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Are Energy Vampires Draining Your Sales?

Furniture World Magazine


In the world of retail, attitude is everything. Energy Vampires can masquerade as a client, a colleague or your mother... so read this before sunset!

Editor’s Note: In the August/ September issue of FURNITURE WORLD Cathy Finney looked at ways retail managers can avoid hiring “bad apples” through the use of proper interview techniques. One of the most important roles professional retail managers have is to hire, coach and support the best possible sales team. So what happens if you’ve hired a salesperson whose actions intentionally or unintentionally) sabotage the performance or morale of the team? This article identifies some basic “types” of saboteurs and outlines ways that coworkers can minimize their pernicious influence.

Ultimately though, it is management’s responsibility to either help to change the behavior of, or to terminate disruptive employees. Unprofessional behavior toward co-workers affects morale, lowers the level of customer service and adversely affects sales and profits. An action plan for retail managers to effectively deal with problem employees was published in the August 2000 issue of FURNITURE WORLD titled, “Proper Handling of Employee Termination” (posted to the Sales Management Article Index on www.furninfo.com).

In the World of Retail, Attitude is everything. You don’t have the luxury to seem tired or depressed.” You can’t afford to get “drained!” Attitude = Altitude. The better your attitude, the higher you will soar. But there are people out there whose main mission in life is to sabotage us.

They are the vampires who try to stay in control by keeping you down. They not only want to clip your wings, they want to keep you grounded. That is their mission. They don’t wait until midnight to come out. These are Emotional Vampires. They do their work by daylight!

The vampires are masquerading as normal people but they’re different, dangerous, and you need to defend yourself. You can’t let them “drain you dry.” These “creatures” come in all shapes and sizes. You need to treat each one differently and not as you would like to be treated! They believe that they are the center of universe and that everything revolves around them! They could be your clients. They could be your colleagues. They could be your mother. They know no limits!

The word empathy applies to mature adults. Therefore, it does not exist in the vocabulary of the vampire. They live in “Never, Never Land!” Their theme song comes straight from “Peter Pan,” “I’ll Never Grow Up. I’ll Never Grow Up!” They see themselves as victims. Alan Cohen, the author of “Why Your Life Sucks & What To Do about It,” describes them this way, “Victims are volunteers.” They sign up every chance they get. “No one wants to be an energy vampire. It’s a learned behavior, reinforced by those who play into it.” Just don’t you “play” and become a participant in their show. If they call the shots, you’re done! “They walk around with a big invisible vacuum cleaner drawing protoplasm from all who enter their domain; show up and you will be consumed. You set out to be the savior, but end up as Jonah the dinner.” I repeat, “victims are volunteers.” Stay out of firing range so you don’t get zapped!

This is the Bully Vampire who is a member of an “Antisocial” strain of vampires. This particular breed knows everything, is always right, and believes there’s only one way to operate ~ his!

According to Albert Bernstein in his book, “Emotional Vampires,” Vampire Bullies advertise. Know them, know their history, and know your goal. The best place to defeat the Bully is not in the dust of the playground, but in your own mind.”

Think about these strategies offered by Dr. Bernstein the next time you have to deal with a full blown Bully.

•Whatever you do, don’t explain. They don’t care about your explanation. They’re too busy trying to get their words out. They can’t be bothered to hear yours.

•Do what they don’t... stay cool, and keep your wits about you.

•Get the Bully to Stop Yelling.

•Lower your volume, and reduce the speed.” (They don’t expect this, and it drives them nuts! )

•Ask, ‘What would you like me to do?’ Another ploy that will drive them over the edge!

He says that Bullies aren’t focused on the outcomes of their actions. They just want to stand there and yell. Asking what they would like you to do, forces them to start thinking with a more rational part of their brain. If they can’t do that, then they’ll move on. They will get out of your face and out of your space which is exactly where you want them to be!

One well-known retailer implemented a code “B.O.B.” in their showroom. The “B.O.B. Alert” works this way; if a sales associate gets “full of himself,” or tries to take over, they signal, “Bob, line four. Bob, line four.” B.O.B. stands for “Back off Bucko!” (I’ve cleaned this up, but you get the idea).

