Zombies in the Workplace

zombieSummer brings “blockbuster” movies that attempt to lure us to the theater with incredible car chases, death defying stunts, and unstoppable action.  During the last few years, monsters returned to popular culture “with a vengeance.”  Vampires ruled for a few years, but zombies seem to be taking over now.  Most of us have seen the typical zombie on television or in the movies.  They appear in torn and dirty clothes, look very dead and a bit rotten, move slowly, and seem to have a strong desire to bite the living so that others will join their cause.  In almost every case, zombies constantly appear to be on the move realizing their love to wander.  As they move about, they tend to always be moaning.  Let’s face it, being dead and having to wander all of the time must be miserable.  Although the moaning is obnoxious, the real weapon of the zombie is its bite.  Few “artists” capture their essence without demonstrating their strong desire to infect the living to make more zombies. 

Although it is easy to imagine how being chased by zombies would be a frightening experience, most depictions interject a certain amount of humor.  As the walking dead wander the streets almost willing themselves into human traps to dispatch them, we might even laugh.  Several recent movies took this to the extreme and even merged genres to create scary comedies about zombies.

I want to share a secret with you: we should not laugh about zombies, because they may be in our workplace.  Yes, we could have a zombie problem.  Think for a moment about those employees and coworkers that you interact with on a regular basis. Do you know anyone that wanders around, moans a lot, and infects others? If so, you may have a bit of zombie trouble.

All kidding aside, how many times have you talked about a coworker in terms of just occupying space or being almost dead? In order to complete this analogy, think about how the disengaged employee resembles a zombie.  As an employee becomes less engaged, he or she becomes less useful and part of the work world around them.  As they “die” to the organization, it is common to see employees that resemble the tale tell zombie signs: wandering around in an aimless fashion, moaning about how terrible things are, and infecting others with their disengagement.


A disengaged employee rarely sits in his or her office just thinking about his or her feelings.  As human beings, talking about our thoughts and feelings typically helps us process the situation and can even be a key part of our next step, decision-making process.  If nothing else, wandering around makes the time pass more quickly when we refuse to do anything productive.  As we see coworkers wandering around, we become less productive from their disturbances and wondering why we are working so hard and they are not.


Just as in movies you know the zombies are coming from the sounds they make, the disengaged employee can be heard coming through the workplace moaning or complaining.  Last week I overheard several employees at a client’s worksite say, “hurry, go hide, I can hear George complaints coming down the hall.”  A “chronic moaner” reduces morale and annoys other employees.  More important, it undermines the productivity of the complainer and all that listen.


The most dangerous zombie characteristic of the disengaged relates to spreading the infection.  The old adage that “misery loves company” holds true in almost every case.  In other words, if I am unhappy, I want others to be unhappy as well.  Consequently, disengagement can spread through a workplace like the zombie infection.  A common misnomer is to assume that keeping the disengaged quarantined stops the spread of the “infection.”  For those of you that have seen a recent zombie apocalypse movie, quarantine never seems to work and the workplace is not different.  The best way to prevent disengagement from spreading is to deal with the disengaged.  They have to removed one way or another.

So, be on the look out of the signs of zombies and if you see the warning signs, make sure you take action.

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