Perhaps I should define what an “energy vampire” is. I wish I could claim credit for the phrase, bur I first saw it in a LinkedIn post from Aaron Hurst titled “Purge Energy Vampires – Save Your Employees.” Hurst defined energy vampires this way:
“There are certain people in an organization who may be great performers but no one wants to work with them. You dread meeting with them. They suck the life out of the team.”
The obvious first question is – how can they be great performers if nobody works well with them? Often the answer is they are quite smart and effective individual contributors, but can be bullies to get their own way. They likely don’t listen to others’ ideas, believing their own approach to be the best and therefore only possible solution. Alternately, the can be the quintessential “Negative Nelly,” the cynic or downright pessimist who excels at pointing out the potential points of failure but never highlights the positive. (To be sure, considering the potential failure areas is important but should be balanced by the potential positive outcomes and considerations, too.)
The good news is, energy vampires can’t hide. They just can’t help themselves. Hurst illustrated how his team uncovered the energy vampires in their own organization, The Taproot Foundation.
“We realized 10% of our organization were energy sucking vampires. There was no real discussion about it. When someone named a potential vampire everyone vehemently agreed. It wasn’t subtle. It was hard to transition them all out given that several of them were strong individual contributors, but within a few months they were all gone.
“Employee engagement and retention increased by over 25%. We saw collaboration and innovation increase. Political nonsense went way down.”
“Vehemently agreed” – those are strong words. Energy vampires seem to inspire this reaction in their colleagues. Think how much more effective that emotional effort could be if redirected positively. Clearly, Hurst’s organization saw the benefits quite quickly. Bottom-line impact is indisputable.
I also find it interesting Hurst doesn’t mention training programs, PIPs or any other remediation efforts for these admittedly “strong individual contributors.” They were simply transitioned out.
That’s how important positive energy is in the organization. What are you doing to shine the light of day on your energy vampires and exorcise them from your organization?
About Derek Irvine
The VP of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their organizations. As a renowned speaker and co-author of "The Power of Thanks" and "Winning with a Culture of Recognition," he teaches companies how to use recognition to proactively manage company culture. Derek holds a B.Comm and Masters of Business Studies from the Smurfit Graduate Business School at University College Dublin.