Lurking in the shadows of the sustainable energy efficient lightening of corporate offices are vampires. I am not kidding. This is not a Halloween fluff piece. This is the alarming truth about an epidemic in the workplace. The savvy office worker knows it is essential to show value, be it sales, numbers, creativity, etc. Then, there are others, hmmm. How to say it politely, are void of talent applicable to their employment situation. The only way they can live and thrive in the workplace is by sucking the information, good ideas, creativity from others.
Yup, there are office vampires in chic clothing. Impeccably groomed and manicured with an uber cool demeanor and a hint of some intoxicating scent making any acknowledgement they give you an exhilarating high. You are caught in this hypnotic trance willingly supply them with information, ideas, names, dates, and any piece of information you have ever had just to maintain the creature’s attention.
Stop it. Stop it now. They are sucking you dry. You have become their vital source. The office is not some Edwardian Twilight Fantasy or long running HBO series. This is how it plays out. They abscond with your work and in some meeting with office management and executives; your work has been carefully curated, seductively presented and at the conclusion, exalted as pure genius. This is their talent; bringing everyone willingly into their vortex of coolness. Sadly, this is not the fairytale, family channel version where credit is given in any way shape or form.
Make no mistake, you let them. Do not succumb. Here is what you do.
1. Identify the office vampires
This may be a little difficult. Stick with fact and not appearance. Who comes to you for information? What are they asking for? Do they seek your consult in the presence of others? Do they ask for things that seem irrelevant to their position? Do they want to be copied and see everything you get?
2. Know your value
What are the things you are good at? What do people come to you for? What value do you provide? Once you know this, use caution. This is what keeps you sustainable in the workforce, this is your brand. Be aware these vampire creatures may come to you in the spirit of team work.
3. Practice your exits
OK, you know who the vampires are and you realize all the valuable information you have given them. Once you have been identified as a source, a wealth of information the vampires will keep coming. You need to prepare what you will say and do. For example, you are approached with,
• Vampire: You attended that meeting for the 4Q strategy with marketing; can you send me the presentation used?”
• You: There was an incident, I can’t say anymore. I don’t want to be the source of anything being out of context. I’m not comfortable with that. It was by invitation only….find an answer, practice it and stick with it. Make sure the response is a close ended no. Keep repeating. Do not engage in the, well you did it last week. Remember, they are good! You have got to visualize them as that makeup clerk trying to gaud you into buying the glitter lipstick as office appropriate. Mentally say – you are not the boss of me.
4. When they ask your ideas
I am still formulating my thoughts. What are they asking you? Have they said, our manager, has asked me to gather or are they just asking you?
The most important thing is to have responses prepared in advance. Those witty comebacks typically only happen in TV and movies and oh by the way those are scripted. Also, please be aware not all of the office vampires are chic, some are downright shabby and yet you give up information because you want to get them away from you.
Most people are team players. It is a manager’s job to pull things together. Vampires are species that take your work and claim it as their own, not the work of the team, not the work of their direct reports, but theirs.
Honestly, it may take time to extricate yourself from the office vampire. No worries, it can be done. It may be helpful to put watermarks on your documents, send things as jpgs and pdfs. This won’t’ stop plagiarism, but it will make things more difficult to copy. If asked to send as a text file, say, oh, I sent it in jpg protect the team’s work product.
Think of it this way, you stop using products, no matter how much you paid for them if they make your skin parched and dry, or leave your hair dull, brittle and prone to breakage. The office vampires are doing the same and you aren’t even paying them. Resisting the office vampire may have its challenges, but the alternative pales in comparison.
Photo by Jacqueline Motley at the San Francisco Airport