Don’t Be Sucked In By Workplace Black Holes!

Don’t Be Sucked In By Workplace Black Holes!


Our relationships are a key part of our wellbeing. Positive relationships can lift us up, help us live longer and happier lives. Conversely, negative interactions can really drag us down, and leave us spiraling for hours, days, or longer.

My colleague Wayne Baker is a pioneer in energy network analysis in organizations. What does relational energy look like? How does it flow between people? How does it affect our experience of and performance in the workplace?

Relational energy may seem like a someone etherial concept. I mean, we can’t see or touch relational energy, can we? However, it may be more tangible than you realize.

Try this little experiment, based on Wayne’s work:

  1. List out the last 10-20 interactions you have had in the workplace. From your calendar you will be able to see your meetings. Pro tip: Consider also the smaller interactions you might have had with people in between the big building blocks of scheduled appointments. These are often overlooked opportunities for what Jane Dutton calls High Quality Connections.
  2. Now go back through these interactions and rate each one on a simple scale. Did you end the interaction more positively energized, less positively energized, or neutral when compared with how you were when the interaction began?
  3. Review your findings: who were the positive energizers for you? And who were for you what Wayne calls Black Holes: those who sapped your energy?

You can also expand on this experiment by guessing how the other person felt toward you. Did your interaction leave them more positively energized, less positively energized, or neutral? Please note though: this is explicitly a guess. We can be very poor at deciphering how other people really feel about us in any given interaction!

Now that you have this rudimentary data, you can plot a course to more energizing interactions in the workplace. Consider these questions:

  • How can I spend more time with those who positively energize me?
  • How can I spend less time with those who de-energize me?
  • How might I try to transform de-energizing relationships into energizing relationships?
  • How might I be even more positively energizing to those around me?

Commit to trying some small experiments over the next week or two, and keep a daily journal on what happens!


Leave a Comment