Stay Away from the Energy Suckers!

Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA
Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA

I’ve often shared ideas about energy management, which is a much more powerful concept than is time management. Time can’t be controlled and even worse, time typically dictates to us what we can get done. After all, there are only 24 hours, 1440 minutes or 86,400 seconds in each day and that is not going to change regardless of how we try to “manage” them.

Instead, we want to think about how we use our personal energy as that is a renewable resource.  In recent discussions with clients, I’ve seen them losing their focus and productivity over colleagues who are energy suckers. These are people who intentionally or unintentionally drain other’s  good energy. They may take on different forms; one may be a boss who is a major micro manager, another may be a co-worker who doesn’t get his or her work done on time. A third type may be the person who is always complaining and somehow manages to drag others into their negative discussions.

As we are navigating the multiple challenges of Covid, returning to work and school, along with the “regular stuff” in our lives, finding ways to save and savor our energy is critical maintaining our own balance and focus, so here are some ideas to keep that negativity at bay:

  1. Set limits: Be clear about expectations for people who may not be carrying their workload responsibility or are complaining. Stating what we are expecting  will refocus the discussion rather quickly and will let the other person see that we are not going to be wimps around their pessimism.
  2. Don’t be a gossip: it is not in our best interest to discuss what a downer your colleague tends to be with others. Not only are we passing on their bad energy by nattering, but we are extending our engagement with that negativity.  
  3. Disarm it: The art of Aikido teaches its practitioners to use the energy of their opponent against them. In the case of the negative person, we can point out to them how much their negativity impacts others and that their behavior is not helping the work or their cause. 
  4. Take action: These negative nellies often get the upper hand by presenting their downer ideas to us when we are not expecting or ready for them.  Consider where and how we will be interacting with these folks and either prepare and accept that they will not meet expectations or do something that will ensure that the work can move forward regardless of what they may do.
  5. Keep it in perspective: We all have the experience of dealing with energy suckers, whether it is a boss, colleague or relative. If that is happening currently, then it is may just be in the cards, for now. The good news is that these times do not last forever, and that people and projects move on. Continue to take some deep breaths and stay focused on what is most important

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