Dealing With the ‘Energy Vampire’
A professor from Seattle, Whitney K. remembers working with an “energy vampire.” “I’m an optimist, and I would come into the office in a great mood, and after spending a few minutes with her, I would feel like she completely sucked up my positive attitude. She talked nonstop, and everything was negative.”
Because the woman would often “plop herself down” in Whitney’s office and start complaining, Whitney tried subtle tactics: deliberately focusing on her computer or politely insisting she had to work. But the co-worker didn’t get the hint.
“I finally came up with something that did the trick,” Whitney says. “I would get up and say something like, ‘Sorry to interrupt, but I need to get a cup of tea. Do you want to come?’ ” She would allow the woman to accompany her, let her vent briefly and then pointedly say: “Well it was good catching up with you, but I’ve got to get back to my desk now.”
“It worked like a charm,” Whitney says. “I wish I had been able to be more honest with her, but she had a strong temper and a long history at the company, so I had to handle the situation gracefully.”
Dealing With the Obnoxious Loudmouth
Carol M. has seen firsthand how the aggressive approach does not work in handling someone she finds annoying. Having worked as a salesperson at the same company for 10 years, Carol has ongoing issues with a new hire. “This woman doesn’t know what she’s doing,” she says. “She’s completely unprofessional, doesn’t try to learn the business and tells the same bad jokes over and over.” Furthermore, the woman constantly speaks at a high volume, distracting everyone around her.
At first, Carol reacted with anger and short comments, but the woman responded with equal anger, worsening the situation. In fact, the stress drove Carol to seek counseling for the first time in her life, and that’s where she learned some helpful coping mechanisms.
“If she’s too loud, I’ll politely send her an IM,” she says. “I make sure to get up and take a walk, just get away from my desk, if she’s really bugging me. You have to realize that not everybody has the same work style, ethics and standards. You do have to be forgiving. I have to understand she’s not in the same place that I am professionally. I have to accept that.”
Although this new understanding hasn’t completely resolved the issue, Carol says that, overall, she feels better about the situation and her own response to it.
Dealing With the Bully Manager
At a production company in California, director, actor and producer Jeff J. had to deal with the ultimate bully of a manager: “She had a habit of constantly ignoring success and looking for fault. Her ways were extremely divisive.… Having her around became toxic.”
After months of increasing tension and rancor, Jeff felt compelled to confront her. “I tried talking to her calmly and politely, noting what was not appropriate about her focus.” However, the woman reacted defensively and in an angry manner.
Jeff discussed the situation with distraught co-workers and encouraged them to communicate with the manager as well, offering them advice: “Don’t make somebody feel that they’re absolutely wrong, because the reaction will be defensiveness. Keep it clean, keep it professional. You have to communicate. You’re on a team.”
Despite their attempts, a higher-up who was a personal friend of the bully boss enabled her destructive behavior. Ultimately, the manager’s projects began to suffer so greatly that she was fired—and Jeff and his co-workers were proud that they handled the situation in a professional manner, tried their best to remedy it and remained a team despite it. “In the end, it really did feel like a tremendous burden was lifted from everyone,” he says.