Enter at Your Own Risk: Surviving Workplace Zombies

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We all have them — workplace zombies. These aren’t just your run-of-the-mill unmotivated workers; they’re worse. They do have motivation, but only to infect others with their demotivation and to spread negativity to validate their own bad feelings.

So how can you survive these workplace plagues? According to award-winning author and industry expert Paul Glen, there’s a way.

What is a workplace zombie?

First, you need to understand what makes someone a zombie and not just a demotivated employee. Demotivation comes with being listless, apathetic, unambitious, indifferent to outcomes and uncreative. Zombies are one step below a demotivated employee; they keep the unambitious and uncreative qualities, but add in a plodding but persistent nature, a single-mindedness and motivation to infect others.

How does this happen? It really depends. It can come from personal events, such as mental or physical illness, or from workplace conditions, including being untrusted, disrespected, helpless to succeed or feeling unimportant. It’s important to remember that emotions are contagious. So, voila! Zombies.

Save yourself! And save the survivors!

By infecting you with their negativity, zombies can validate their own terrible feelings. Do you try to save them? No. Save yourself, and if possible, save others around you. As a general rule there are four ways you can save yourself from the zombies.

1. Never surrender.
2. Don’t try to reason with zombies.
3. Have empathy for the person but not the condition.
4. Don’t let zombies set the agenda.

But if we dive down even further into who exactly can be a zombie, there are a few more strategies you can take.

If your boss is a zombie, RUN! OK, maybe not immediately, but be prepared to. That type of top-down negativity can be difficult to overcome. For starters, however, lead from the below by communicating your commitment to goals, the company and your team. Try and keep coworkers insulated, if possible, so that the disease doesn’t spread. And understand that it could be a lost cause, so you may need to get out while you’re still alive.

If your coworkers are zombies, RUN! Just kidding (sort of). In this case, you may be able to beat the beasts. Stay focused on your team goals and lead openly by stating in front of others what you’re committed to. Use non-zombies on your team to manage the zombies or, if needed, distract them with non-essential work. If the zombies are a minority in your team, you can either eject them or keep them isolated. But if they are a majority, you should considering getting your boss involved to intervene.

If YOU are a zombie, NEVER SURRENDER! Take some time to reflect on why you are no longer motivated at your job or why you feel overwhelmed by negativity. And if aren’t in the right job, RUN! Don’t infect others with your disease. Go out and find a way to cure your ills.

Have zombies in the workplace? What do you do to keep the demotivation and negativity from spreading?

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