Here’s a fun one… another note comes in from a reader. Short and sweet, and I’m sure something we can all relate to…

Dear Elizabeth,

Do you have any tips to help deal w/coworkers that “suck the life out of you”? Some coworkers are so miserable with their job it is really hard to prevent them from dragging others down with them. Any ideas would be much appreciated.

Thank you!

Great question, and I am happy that this nurse asked. As I shared above, I am sure many of us can remember a situation where we felt similar to the above. I’d like to approach this post in two-fold to share my response to the energy drain and then 3 tips to help you stay strong in this situation.

Difficult Co-Workers: How to Protect Yourself #yournextshiftTo start off with, I mentioned in a post written earlier this month, that it’s next to impossible to make an adult change their behaviors. That being said, we can certainly hold ourselves accountable for how we show up in these situations. And something I’ve been taught very early on, which is often difficult to hear, can actually be quite enlightening.

So let me ask you: what is it specifically about this miserable co-worker that bothers you? Can you clearly articulate exactly what they are doing that gets on your nerves? Because, I have learned that often what we find that annoys us in another person is actually something we need to work on ourselves. I’m just saying…

This certainly was tough for me to swallow when I first learned it. ‘You mean, I have to do what?!? They’re annoying behavior is what I don’t like about me!?! No way… say it isn’t so!‘ Open up your mind and give it a whirl… see if anything pops for you.

Now, moving on to how you can prevent others from dragging you down…

  1. Dealing with Draining Colleagues: How to Protect Yourself from the Staff #yournextshiftAvoid Them at All Costs. Joking. I am totally joking, as I know you have to work with these people. But what I mean by this is- if you’re in a classroom setting with them, choose a seat far, far away. If you all go out for a lunch or are arranged at a table during a holiday party, sit besides someone else. Choose the conversations you want to have with people. Focus on the positive. Add light to your life by surrounding yourself with people that lift you up. And, if they do get your ear… then…
  2. Say Something with Empathy. We never can know exactly what someone is challenged by. Maybe they are doing the best that they can with their current situation. Maybe they are having a really hard year at home. Who know? But say something, with empathy. Tell them how you feel. Always use your ‘I feel’ words when treading on this thin ice. The next time an energy sucking co-worker starts to complain to you, gently say something. You could try something like this: ‘You know, Nancy, when you talk about the X-Y-Z to me as you just did, I feel totally afraid. I feel upset and nervous and this drains my energy. Could you please refrain from bringing up this topic to me in the future? I would really appreciate that.’
  3. Lift Your Own Self Up. Often we want to fix the situation by dealing with the person we’re engaged with. And what I have I told you? That’s right… we can’t change another person’s behavior. We can only be responsible for ourselves. One way to avoid feeling as though our energy is drained by other people is to fill our energy reserves. Do things that lift you up. Find joy, gratitude, and fun in your life. Take up an exercise class, art and crafts hobby, or music lesson outside of work. Do things that will fuel your fire so that others cannot put it out. And who knows? Maybe some of that positive energy will run off on your draining colleague. He or she might just ask you what’s got you so happy and upbeat and want to try it to! You never know…

So I’d love to hear what we missed. Share a comment below on how you dealt with a negative co-worker who drained your energy reserves. Thanks for reading and enjoy the day!

Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RNAbout the Author: As a speaker, workshop facilitator, and Reiki Master, Elizabeth partners with hospitals, organizations, associations, and nursing groups to help transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the host of the Your Next Shift Workshop, Elizabeth guides nurses and nursing students to a change in perspective, helping them make the inner shift needed to better maneuver the sometimes challenging realities of being a caregiver.

Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RN

“I’m a Nurse, but I’m Not Sure I LOVE Nursing Anymore! Can You Help Me?”


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