Are the Zombies taking over your workplace?

A co-worker recently shared an article that really resonated with me. I hope you will find it helpful as well. Adapted from the article Zombies in the Workplace.

Have you encountered a “zombie” lately?

Zombies in the workplace drain the energy and spirit out of their co-workers and the organizations they work for. They trudge along carrying their messages of victimhood, entitlement and pessimism and they have a negative effect on those around them. Zombie-ism has a cure and zombies can be brought back to life. The difficult thing is that zombies may not realize they have become one and the desire to reenter the living has to come from themselves.

You can help!

There are two primary methods for recognizing a zombie: conversation and observation of behaviors. The zombie’s lack of awareness can be detected through conversation. Zombies tend to not see the connection of performing daily tasks to the overall mission of the organization. They may be saying things like, “there’s nowhere else to go,” “I have to work here,” or “I just have to make it to retirement.” They may simply be going through the motions and doing the minimum required to keep their job.

Observed zombie behaviors

  • Minimal connection to daily work, organizational purpose, or team mission.
  • Blaming the organization for a host of personal ills.
  • Broken relationships always cited as the responsibility of the other person.
  • Downward spiraling conversations that seek to engage others in a negative mind-set.
  • Seeing every other organization as a more desirable place.
  • Holding conspiracy theories, which target their downfall.
  • Lack of initiative with prodding by leadership providing their primary motivation.

Organizations have gone through transformations in the last 100 years. We have exchanged strong backs and bodies for strong minds and spirit. The industrial age has moved into the knowledge age and placed a value on being a learning organization. Creating a vision, generating dialogue, challenging conventional wisdom, and brainstorming/innovation are all born out of a creative mind-set, sourced by human spirit. You have to be alive to have spirit!

Awaken the zombie!

If you’ve spotted a zombie in your team, use these questions to awaken their consciousness:

  • Why did you choose to work here?
  • Why have you remained at this job?
  • What purpose does your participation in this organization serve?
  • What is your life’s purpose?

Awaken your team!

Zombies do have to take responsibility for their behavior choices, but a question  we as managers should ask is whether our organization enables zombies to exist? Don’t lose your team spirit. Here are some key steps to take:

  • Review policy and procedures from the point of their original expectations. Are they written to allow or foster zombies?
  • Stop zombies at the door. Hire for spirit as well as skills. Change the interview approach to assess spirit and spirited performance in the whole life of the applicant.
  • Set a meaningful mission and course for the organization. Remind and reconnect with the mission of your agency.
  • Involve everyone in both the daily work and in creating the culture of your team.
  • Demand that your organization has life. No longer accept poor work or inadequate office relationships.
  • Speak to and treat your customers as if they are alive.

What’s in it for me?

Labeling zombies recognizes the threat. Moving to awaken zombies has the immediate payoff of employing the skills initially promised in the hiring process and post-employment training. The turnaround can happen fast. It’s worth investing the time to create a positive spiral within your team. You don’t have to do it alone. I’m here to help with any of the steps. Don’t hesitate to contact me for assistance.

Lisa Hylton


Additional resource: The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks


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