Halloween is over and vampires no longer roam the streets, but “energy vampires” continue to lurk in the shadows.

And I’m not talking about the energy vampire character Colin Robinson and the cast from the show What We Do in the Shadows. I’m talking about energy vampires in the workplace—emotionally needy, demanding attention and zapping the energy of coworkers.

At some point in your career, you’ve probably encountered a coworker who drained your energy or created a toxic environment. According to Jenna Miller, Betterworks chief of staff, energy vampires not only have a detrimental impact on the work environment, but overall company performance, as well.

“They can display a variety of behaviors, but they’re all behaviors that ultimately drain the motivation and productivity of their teammates, a lot of times intentionally,” Miller told me by email. “These individuals tend to have a detrimental impact on the work environment and can be a significant challenge for managers and HR leaders to address.”

Signs Of An Energy Vampire 

According to Miller, you know an energy vampire is in your midst when an employee demonstrates some of the following signs.

  1. Complains constantly, draining conversations, whether it be about their job, teammates or workplace, without offering solutions. This could also take shape in dominating conversations or interrupting people while they are mid-sentence.
  2. Thrives on drama and gossip and are often the root cause of the drama itself.
  3. Embodies the “glass half empty” attitude, finding a problem with anything and everything.
  4. Dislikes change and will do anything not to embrace it, including undermining efforts by others to ensure smooth change management.
  5. Procrastinates most of the time to the detriment of team projects or outcomes. 
  6. Gets caught up in drama and negativity that impacts their productivity, consistently under performing by doing the bare minimum.

Different Types Of Energy Vampires

Energy vampires come in all different forms and sometimes they are more than one type at once, Miller explains. She identifies a few of the most obvious types to spot in the workplace.

  • The Complainer is constantly complaining about work, colleagues and life in general. They see the negative side of every situation and rarely offer solutions.
  • The Drama Queen/King thrives on creating or exacerbating conflicts, gossip and drama in the workplace. They often make minor issues seem like major crises.
  • The Victim blames others or circumstances for their problems. They rarely take responsibility for their actions.
  • The Resistor resists change or innovation in the workplace, creating friction within the team and making progress difficult.
  • The Pessimist consistently has a negative outlook on life and work. They can be discouraging and demotivating to those around them.
  • The Know-It-All believes they have all the answers and tend to dismiss others’ input. They can stifle creativity and collaboration.

5 Steps Employers Can Take

If you believe an employee is disrupting engagement and production, Miller offers five steps you can take.

  1. Identify the problem right away. The first step is simply being aware of the energy vampires, and that requires regular check-ins between leaders, managers and individual contributors. If a manager finds out about an employee who is draining everyone around them in an annual performance review, the damage has already been done, and it will be hard to correct it. 
  2. Check-in regularly. Managers shouldn’t wait to have these tough conversations once a year. There are likely many scenarios where the said energy vampire is not aware of his or her behavior. The job of the manager is to get the most out of their people, while removing any sort of barriers for them to be their best. Managers can assume the best in people without being afraid to dig deeper and put measures in place for all team members to thrive and improve.
  3. Listen actively. The person suspected of being an energy vampire should have the opportunity to speak up. Allow the employees to express their perspective and any challenges they might be facing, whether personal or work-related. Sometimes these issues may be the root cause of their behavior. Listening to their side of the story can help you better understand their situation. Employees are humans first—empathy over all else.
  4. Help set realistic expectations. Managers can help the employee set realistic goals for work and clearly communicate their expectations for their behavior moving forward. They can be specific about the changes they want to see and the impact they expect it to have on the team. It’s important to encourage a worker with energy vampire behaviors to take ownership of their actions and their impact on the team’s energy and success.
  5. Continue checking-in. Schedule follow-up conversations to check on the employee’s progress and to offer support. It’s important to be consistent in monitoring their behavior and ensuring that the negative impact on the team is diminishing. If improvements are not made, managers should always be prepared to escalate the issue to HR.

A Final Takeaway

Miller concludes that the presence of energy vampires is felt within organizations, especially by those working closely with them. They put a huge damper on productivity and collaboration. “Who wants to work with someone who is constantly complaining or approaching their day-to-day work life with a glass half empty?” she asks, adding, “Negativity is contagious and can spread throughout teams, also leading to turnover and your best talent pursuing other opportunities and healthier work environments.”


  • Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

    Journalist, psychotherapist, and Author of 40 books.

    Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

    Bryan Robinson, Ph.D. is a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, psychotherapist in private practice, and award-winning author of two novels and 40 nonfiction books that have been translated into 15 languages. His latest books are CHAINED TO THE DESK IN A HYBRID WORLD: A GUIDE TO WORK-LIFE BALANCE (New York University Press, 2023)#CHILL: TURN OFF YOUR JOB AND TURN ON YOUR LIFE (William Morrow, 2019), DAILY WRITING RESILIENCE: 365 MEDITATIONS & INSPIRATIONS FOR WRITERS (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2018). He is a regular contributor to Forbes.com, Psychology Today, and Thrive Global. He has appeared on 20/20, Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, ABC's World News Tonight, NPR’s Marketplace, NBC Nightly News and he hosted the PBS documentary "Overdoing It: How To Slow Down And Take Care Of Yourself." website: https://bryanrobinsonphd.com.