Copying with manipulative, energy draining people in the work place is not easy, but you can take steps to protect yourself.
Energy drainers suck the life force out of us. While we would all like to vanquish or just completely avoid those who seek to steal our energy and our peace of mind, reality dictates that we have to deal with them. Whether it's a boss, co-worker, friend or family member, learning coping skills to deal with these parisitic individuals can not only help us keep our sanity but may even encourage the energy drainer to take a good hard look in the mirror and change!
Dealing with energy draining people involves developing a commitment to remaining firm, practical and friendly to those who would seek to bring us down. In my psychology training I learnt that energy drainers usually fall under two categories; the inadvertent drainer who is simply undergoing some life crises and throwing their 'stuff' at you, and the real Narcissist who gets their kicks by employing manipulative tricks to bend you to their will in order to control you. In the case of the inadvertent drainer, the behaviour will probably change, with the latter you need to protect yourself. Here are some tips:
Recognize that the 'drainer' is damaged
Emotionally draining people are damaged, and their low self esteem is the root cause of their manipulative behaviour. While some true Sociopath's exist, many habitual drainers suffer from chronic emotional problems that stemmed from childhood abuse or neglect. If the abuse has been severe enough, an illness called Borderline Personality may have emerged resulting in extreme swings in emotion, and Narcissistic tendencies. While you may never really come to know exactly what made the drainer the way they are, understanding 'how they were formed' so to speak can at least give you some empathy.
Set time limits with drainers
If you find yourself in a romantic relationship with a habitual drainer the only things you can do are insist they seek immediate intensive therapy or leave. The same goes for a friend, real friendship does not consist of one friend constantly dumping their legal/financial/emotional entanglements on you. While a friends crises may indeed last for many months, a friend who never seems to improve their lot in life and relishes in that, is a drainer, and you need to set time limits with them. Using statements like, 'I have ten minutes before I have to get back to work/go to the store/clean the house' work wonders with problem friends.
The same goes for a co-worker or boss; while we can't always control when a Supervisor may drop by our desk to discuss something, we can make them get to their point and have them move on. Use simple statements like 'I'm so glad you brough that to my attention, please tell me the three points you want to make'. Even if an energy draining Supervisor had wanted to moan or gripe or even make ten points, they will now be forced into a situation to be brief. Trust me, they'll find someone else to unload their garbage on.
Never seek to undermine a drainer
Emotional drainers often believe the world is out to get them and they better get them first! Often a drainer can become so paranoid from seeking to break down and control everyone and everything around them, that they walk a precarious ledge between reality and fantasy. If a drainer engages you in a bizarre conversation about something a simple statement like 'Are you sure that's really happenning?' will either make them back off immediatly or throw such an emotional fit that professionals will be asked to step in! Having tried just this with a rather paranoid Supervisor I can tell you she quickly left on stress leave.
The point is, don't tell a drainer that their feelings (should they know what they really are) are invalid, or run to other people in your work place or friend circle seeking to get some explanation for their bizarre behaviour. This will invariably be repeated, and the drainer will just up their attempts to drain you even further. Never engage them in an argument, a simple 'I'm not comfortable having this conversation' will at least temporarily close their mouths!
Keep Detailed Notes
While telling everyone about a problem drainer is never advised, it is extremely important to keep detailed notes should someone's behaviour in the work place leads you to such distress that you begin to become toxic from their behaviour. Eventually you may have to confront your boss with your co-workers/Supervisor's behaviour or even use these notes should a drainer be your boss and fire you for no good reason. Whenever possible, document anyone who was in earshot when they verbally or emotionally attacked you, and keep everything they put down on paper, you never know when you might need it.
Energy people are problem people, and they can give you big problems if you don't safeguard your emotions. Allowing them to make you toxic can result in stress, emotional illness and psychosomatic physical ailments. While some problem people will change their behaviour we can't guarantee or even rely on that happening even when we set a good example. What we can do is learn these techniques to help safeguard our sanity and thrive in our own lives!