Become a moving target ~ not a sitting duck. Use your energy to stay in charge and in control. If you don’t play with a Bully, he or she will find someone else who will!

Meet the Histrionic members of the vampire family. They are truly exceptional. Just ask them! Bernstein says that, “Histrionics love attention and approval. The way they exhibit their feelings of self-adulation is with drama, flare, passion, and when pushed, there could be poison. Watch your back, your front, your sides, and any other part of your anatomy you value. They are charmers. You’ll never know what hit you until it hits you. Even then, you’re not quite sure it was them!”

They love to be center stage, he says. “They’ll sing and dance their way into your heart. They invented musical comedy. They also had a hand in bringing us the art of small talk, and gossip.

“Men can be Histrionics, too. They seek approval and accessibility more than attention.”

These are the expressive personalities of the world. Their motto is, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the way you look!” Although this only applies if they are in first place! They’ll come up with many creative and entertaining ways to make sure they remain on top.

For example, Divas will let you know that ever customer who walks through your front door just happens to be their “Be-Back.”

You might hear them say, “I have a client who drives a blue Ford!” Or, “She’s my 11th cousin removed on my great-great aunt’s side. Of course she belongs to me!”

Being #1 to them isn’t the main reason they get creative and at times desperate, it’s the only reason!
They’re creative in other areas as well. In “The Emotional Vampires,” they’re given credit for inventing aerobics, face-lifts, and liposuction, as well as New Age everything!

They are tremendously high-maintenance and they wear you out and wear you down. Sometimes they’re unaware of what they’re doing because, Bernstein says, “they also invented denial.”

“Histrionics can blossom, but they require as much care as a rare and beautiful orchid. Only you can decide how much a flower is worth.” Remember, they are vampires. Sabotage is their game! That last giant sucking sound you’ll hear as they “start to drain away your life force is, “You’re the only person I can talk to.” Now it’s your turn to flee into the night!

Both Antisocials and Histrionics have a Narcissistic Vampire side. Narcissists have huge egos. “Unlike Antisocials, (Bully B.O.B.s), who are addicted to excitement, or Histrionics, (Divas), who crave attention, Narcissistic Vampires just want to live out their fantasies of being the smartest, most talented, and all-around best people in the world. It’s not so much that these vampires think they’re better than other people as that they hardly ever think of other people at all!” Here are some of Bernstein’s tactics for disarming the Histrionics and being drawn into their drama.

• Pass up their flattery, and avoid the emotional turmoil later on.

• Histrionics can be outrageous. If you allow yourself to be outraged, you’ll be the one who gets drained.

•Their stories are entertaining, but short on facts. Get another opinion.

•Learn to keep your mind open and your mouth shut!

•Hold them responsible for what they do rather than what they say.

•They can wear you out by endless dependency, or by making you angry at them.

•Lavish excessive praise on them. Forget criticism. They don’t hear it. Remember they invented denial.

•Tears are their specialty. Don’t dive in. Hand them a tissue and keep on subject, and keep on talking.

•When the job requires drama, and engagement they are perfect for the role.

• The Diva will write a script to send everyone’s attitude plummeting. They’ll make themselves look good, and ensure their place at the top, and your place at the bottom!

•Don’t let the Diva drain you of energy and cost you sales. Don’t let him or her determine your success! Give them the praise and recognition they crave. Your undivided attention and full-blown adulation is what they’re after. Give it to them. Make them think you’re their #1 fan and they’ll leave you alone.”

You know the drill. They’ll try to become your best friend and confidant. They’re only looking out for your best interests. They’ll try to smother you with kindness, all the while zapping your self-confidence and taking over your energy supply. They’ll taunt you, and exhaust you. Be careful. Of course the Mother does everything for “your own good, because she cares about you.” This particular breed of “vampire” is so complex that they fall into three categories.

The Passive, Aggressive Meddler: Let’s analyze the blood of the Passive-Aggressive Histrionic strain first. Unlike their “Ham-It-Up” cousins, the role this species creates is more internal than external.

Here are factors Bernstein urges his readers to consider when dealing with this Histrionic force:

•Emotional control is their major art form.

•They divide their personalities into acceptable and non-acceptable parts, and then do their very best to ignore the unacceptable. Remember they are the virtuosos of self-deception. (“You know you can trust me.”)

