If you have ever felt exhausted, demotivated or frustrated after interacting with a colleague – you're not alone. Unfortunately ‘energy drainers’ seem to find their way into every organisation and cleverly sap your good mood by their negative energy, complaining nature or self-absorbed dialogue.

Energy drainers are also sometimes called ‘energy vampires’; which is a pop psychology term for someone ‘who is gaining energy and draining yours by monopolising the conversation by their excessive need for validation or attention.’

Energy drainers present in different ways and unfortunately they are often people that we are close with or those that we don’t expect. At the heart of the problem is a lack of self-awareness and a tolerance from others to listen and provide a space for them to drain our energy.

The problem is letting these energy drainers to become regulars in our work life has serious personal consequences. Besides purely ‘sapping our energy’, these vampires can also negatively impact our productivity, mood, creativity and engagement.

5 different energy drainers you might encounter at work

Energy drainers take different forms and may be the person next to you right now. Here are 5 common types of energy drainers:

  1. The pessimist: This is someone who always sees the glass as half-empty and brings down any idea or suggestion with a list of reasons why it won’t work. They tend to often complain and rarely offer solutions.
  2. The victim: This is someone who always feels sorry for themselves and blames others or external factors for their problems. They are passive, helpless, and resistant to change. They often seek sympathy or validation from others.
  3. The egotist: This is someone who is self-centered, arrogant, and defensive. They think their work is more important than yours and they always want to be the centre of attention. They are quick to take credit for success and blame others for failure.
  4. The oversharer: This is someone who shares too much personal information or gossip with others. They often distract you from your work with their long stories or dramas. They may also invade your privacy or boundaries.
  5. The perfectionist: This is someone who has unrealistically high standards for themselves and others. They are obsessed with details and often micromanage or criticise others’ work. They are afraid of making mistakes and taking risks.

How to keep energy drainers at bay

Energy drainers can quickly turn a workplace toxic and make your work life miserable. Left unchecked, they can do real damage to engagement; however there are some key strategies to cope with the drainers and protect your own energy.  

Some of these strategies include:

Set boundaries

You have the right to say no to requests or demands that are unreasonable or inappropriate. You can also limit the time and attention that you give to energy drainers by politely excusing yourself from conversations or meetings that are not productive or relevant.

Communicate assertively

You can express your opinions, feelings, and needs in a respectful and confident way. You can also give constructive feedback to energy drainers when their behaviour affects you or your work. For example, you can say “I appreciate your input, but I disagree with your perspective”.

Focus on solutions

Instead of dwelling on the problems or negativity that energy drainers bring, you can focus on finding solutions or alternatives that can benefit everyone. You can also encourage energy drainers to do the same. For example, “I can understand that you are frustrated. How do you think that problem can be solved?”, “What can we do to improve this situation?” or “How can we overcome this challenge?”.

Seek support

You don’t have to deal with energy drainers alone. You can seek support from your manager, HR, or other peers who can help you address the issue or provide you with advice or feedback. You can also vent your feelings to someone you trust outside of work, such as a friend or family member. If the problem is really impacting your happiness, EAP can also be a good solution.

Take care of yourself

You can replenish your own energy by engaging in activities that make you happy and relaxed, such as hobbies, exercise, meditation, or reading. You can also practice gratitude and positivity by acknowledging the good things that happen at work and the people who support you. Remind yourself about what is good about your work environment and reflect on the aspects that bring you joy and energy.

How can I identify if someone is an energy drainer?

An energy drainer often does not even realise that they are doing it, so it can sometimes be tricky to identify a person that maybe taking your positive energy. This is particularly true when we already like someone and have an affinity bias towards them.

Some of the tell-tale signs to identify an energy drainer includes a person who:

  • Talks more about themselves than about you or anyone else;
  • Experiences ongoing drama in their lives;
  • Has a victim mentality;
  • Is pessimistic;
  • Displays jealousy;
  • Demands a lot of attention; and
  • Can be needy or seeking regular assurance and feedback.

