I watched "Zombieland" for the the first time about a month ago, and have to say I thought it was pretty good. That's a rave review from someone who doesn't care for scary movies. (I made my mother sleep with me at night for three days after I saw the first "Friday the 13th.")
So, believe me when I say that I would not want to be a zombie because I'd probably faint from being so terrified of myself. But there's another kind of zombie that should scare everyone -- a zombie employee. Read why in this latest story I did for Gannett/USA Today....
In the 1968 movie, "Night of the Living Dead," Johnny teased Barbara, "They’re coming to get you!"
Johnny was speaking of zombies, and he might want to update that warning for the workplace today if he listens to Susan Battley.
Battley, a leadership and career expert, says that zombies are populating cubicles these days. You might even become one of them if you’re not careful.
"A zombie employee is someone who is neither living nor quite dead," she says. "The person has outlived his or her usefulness on the job."
So, that means a zombie worker might not be invited to important meetings, might be excluded from strategic initiatives or might be ignored by a new boss. Telecommuting employees can be vulnerable to becoming zombies if they don’t stay front of mind with their colleagues, customers and managers, she says.
The problem with zombie employees is that they often start down the road to the undead without being aware of it, Battley says.
The past several years have been difficult at many companies, and some employees took a "keep your head down and survive" mentality. The problem: They never realized they were becoming part of the half-dead employee group that could be discarded quickly, she says.
"You don’t want to become invisible," she says. "You have to be proactive."
That means you’ve got to stay focused on the company’s success and tie your energies to it. Instead of sitting through meetings in a trance-like state or watching "Zombieland" on your computer at work, you need to be selling yourself and your ideas to your team and your boss.
"Twenty years ago, zombies at work could get lost in the crowd," Battley says. "But organizations are much leaner now, and there’s nowhere for these people to hide anymore. And, they’re more damaging that ever."
Zombie employees often undermine morale, Battley says. Other workers see an employee allowed to zone out and keep a chair warm as possibly protected by a higher up, or as someone whose work others must constantly cover.
That leads to cynicism about the company’s mission and can lead to increased turnover and lower production, she says.
In addition, zombies can undermine a manager’s credibility and prevent the upward mobility of workers who deserve a promotion but can’t move up because a zombie is blocking the way, she says.
While zombies have become more popular in movies, television shows and books, being a zombie will do little for your career. If you fear you’re turning into one of the half dead/half alive employees that Battley addresses, don’t lose hope.
There is good news even for undead workers, she says.
"Don’t be afraid. While you can be a zombie in one place, that won’t necessarily be true somewhere else," she says. "Use it as a wake-up call and know that maybe you can’t be vibrant in the job you have now, but you can be somewhere else.