•They prefer to believe that they live their lives for others and never put themselves first. They love giving. Their desire is sincere, but crosses the line into manipulation. (“You know I would never say anything to hurt you.”)

•They believe that the Golden Rule is a binding contract: If they do unto others, others are supposed to do back. (“I’m only telling you this for your own good.”)

•They’re frustrated and angry. This they do not admit. They will however point out that they do for everybody else, but nobody even listens to them. So now they see themselves as victims.

Obsessive Compulsive Meddler: If you’re scolded for an insignificant mistake by someone who is not your boss, or for playing on the job ~ then meet the Obsessive-Compulsive Vampire. This type is also spelled M-O-T-H-E-R.

“They want to create a secure world by making everybody obsessive-compulsive. Only then can they be safe from themselves.

They believe punishment is synonymous with justice. Punishment is the only way they know to control their own behavior and yours. (“I’m pointing this out for your own good.”)

They work hard and set a stern example. They resent people who they do not consider “dedicated.” That’s why they’re so close to their sister, the Perfectionist Vampire.

Perfectionist Meddlers: “They are obsessed with control. They want to manage your life and control your actions. They want to be in charge of what you do, and how you do it.

They draw you in with their competence and reliability. You may even start to look up to them. This is when the “M-O-M” syndrome goes into high gear. They withhold approval, criticize, and make unsolicited comments. No matter what you do, it’s never good enough. This is, of course, according to the standard they have set, which no one can measure up to. Your self-confidence, your self-esteem along with your sales performance can all vanish in the night with this vampire.

Don’t try to win their approval because they won’t grant it. Remember, they are the Perfectionist! Instead, evaluate your own performance and give yourself your own praise. In fact, give yourself an extra ‘atta boy or ‘atta girl for a job extremely well done!

The Meddling Matriarch is not your new best friend. Be nice. Be polite. Be gone! Stay out of his or her way. You already have a mother.

This couple makes “Chicken Little” look like “Merry Sunshine!” “Woe is Me” is their battle cry and “Woe is You” if you stand around and listen. Don’t just turn a deaf ear. Get out of the room!
Paranoid Whiners: Some are members of the Paranoid Vampire contingency. “To Paranoids, everything means something, and everything relates to something else.”

They not only dot the “I’s” and cross the “T’s,” they give a whole new meaning to the term “paralysis by over-analysis!” Bernstein provides the following descriptions of Paranoid Vampires.

•They vacillate between extreme naivete and utter cynicism.

•They invented cults, and the brainwashing that keeps them running!

•The angrier they become when you suggest a second opinion, the more you need one.

•They’re convinced that the universe is a conspiracy designed to make them miserable.”

So their mission is to make you miserable. You can’t win with this particular species. They drain you if you pay too much attention to them. (“Why are you so concerned about me? What do you want?”) They zap all your energy if you don’t pay enough attention to them. (“What did I do to you? Why are you ignoring me?”) Either way you’re done, toasted, fried and worn out!

Negative Whiners: We all know them. Nothing for them is ever right. They are determined to never be happy. They haven’t figured out that “Whining Isn’t Winning!” We see them and ask ourselves why they even bother to get out of bed. They’re not living, they’re existing.

Watch out for the Whiner, their main mission in life, in fact their only mission, is to bring you down to their level. If you work with someone like this, do not be mean. Do not be rude. Just do not be in their presence! Your performance and your success all starts and ends with your attitude. If you have been “zapped,” you might as well open up your wallet and give them money. These Vampires are costing you a fortune. Get out of there!

Remember says Bernstein, that “Vampires excel at getting you to notice them, not what they’re doing.” Since you’re only as successful as the people you associate with, you need to vaporize the vampires. Don’t let their mission of sabotage explode all over you.



Cathy Finney is President of Ancell Affiliates \"T 'N T." She is a noted motivational speaker, sales trainer, and management consultant. Her latest audio tape series on follow-up is called "The Marketing of "Me, Inc." -Taking Your Company Into the Next Millennium--10 audio tapes plus a comprehensive "how-to" manual that helps your people turn all the customers into "clients!" Questions can be addressed to her care of FURNITURE WORLD at finney@furninfo.com.