If you notice that you feel exhausted, frustrated, or demotivated after interacting with a certain colleague, friend, or family member, they might be an energy drainer for you.

It may also be useful to map your energy levels during the day and reflect on the times or scenarios that your energy becomes depleted. What could be the common denominator? Is there someone that is regularly with you at the times that you feel demotivated or exhausted? Being aware of your own energy levels and when it changes can be useful in determining the best path forward.  

What if I am the energy drainer?

There is no question that energy drainers will cross your path; but what if you are an energy drainer for someone else? We all like to think that we have a positive influence on our peers, but it is important to keep a check of our own behaviour and how it may impact others around us.

If you are falling into the ‘energy drainer’ trap; there will be negative consequences for yourself and others around you.

Here are some helpful tips to ensure that you do not become an ‘energy drainer’:

Be mindful of your emotions and thoughts

It is normal to sometimes feel low, stressed or even angry; but it is impotant to recognise those feelings and not unconsciously project that onto others. Consider identifying the source of your frustration or negative feelings and implement strategies to cope with them.

This may include trying relaxing techniques including meditation or even yoga. You may seek out the advice of a therapist or purely go for a long walk in the fresh air. 

Be respectful of other people’s boundaries and needs

Never assume that everyone has the same level of energy or interest as you do. Just because you are passionate about something; your coworkers may not share the same level of energy or passion and that’s totally ok.

Some people may need more space, time, or privacy than others. Don’t demand too much attention or validation from others, and don’t invade their personal space or information. It is important to respect the boundaries of others.

Be supportive and positive

Instead of complaining, gossiping or criticisng; try to focus on the positive aspects of your life and the lives of others. Express gratitude and appreciation for what you have and what others do for you. Offer help and encouragement when needed, but don’t try to fix other people’s problems or impose your opinions on them. Remember to celebrate the milestones and successes of others. 

Be open-minded and curious

Try not to be rigid or dogmatic in your views or beliefs and be willing to learn from others and explore new perspectives and experiences. There is always a broader perspective than your own. Be inclusive and don’t judge or dismiss other people’s opinions or feelings, even if they are different from yours. Instead of saying “You are wrong”, consider “That’s an interesting perspective. Tell me more.” You will always learn from listening.

Be authentic and self-reliant

Don’t pretend to be someone you are not or hide your true self. Be honest and transparent with yourself and others about who you are, what you want, and what you feel. Don’t rely on others to fill your emotional gaps or boost your ego. 

The more positive energy you radiate; the more you will attract

Energy drainers don’t set out to ruin anyone’s day and they are usually very nice people that connect with others on a range of different levels. In some ways, this makes them even harder to detect and certainly harder to address. They can be challenging to deal with, but they do not have to ruin your day or be a source of disengagement.

You can take control of the narrative by using the above strategies to protect your own wellbeing and mindset. Perhaps most importantly, you can take responsibility to make sure that you are not draining the energy of someone else by being mindful of your own emotions and of the boundaries of those around you. Back yourself to have the confidence to call out the behaviours that don’t serve you well and always take the time to reflect to ensure your disharmony does not ruin someone else’s day.

Further information 

For assistance with your workplace matters, Members of Ai Group can contact us or call our Workplace Advice Line on 1300 55 66 77 for further information.  Ai Group has training programs designed to support employees on their development journey.  

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Georgina Pacor

Georgina is Senior HR Content Editor – Publications at Ai Group. She is an accomplished Human Resource professional with over 25 years of generalist and leadership experience in a broad range of industries including financial services, tourism, travel, government and agriculture. She has successfully advised and partnered with senior leaders to implement people and performance initiatives that align to business strategy. Georgina is committed to utilising her experience to create resources that educate and engage and is passionate about supporting members to optimise an inclusive workforce culture that drives performance.