy?

By Kate Lorenz

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Whew, another tough day at work!

It's over; you've made it back to the ranch, but you're dragging your rear end, feeling used up, burned out and stressed to the max.

Are you overworked? Maybe. But, then again, maybe not. The problem could be the energy-sucking co-worker sitting in the cubicle next to you.

Although it may sound like a character from Dilbert, the energy vampire can take any form, from co-worker to boss to client. And, unlike cartoon characters and make-believe monsters, this insidious creature is very real.

Dr. Judith Orloff, a board-certified psychiatrist and author of "Positive Energy," states flatly, "Energy vampires roam the world sapping our exuberance, an epidemic that medical texts don't address. Some people make us more electric or at ease. Others suck the life right out of us. If you don't get a handle on these life-force lechers, they can become the bane of your existence."

So pour yourself into a nice hot shower. Wash away the day and then ask yourself if any of the following people identified by Dr. Orloff sound familiar.

The Sob Sister (or Brother): She's a whiner. The world is against her. Someone else is always to blame for her unhappiness. This is the person who rehashes the same old points over and over again, and every solution you suggest is met with a reason why she can't do what you suggest. This type of person will consume your energy the way leaving your headlights on overnight will drain your car battery.

The Blamer: Less benign than the Sob Sister, the Blamer is in attack mode. He berates, he guilt-trips and he's often verbally abusive. Where the Sob Sister washes you in negativity, the Blamer punches you with it. In this case, it's not the world's fault, it's your fault.

The Drama Queen: Starting every sentence with "Oh my God, you'll never guess what happened," the Drama Queen's life is one of extremes, good or bad. She goes from crisis to crisis feeding off of chaos. Whether she's breaking up with her boyfriend for the third time this week or fretting that the newly found spot on her arm is a sign of her imminent death, nothing just happens to this person, instead, it HAPPENS! She wears us out by serving up a concentrate of emotion.

The Constant Talker: A motor mouth. "He's only concerned with himself, his stories, his opinions, his jokes." He wears you down like "a relentlessly yipping Chihuahua who badly needs a walk."

The Go-for-the-Jugular Fiend: Envious, insecure or just competitive, this person won't hesitate to cut you down every chance he gets. He is an insult waiting to happen. The worst of all the energy vampires, this type of person should come with a warning label. "Beware. Excessive exposure can cause illnesses from chronic fatigue to depression."

Many of these energy sappers can, and should, be deleted from your life. Many cannot. From the ones who can't be eliminated, you must protect your energy.

Set limits with how or how long you will interact with these people. Be polite, but be resolute. If the Sob Sister, for instance, won't stop her incessant rehashing, redirect the conversation or politely end it.

Other times the answer is to take a slow deep breath and get centered. "Breathing is a way to quickly reconnect with your life force," according to Orloff. It's a good way to keep someone else's negative energy from causing you burn out.

In the case of the Constant Talker, it is best to stay neutral and let your needs be known. If the person sitting next to you on the airplane won't shut up, don't hesitate to say nicely, "I hope you can appreciate this is my time to relax. I'd rather be quiet and read."

If all else fails, it may be time to put up your shield. Literally. Dr. Orloff advises people to imagine being enveloped in a cocoon of white light. This way you're building a buffer zone that repels negative vibes, "a deliberate defense to insulate your energy and create psychological distance."

Kate Lorenz is the article and advice editor for She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Other writers contributed to this article.

© Copyright 2005. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority
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