Preventing a Zombie Outbreak In Your Organization
With the continued popularity of The Walking Dead on AMC and the box-office success of movies like World War Z, it appears that our culture is in the midst of a quasi-zombie-renaisssance. A recent episode of PBS Idea Channel tackled the current infatuation with the undead horde, and the internet abounds with plenty of articles regarding the psychology of zombie love. Almost universally, the zombie represents an uncontrollable advance against what it means to be human, and how we as a species fight against the onslaught. Our fascination with the undead stems from our desire to really live, to find purpose and hope and joy in life.
Perhaps the zombie outbreak in our media comes from our dissatisfaction with our work environment. After all, if you've ever patrolled the hallways of the average office around 2:30 PM on a Wednesday afternoon, you have seen a zombie outbreak in the flesh: dead-eyed, lifeless people shuffling aimlessly from one destination to the next, looking for…something. Some companies combat this dreariness by creating open workspaces, encouraging play, scheduling in times for creative interaction and collaboration, or even allowing people to start up a competitive game of ping-pong. After all, healthy environments can help prevent unhealthy people.
But if you think of zombie epidemiology, you quickly realize that the zombie plague is usually transmitted through biting. And while you might not have a colleague or employee that makes a habit of sinking their teeth into someone else's skin, chances are you do have some folks in your workspace that infect folks with corporate zombieism in other highly infectious ways (like emails and snarky gossip). Here are three quick ways you can prevent a zombie outbreak in your organization.
Establish a good perimeter.
In the movie Warm Bodies, the humans build a massive wall to keep the zombie hordes at bay. In The Walking Dead, Rick leads his crew to refuge inside a prison surrounded by fences and razor wire. Keeping zombies out of your stronghold is the easiest way to keep an outbreak from occurring. The same is true of the workplace, and it begins with knowing your organization's values. Values determine the type of people you look for and hire, and that's 80% of the battle; if you know your organization's wants and needs, you will be more effective at hiring the right people and minimizing zombie outbreaks.
Have the right weapons.
But even the most impregnable fortress is eventually breached by the unyielding zombie horde, which means you'd better have some weapons at the ready. Depending on mythology, zombies are best dispatched with guns, swords, baseball bats, or any old household object that can be wielded with adrenaline-fueled force. It's a matter of personal preference and/or situational awareness. The same is true in the workplace; the best weapons are environment and communication. If you have a healthy space in which to work, and a healthy process of sharing information and expectations, chances are you can stop the infection of dissatisfaction before it can spread.
Have the right leaders.
Nothing spells doom in a zombie movie like a character deciding to leave the group - usually against the protests of the group's leader. It's guaranteed they'll run into a throng of brain-hungry walkers. While leaders can't always prevent people from doing their own thing, good leaders do all they can to provide a sense of unity and safety. Good leaders listen, encourage ideas from others, and in general provide assurance that no matter the challenge, the group's best chance for survival is by working together as a team.
Hopefully, you'll never have to worry about the walking dead in any context. But it never hurts to have a zombie survival kit - just in case.
What other tips might you have for preventing a "zombie outbreak" in the workplace? What tools have you found effective in combating negative attitudes as a leader?