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Stop the Sucking*

She always came into the room like a hurricane. Her hair frizzled, eyes red and aura smelling of nicotine, she swirled into my cubicle demanding something she had just thought of. She didn’t just need it, she needed it NOW and in a HURRY. It was usually when I was working on a project, head phones on and in the ‘zone.’


She’d leave a stack of hurriedly scribbled notes on my desk and a stack of papers below, followed by several mid-sentence emails to clarify. I’d leave every conversation with her completely drained, unfocused, less confident and confused. What was it she wanted, and what were my priorities? I had to do exactly what she wanted or she’d throw me under the bus.

This I knew.

I was in middle management and she was my boss.

I also knew I had to do what she said, but the way she communicated with me left me knocked off kilter. I couldn’t help but feel sucked into her chaos, and the energy she released on me usually ruined the flow of my whole day. I didn’t know how to block it and remain productive until I realized that I had to maintain control if I was ever to be productive again.

When I look back at my time in this woman’s frenzied presence, I am thankful that I no longer work in such a disordered world. But I also try to decipher how I survived, because it’s easy to get sucked into people’s voids…even as your own boss.

You know people like this outside of work too, and they’re sometimes unavoidable; the person who seeks you out to have a one-sided conversation or argument, a man or woman who gives you uncomfortable vibes, a stranger that won’t leave you alone.

Not everyone has the opportunity or courage to stand up and walk out of unhealthy situations, but you can still protect yourself from these energy vampires. I’m still learning how to do it, but each time I block them, I feel a little better and a little stronger about who I am. Here’s how I learned how to stop people from stealing my valuable energy and time away from me:

1.       Remember your boundaries.

You can’t build a fortress around your priorities unless you know where to draw the line. Taking time to align your work with your values will help you come to a place where you know when to say stop. When you begin to feel threatened by an energy sucker, remember how far you will let people go. When they start to cross the line, physically back away. Yoga, meditation and self-awareness only strengthen this confidence.

2.       Don’t half-ass to appease the insanity.

Getting sucked into someone else’s lack of control makes you look bad. It throws you off of what you know you’re capable of and often ruins your personal time lines. When someone else demands something else of you, make sure you assess what you are working on and take the time to do it right. The last thing you want to do is put other work off because someone else is stressed about their own weaknesses.  Give 100% to what you are doing and then move on to the next project unless you know for certain you need to switch projects.

3.       Trust yourself.

When situations like this come up, it is sometimes important to step back and make sure your priorities are straight. If you’ve created a routine around your projects and feel productive and are delivering outstanding work on time, then you’re doing it right. Keep moving with your own flow, certain of what you can deliver within your deadlines.

Sometimes it’s also OK to get out of the situation completely.

One of the few situations where sucking is appropriate.

Removing yourself from negativity makes room for something brighter, positive and more fulfilling. But you have to trust yourself for this one, too.

* Oh, did you think I was talking about a different kind of sucking? Well, there’s that too. Stop sucking at what you’re doing, try a little harder…but I’ll write more about stopping that kind of sucking later.

Unless of course, it’s something you really enjoy :)



To learn more about how to block energy vampires, visit Dr. Judith Orloff, who talks about Emotional Freedom through the practices of empathy, positive energy and intuitive responses to negative situations.

If you’re interested in taking a class to learn how to make what you do align with your values, take a look at this online course run by one of my favorite people at the UPEACE Centre for Executive Education. Designing Your Life: Innovation from the Inside Out.





Published inBusinessInspiration