The zombies of books and movies are creatures that have been infected with a terrible virus and die, only to return to walk around aimlessly looking to feed on others. We all like a good scary movie every now and then, but nothing is scarier than finding someone who appears to be perfect for the job, and then discovering quickly that he or she is a nightmare. I call them “workplace zombies” and they suck the energy and spirit out of their co-workers and make life miserable for those around them.
The zombies of the workplace tend to walk around aimlessly and do nothing to add to the teamwork of the organization. You may ask, “what are the signs that zombies have entered the workplace?” Good question! Disengagement is the key. Zombies sleepwalk through the work day and make it difficult for others to do their job. Zombies do not work well in groups, they can create a culture of indifference, and zombies even can inhibit productivity thereby threatening the very existence of the organization.
Why should you be spooked out by zombies in the office? A staggering 70% of US employees are not engaged in the workplace. This modern-day zombie apocalypse comes at a greater cost than you likely realize or even imagine. Gallup research has uncovered that the top 25% of engaged employees incur much fewer healthcare costs than the bottom 25% of employees. Unhappiness in the workplace directly affects employee’s health and well-being, making a zombie analogy even the more fitting. Unengaged employees not only drag down company profits, they also take an unnecessary toll on the entire healthcare industry. Also, like ‘real’ zombies, workplace zombies often infect others in the workplace, creating an epidemic of unhappiness.
It is important to understand that:
- Zombies drive up turnover. There are all sorts of causes for high turnover, but one big culprit is stress. In fact, 40 percent of all job turnover is due to stress. Guess what causes stress? It happens most when the person does not fit their job, their manager, or the organization’s culture.
- Zombies drag down productivity. Everyone suffers when workers have to cover for a co-worker that can’t or won’t do their job properly. The competent workers become distracted and disillusioned and the incompetent workers cause havoc by making mistakes, falling behind and draining managers who don’t trust them to produce.
- Zombie workers are less productive and profitable, more likely to job hop and have higher healthcare costs. Employing workplace zombies is expensive. Not only do unengaged workers take more time off, they also are less productive and profitable overall. It doesn’t take a brain to see how these factors correlate – happy and engaged employees want to see their company succeed and go above and beyond to ensure success. Zombies, on the other hand, don’t see their efforts translating into any real purpose and this disenfranchisement doesn’t lead to workplace success. Workplace zombies cost everyone more: from lower productivity to higher healthcare costs.
- Zombie workers can be a drain on currently engaged employees. Organizations with better-engaged workers reported higher earnings. Active employee engagement plays a major part in company profits, earnings and overall success. So, the next time you wonder if the costs of employee engagement activities are actually worth the time and effort, ask yourself if you can afford to have a zombie workforce sucking up your resources? Since zombie workers can also negatively drain their engaged colleagues, it’s important to address any indication of un-engagement as soon as possible.
- Work zombies cost US companies between $450-$550 billion per year. Along with the additional costs of healthcare from actively disengaged employees, work zombies also incur additional costs from workplace theft, negatively influencing coworkers, skipping work, driving away customers, and less work output.
Look for more about Zombies in my new book – “Vampires, Werewolves, and Zombies in Your Workplace? How to Turn Problem Workers Into Engaged Employees” – coming soon!