The Scourge of the Zombie Employee

`Zombies at Work

Zombies exist – and they just might be working for your company.

In the day and age of belt-tightening across industries, reduced budgets, and a focus on maximized productivity, employees are being asked to take on more and more responsibility, including increased workloads without an increase in pay.

Because many jobs are hard to come by these days, employees have no choice but to acquiesce to increased demand.

Creating the Dead

Unfortunately, the burden of an increased workload can lead to:

  • Employee health problems
  • Increased mistakes
  • Reduced effectiveness of communication
  • Decreased customer satisfaction

As employees push themselves harder, with no relief in sight, they tend to wear down over time, becoming less engaged in their work, and frankly, more apathetic about their role in the company.

Most of them just go through the motions.

So, in the age of cost cutting, what can an organization do about this potentially devastating problem?

4 Ways to Keep Zombies Away

Here are four ways to make sure your people stay engaged and don’t turn into zombies.

1. Focus on Customers

As ridiculous as it might sound, plenty of organizations are guilty of not putting their customers first. In an attempt to reduce overhead or fine tune internal processes, decisions are made that are not in the best interest of customers – like overworking employees or shortening business hours.

Companies should center every decision they make on what’s best for the customer, because a focus on providing the best products and the best service will keep customers coming back – and ultimately keep the doors open.

2. Consider “Line of Sight”

Line of sight” is the correlation between an employee’s actions and the impact they have on gaining and retaining customers.

Zombie Employees

There should be a direct link between the tasks your employees are completing and a benefit to your customers and prospects.

When employees understand this connection (and the importance is has to the organization), they are more likely to be engaged in their activities, and thinking about them in a larger context.

On the employer’s side, this means keeping employee assignments relevant, and if need be, explaining how a particular task is beneficial to the customer (and the company) in the long run.

Certain parts of every job are mundane, but if the employees understand the overall importance, they are less likely to be dejected about the less-than-interesting tasks.

Also, don’t assign “busy-work.” Everything your employees do should be important in some way.

3. Don’t Implement Layoffs at The Expense of Service

Budgets are hard to meet. Overhead is hard to keep down. Revenue isn’t always as high as you need it to be.

These are simple realities of running a businesses – but the answer to meeting these problems is NOT to simply reduce your workforce. In some scenarios, layoffs are inevitable (in emergencies or massive changes in service or scope), but it should never be a go-to method for saving money.

In fact, layoffs may even be more problematic than you realize.

Diminishing a workforce may save you some money each month, but at what cost? Trying to maintain the same level of service with fewer people will only bog down your employees.

And here’s what’s worse – when you start laying people off, it affects the people who keep their jobs as well. Suddenly, those people are feeling tense about their job security, feeling less emotionally and psychologically attached to the company, and maybe even a little resentful that some of their colleagues are no longer there. This means reduced productivity across the board.

4. Transparency

One of the key components of employee engagement is transparency, plain and simple. When an entry-level worker can see where they fit in the context of the whole company, they are more likely to embrace that role and put personal stock into the work they do.

Throughout an organization, the context of a particular task or role is important. Much like “line of sight” with customers, transparency between departments, or from management down through the ranks, helps everyone understand the important role they play in the overall success of the organization.

Stepping Up Your Game

When costs seem oppressive or sales are down, the solution is not to slash budgets or pare down services. In fact, the best solution is just the opposite – if the company is struggling, it’s time to step your game up and build the organization your customers are proud to do business with.

In doing so, you’ll create an organization that your employees are equally proud to work for.

Zombie employees are the byproduct of lack of engagement. Without anything to strive for, or a clue about why they’re performing a certain task, would you expect anything less?

**********

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———————
Anil Saxena
Anil Saxena is a Senior Consultant and Business Partner with Coffman Organization
He helps organizations create environments that generate repeatable superior results
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web | Blog | (888) 999-0940 x-730

Image Sources: timebusinessblog.files.wordpress.com, cpcache.com

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3 Responses

  1. Reblogged this on News & Notes on LEADERSHIP for LEARNING.

  2. Zombie employees are not created by overwork. They are created by leaders who value compliance to rules over innovation and creating delighted customers.

  3. we also, all of us, spend too much time in Drama, less leading of ourselves. focus more on what we can control vs. what someone is doing to us.

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