Updated: Nov 20, 2020
This week I’ve found myself in conversation with more than one person about how to handle people they perceive as 'negative' in the workplace. Before we continue I think it's important to note that in reality there isn't any 'negative' or 'positive' - there is just IS - when a person creates an emotion in you, it is most likely due to the meaning you are giving to their words or actions.
We have all experienced the colleague who drains us of energy with their complaints, attitude, competitiveness, belligerence, pettiness, closed-thinking or some other trait that bumps up against our own. What can we do when we are regularly exposed to Negative Nellies (not a huge fan of that reference, by the way) or ‘Energy Drainers’ daily? The people who suck the energy from us and leave us second-guessing our ability to communicate or relate to others; feeling inadequate about our work performance; or unable to cope in our role?
I’ve compiled my top 5 tips on how to handle Energy Drainers.
1. Be aware of who they are and prepare accordingly. If you know you are about to share a space with an Energy Drainer, be prepared. Some people find imagining being enveloped in the white light or translucent bubble works for them. Others find visualising the person in black and white and making them smaller in their mind has decreased their energy-sucking power. One client of mine decided to imagine her Negative Nellie colleague complaining in a Donald Duck voice!
2. Remain calm and detached. What we want to avoid or diminish are the emotions that arise in us when exposed to the words or actions that evoke them. Move away from that person. Initiate a more positive conversation with someone else in the vicinity. Leave the room if possible. If you do need to speak with them remain calm and professional. Don’t get into an argument – especially when you know you can’t say anything ‘right’. Keep it light and stay on topic.
3. Take a step back and assess the situation. Why may this person be acting this way in this situation? Are they experiencing fear? Are they under extreme pressure? What could be going on for them, at work or home? Can you help bring them into a more positive place? Or do you know someone else who can?
4. Remember, it’s all about them. Some people have been Negative Nellie’s for so long, they don’t know how else to behave. Maybe complaining has helped them get their way in the past. Perhaps it still does. They may have no idea how their words and actions affect others around them. Initiate a more positive conversation and invite them in. Trick their brain by asking them to tell you something that went right for them recently. Crack a joke and hope they laugh.
5. It’s also all about you. Why does this person drain you of energy? Why are you giving them this ‘power’? What meaning are you giving their words and actions? Do you need to assess the situation from a different angle? Have you contributed to this dynamic? If you consider someone to be energy draining, but others do not, it may be time to turn inwards.
Live your life aligned with your own values, hold your head high and bring your own smile wherever you go. While it may not stop others from being they way they are, they may just wonder what you’ve got to smile about :-)
Janelle Ryan is a Personal Coach, published author, presenter and facilitator who helps high performers create extraordinary lives. Her clients include leaders, Olympians, business owners, entrepreneurs and mums! She was announced as one of Australia's Top 10 Women Entrepreneurs by My Entrepreneur Magazine in 2017. She coaches clients by invitation and referral only.