How To Deal With Coworkers Who Drain Your Energy

Sometimes, the workday crawls by at a snail's pace. Your energy is low, your motivation is shot, and the clock seems to be moving backward. It could just be a bad day, or maybe you had a run-in with that toxic, constantly complaining coworker who turns every two-minute break into a thirty-minute monologue. Instead of reviving you with social interaction, dealing with them leaves you more worn out than before. Congratulations, you've survived an encounter with an energy vampire. As therapist Dr. Daryl Appleton explained to Self, an energy vampire is someone who's "gaining energy, and draining yours, by monopolizing the conversation, and has an excessive need for validation or attention."

While these individuals can pop up anywhere in your life, they seem especially unavoidable at work. There's a reason that in the acclaimed TV show "What We Do In the Shadows" — which is about literal vampires — the energy-sucking character Colin Robinson preys gleefully on his officemates (via Polygon). In a work environment, you are forced to play nice with people you'd otherwise keep at arm's length. Unfortunately, this can significantly impact your happiness on the job and contribute to chronic stress. In fact, as many as one in four people resign from work positions due to their coworkers (via Forbes).

Of course, quitting to escape an exhausting coworker is an extreme measure, and not one everyone can turn to. Here's how to spot coworkers that will drain your energy, plus ways to protect yourself and your sanity.

Signs your coworker is an energy vampire

A coworker who makes every conversation about them and their problems may be an energy vampire. "You might be clearly working on a project at your desk but they, not having enough sensitivity, will still start dumping their problems on you," Dr. Appleton says (via Self). Energy-draining coworkers don't respect your boundaries or schedule. Even if your Slack is set to away and your office door is shut, an energy vampire will still try to regale you with their latest personal troubles and work gripes. And these complaints will probably be numerous, as energy vampires tend to have a wide pessimistic streak (via Fatherly).

Another hallmark sign of an energy vampire is a lack of accountability (via Healthline). If they're late to work, it's because of some idiot in traffic. If they miss a deadline, another teammate is to blame. Somehow, nothing is their fault, and they'll tell you why — at length. Similarly, energy vampires tend to get involved in drama and the rumor mill.

As psychiatrist Judith Orloff explains to NBC News, energy vampires aren't necessarily malicious, and your coworker probably doesn't even realize what they're doing to your stress levels. Instead, energy vampires are often so self-centered that they can't empathize with your point of view. To make matters worse, they can't always read the room, and will happily continue their rant even if you're obviously disinterested. So how can you effectively discourage energy vampires without making waves in the office?

How to cope with energy vampires at work

Some days, you may feel especially ill-equipped to handle high-drama coworkers. "I think we are most susceptible to energy vampires when we ourselves are feeling maybe a little bit drained or when our boundaries are not as strong," says Dr. Appleton (via Self). To protect yourself, try these strategies to cut them off at the pass.

First, if you spot any time-wasting coworkers headed toward your desk, don't remain seated. Standing up sends a wordless signal that you don't expect this interaction to take long, so they shouldn't get comfortable (via CNN). If an energy vampire tries to corner you via phone, email, or chat channels, don't feel compelled to respond immediately. By strategically drawing out your response time, you'll leave them without a social rush from the interaction and they'll be less prone to continue it (via Harvard Business Review).

Projecting a sunny attitude may also keep energy vampires at bay, as they'll have a harder time drawing you into their web of dissatisfaction. Offering a positive perspective takes the power out of a pessimist's complaints, and may discourage them from making such comments to you in the future (via Headspace). Remember: even if you can't control an energy vampire or limit your exposure to them, you still have the power to control your own responses and outlook. So if you're trying to protect yourself against constant negativity from a coworker, explore ways to imbue more optimism into your workplace.