Friday, September 21, 2012

Zombie Corporations

Confession: I've seen only a few episodes of "The Walking Dead", the TV show about a small group of people trying to survive in a world overrun by zombies. The zombies seem to be dormant, or meandering aimlessly until a living person wanders within olfactory range. A live person is then surrounded, killed, eaten, whatever.

Perhaps you've experienced a zombie culture within your organization.

A new person, or a person who is 'enlightened'after an educational workshop or conference, is inspired to challenge the status quo. He or she has some passion about the issue, talks about it, and may even take some action: writing it up for the Suggestion Box, cornering the boss by the vending machine, writing up a proposal. If the others in the company can't get the person isolated (i.e. moved out to some isolated camp away from the heart of any important activity), they will quickly surround the person and demoralize them, denigrate them and make sure this new person is no longer eligible for choice assignments or promotions. He or she will be sacrificed to the idolaters of the status quo, the zombies. He or she eventually 'dies' to the corporation by being 'zombified' or leaving for another position in another distant part of the corporation or another company.

Unfortunately, this happens all too often.

Sometimes, the opposite happens. Sometimes the organization has a high level of engagement and enthusiasm and a new person has come in with the bad habits of apathy and cynicism. He or she has been corrupted by the previous employer. Now like a clown fish that changes sex, the new person can be reformed or transformed. If not, then they'll be isolated like a splinter by the immune system and pushed out of the body eventually; he or she will be gone because of a lack of fit.

Fortunately, this happens often also.

Our cultures are very well designed to protect what's important. If it's important to fit in, you'll become 'zombified' in an unhealthy, dysfunctional organization, or you'll be reformed and transformed in an healthy, interdependent culture.

Unfortunately, for job seekers, the company's culture is hard to determine before they take jobs there. There have been websites that try to flush this out, but last time I checked it's mostly for the larger companies.

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