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The Working Dead

Excuse me, but would you please join me in the coat closet? What I’m going to tell you could be a matter of life and death. Or, more specifically, life and death and even deader death.

OK, I know we’ve discussed scary aspects about our workplace over the years, but I’ve just read an article in Forbes and it made me understand why working here is so difficult — our co-workers and our managers are zombies!

I can’t believe we never saw it before. I mean, we knew our co-workers seemed brainless and our managers were merciless and power mad. We knew they would march us forward to achieve their sinister goals, no matter what the cost in human lifestyles.

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What we didn’t know was that they were dead!

Now we know.

The Forbes article is by Andrew Cave — a very brave man. The title is “The Walking Dead: How to Avoid a Workplace Zombie Apocalypse and Advance Your Career.”

Cave’s revelation is based on a new book by Rebecca Clare, “Working with the Walking Dead: Winning Career Strategies in a Workplace Zombie Apocalypse.”

You may wonder why you need a “winning career strategy” if your managers and co-workers, not satisfied to eat your lunch, are also out to eat your flesh. It might seem to you that the only winning strategy is to turn off your computer, pack up your desktop trolls, grab your coat and run like hell.

But where are you going to run to? If you’ve worked in your current job for so many years and never noticed you were working with the living dead, what chance do you have to avoid another zombie workplace? Besides, you do need that paycheck.

What to do?

Here is Cave on Clare on winning strategies for working with zombies:

The first strategy should be easy to adopt. Apparently, there is a television program called “The Walking Dead.” [I only watch highly-refined British dramas on public television, myself, while wearing a monocle and spats, but I understand it is quite popular.]

“With a little help from one of the bloodiest programs on television,” Clare writes, “you can start working on a brilliant career.”

The TV show is all about a group of good-looking folk who are battling for survival in a world ruled by the zombies, or “dead walkers.” No one on the show is really very happy. The living are scared out of their wits, which makes a whole lot of sense. Forget zombies. When you look at what’s going in today’s economy, who wouldn’t be scared?

Surprisingly, the walking dead are also not having a lot of fun. You would think it would be a hoot, lurching around the streets in the dead of night, dead, but clearly, this is not the case.

“The walkers have no desire or purpose,” Clare writes. “Propelled merely by an impulse to feed on live flesh, they are the saddest of all monsters, imprisoned in a living death where every day is a relentless grind with no foreseeable end.”

Doesn’t that sound like your boss? Your co-workers? (Actually, it sounds a lot like you, but we’re pretty sure you’re not dead. Clinically depressed, maybe? Dead, probably not.)

Once you’ve learned to identify the zombies in your workplace, the strategy shifts to ways you can keep your head, and I mean that quite literally, while working with the undead.

Author Clair moves from Dr. Frankenstein to Dr. Phil when it comes to giving workplace advice. “Respect others with an inclusive leadership style,” she recommends. The walking living should “take breaks to recharge, love your mistakes, be adaptable,” and always remember, “nasty guys do not finish first.”

I can tolerate the first few suggestions. Not alienating aliens is definitely a good workplace strategy. But I disagree with the last homily. If the living dead can finish first, being a little bit nasty really shouldn’t hurt your chances for promotion. And it’s so much fun!

Author Clare’s previous workplace workbook is titled, “Game of Thrones on Business,” and as you well know, that strategy works really well. Ever since your CEO had an iron throne made up of hundreds of scary swords and daggers installed in the conference room, respect for the boss has soared.

The article suggests that her next business book may be about the workplace lessons to be learned from “Downton Abbey,” but I’m suggesting she back off.

It’s a jolly good idea, but that’s my territory. Understand, old bean?

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com.

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