Dealing with drainers

While I hope you enjoy working with most of your colleagues, at some point in your career you've likely encountered a difficult co-worker -- a slacker, drone, manipulator or tyrannical boss. What they all have in common is they divert your attention from the tasks at hand.

Morrie Shechtman, author of "Fifth Wave Leadership, The Internal Frontier," calls anyone who sucks energy from you and impedes your work a drainer. He suggests a few ways to deal with these folks while maintaining your self-respect and credibility:

  • Set clear boundaries for your relationship. Tell the chatterer that you don't have time to listen to long stories about her child's potty-training experiences each day or the angry co-worker that you won't be an audience to his outbursts. When you follow through, you'll likely gain the respect of the drainer and cause the person to back down.

  • Provide honest, caring feedback. Tell the truth and explain how you are feeling. For example, tell a poor communicator that you are having trouble understanding what he or she wants from you. Bringing a problem to a person's attention can prompt him to work on it.

  • Don't apologize for your words. Depersonalizing your feedback by telling someone not to take it personally diminishes your message.

  • Be alert for drainers and intervene early. Nipping the bad behavior in the bud makes your feedback more meaningful and effective. Confrontation is never pleasant, but you don't want the person to grow accustomed to interacting with you in a certain way.

  • Deal with drainers at all levels. Confrontation with you boss may indeed be risky, but telling it like it is may increase your credibility with a difficult manager.

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