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Articles & Press Releases > Article 87

You Deplete Me: What To Do About People in the Workplace Who De-Energize You


If you landed on this page after a search on the search-engine-of-your-choice, welcome! This article was written by Glory Borgeson, an executive coach, author, and speaker. Schedule her to speak at your organization's next event:
Personal Branding Speaker; Emerging Leadership Speaker; Entrepreneurial Speaker



Have you ever worked with people who left you feeling depleted rather than energized? Depleting people can be bosses, coworkers, subordinates, or even vendors. While they're not exactly bullies, they can drain you of creativity and focus. They can take your mind away from your work. Read on to find out what you can do about it.


In the movie Jerry McGuire, there is a moment when Jerry says to his girlfriend, “You complete me.”

While working on a writing project, I came across the phrase, “You deplete me.” There it was. A catchy, funny phrase that quickly describes the feeling we get when we work with someone who just takes and pulls the energy from us without giving much back; or someone who uses passive aggression to deplete us and put us down.

Besides working with other peoples’ stories of high maintenance managers, I have a few stories of my own that span many years. One memory came back recently when I was at the car wash and saw one of my former high maintenance managers in the waiting room.

Kevin. Back in the early days of my career, Kevin worked at the first company I worked for after college.

In my late 20’s, I was finally starting to learn to speak up for myself when things weren’t right. Kevin and one other person who I reported to a few years earlier at the company, Jim, were appointed as supervisors of a new section of about 14 accountants (split between them, 7 employees per supervisor). As you can guess, I was assigned to Kevin’s group. I was willing to give it a shot, but I already knew Kevin to be a smart aleck and a pain in the pa-tooty.

After about one week of this new reporting structure, Kevin had already insulted me three times. He didn’t yell. He didn’t call me names. He didn’t threaten me. He wasn’t exactly what you would call a workplace bully. But he did put me down.

I had had enough.

Since I had known Kevin (or known of him) for about six years, I knew that speaking to him would only bring on more insults. So I spoke to his boss.

Fortunately for me, his boss listened and took swift action. Rather than swap me with someone from Jim’s group, their boss simply switched the two supervisors. So now the people who had been reporting to Kevin were now reporting to Jim. And all was right with the world.

“Kevin, you deplete me.” What a great phrase!

Meanwhile, Jim was a joy to work with and for. Rather than deplete his employees, Jim’s leadership included a balance of direction and autonomy, without the insults or passive aggression. You might say he completed his employees by providing the type of leadership they needed in order to do their jobs well.

High maintenance managers come in all forms. They just are not workplace bullies. Where bullies yell or call names or threaten people, high maintenance managers are more subtle. They’re the people who, when they come to your mind, cause you to sigh (and not in a good way). They use passive aggression to make your work experience worse than it needs to be.

Your high maintenance manager does not have to be your boss. They could be a co-worker, a client, or a project leader, for example.

Who is the high maintenance person in your life?

What can you do to start changing the situation?


I appreciate your thoughts in response.


Glory Borgeson, President
© 2010 Borgeson Consulting, Inc.

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