Apr
16

Defend Your Workplace Against the Zombie Apocalypse

by  Mary C. Schaefer  |  Workplace Issues

5 Ways to Prevent Your Employees from Turning into the Walking Dead

Zombies are in vogue right now.  I confess I’m a fan of TV show The Walking Dead.  I turn my head away at the zombie action, but I am attracted to the human stories, the drama, and the symbolism.

Do you want zombies working for you?

The only aspect of zombie behavior that might be a useful in the workplace is their intense, singular focus. As with anything taken too far, the results can be disastrous. Let’s say that this potentially risky approach is not something we want to perpetuate or reinforce in your employees.

What you want is the “anti-Walking Dead.”

As a leader, make sure your employees aren’t just on auto-pilot, but instead engaged, energized and thriving, using those creative and discerning brains in their heads.

Appeal to their magnificently human brains.

1.  Foster creativity.

You are not doing your organization any favors by not making room for humans’ natural attraction to creativity.  Do you know who of your employees needs room for creativity?  Some need it more than others. In fact could it be that the reason some are not performing or thriving in their current jobs –there is just not enough opportunity to be creative. Or they think there isn’t. Explore this with your employees.

2.  Cultivate autonomy.

Do you have a tendency to micro-manage? Even with the best of intentions, you could be inhibiting your employees from realizing how much control they have over their own environment.

Are outdated processes or habits hindering your employees from making adjustments that would streamline processes or eliminate waste? Do they know they can question things, and what is within their power to change? Check in with employees to make sure they know where they have space to maneuver.

3.  Encourage and reward initiative.

This one is on the heels of autonomy. Once your employees know what they have the freedom to impact, you can even help them orchestrate success by coaching them on where they have room to step out, and what that would look like. Avoid setting them up for failure and get more of the behavior and performance you are looking for – an important first step toward increased initiative.

4.  Create a safety zone.  

We humans function better when we know what success looks like, but also what happens when we don’t deliver. Do your employees know what to expect from you when they don’t meet expectations or objectives? What’s your typical response when they need coaching, time, or resources?

Check your own behavior.  Create an environment so they are willing and able to tell you bad news before it’s so bad.

5.  Facilitate a sense of belonging.

So, where does “belonging” fit at work?  Many people feel like a gear in the machine of their organization, and are not sure anyone really cares about them otherwise.  According to Maslow’s Hierarchy, “belonging” needs must be addressed before people can function well at problem solving, creativity or achievement — pretty handy traits to have in your employees.

Do your employees know how their role fits in the big picture of the organization?  Do they know how their unique skills or qualities contribute to the success of the organization?  Don’t assume they do. Give them a reason to care and to feel a part of something bigger than them.

Even if you don’t have an impending zombie apocalypse at your workplace, any organization can benefit by more engaged employees.

What do you do to ensure your employees are not just on auto-pilot and are using the fantastically unique and creative human brains in their heads?

Image courtesy of flickr user theogeo.

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About The Author

Articles By mary-schaefer
Speaker, coach and trainer Mary Schaefer’s expertise is in creating work cultures where organizations and human beings can both thrive. She is a former HR manager. Find out more about how Mary helps managers empower themselves to make the most of their human resources with this special collection of articles selected for LCG readers: http://www.reimaginework.com/LCG/  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Ben Simonton (@BenSimonton)  |  20 Apr 2013  |  Reply

Great article Mary. You are right that success should result if the manager can do all that to employees. But from having created several highly motivated, highly committed and fully engaged workforces that literally loved to come to work, managers need to know how to do all that.

Actually, the how is very very simple: simply listen to and respond to the concerns of employees to their satisfaction or better. Giving them more than enough opportunity to voice their concerns more than satisfies their need to be heard and giving them responses from management that satisfies them more than satisfies their need to be respected. Once they realize management will always do this, they realize that they can influence everything in the workplace and this influence begets ownership – the realization that it is just as much their workplace as anyone else’s. In the same manner, ownership begets commitment and that gives you engagement.

Best regards, Ben
Leadership is a science and so is engagement

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