Monthly Archives: November 2012

What Thanksgiving Teaches us About the Importance of Culture Fit

I have spoken numerous times about both the benefits and the potential detriments of using cultural fit in the hiring process. On one side many hiring managers measure candidates by cultural fit believing that candidates will stay longer if they gel well with their organization’s work environment. Others argue that cultural fit provides hiring managers an excuse to discriminate and dissuades diversity in the workplace which studies show leads to a greater flow of ideas and creativity.

A recent survey published in Forbes indicates that in an effort to increase workforce attrition, 88% of employers are looking for cultural fit over skills in their next hire.

They believe cultural fit is so important because most executives understand that a bad hire can cost between two and three times that departing employee’s salary and so hiring an employee who works and plays well with others is more important than if they are the most skilled to do the job. The theory is that if the employee likes their manager and colleagues, they will be happier and stay longer. If you’re from a big family like I am, at least on my in-laws’ side, you easily recognize the significance of cultural fit, especially when it comes to deciding who to sit next to at the dinner table.
To read the full article published at: WWW.ERE.NET please visit here.

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Chapter 2: The Old Lady by the Woods

The old woman had no husband, no family, no protection, yet she snored without a care beneath her crusty sheets paying no mind to the Chesapeake Bay wind screaming through the small holes in her weathered home.  Tree branches scraped her tin roof and bedroom window but she did not stir.  She had grown accustomed to the noises long ago.  On these nights when the wind howled and the trees moaned she retired early deciding she’d rather sleep through the noises than stay awake listening to them.  A vertical sliver of light shined through the cracked door of her bathroom so she could find her way in on repeated bathroom visits throughout the night.  Despite the customary light and roaring wind, she did not stir.

Outside her bedroom, past her dusty living room, and through her kitchen window, a glow crept along her kitchen counter.  The shadow of trees across the road swayed over her kitchen sink.  A faint noise alien to her ears woke her and she pushed herself upright.  She cleared her eyes and scanned the room for what woke her.  The wind’s punch hammered the house and the windows quaked, but she knew such ordinary noise would not have moved her.  She saw straight through her open door, through the dark living room and into the kitchen.  The unnatural glow, much like dim moonlight, illuminated the swaying pines beyond her kitchen window.  She monitored it for a moment and an old, familiar sense of dread oozed over her.  She swung her spindly legs into waiting slippers.  Her hips ached as her body’s weight settled on to them and she paused the required moment for the pain to pass.

She moved fast for her old age, not turning on any lamps as she breezed through her home.  Leaning over her kitchen sink she gazed through the window at the tree tops on the other side of Haven Beach road.  The light illuminated the trees from behind and they swayed like black, paper cutouts against the pale dull gloom, but she could not see the source of the glow.

The sound of metal scraping against wood, roared through the trees and she cowered as though a hunk of steel might crash through her window.  Their anchor!  Her slippers scratched through the grit as she rushed to check the locks on her door, her old heart chugging as she wiggled the secure door knob.  The locks offered little protection if they decided to come for her.  She felt silly for even checking them but the road would protect her as it had in the past.  She crept back to the window.  The dull glow hovered still somewhere above the forest.  She knew what floated over the trees from the old tales.  She and her husband had never relaxed or slept on nights like these but he left years ago and she now faced this fear alone.

The sky exploded with white light as a wide shaft of electricity tore a path through the night with bolts large enough to split trees in two.  The frightened old woman placed her hands over her sensitive ears and peered through the window once more.  The sky came to life like camera flashes in a dark room and she shielded her eyes from the brilliance but the storm produced no sound.

She moved into her living room and peered through its window which faced a different part of the sky.  The stars sparkled.  She saw no clouds.  She hurried back to her kitchen window like a struggling caboose and glared across the road.  Deep in the trees, with each burst of silent lightning, she saw the roaming movements of men.  Their tiny lantern lights appeared and disappeared behind trees like flashing fire flies.  They drew closer.  She gasped.  They had returned!

Wide eyed, she scampered on rusty hips and pulled the knob on her old, wooden television.  A pale, gray glow filled the room.  An infomercial rattled on about timeshares but she didn’t care.  She desired friendly voices.  She retreated into her bedroom, flung the door shut, and crawled under her covers, shaking like a frightened child.  With the T.V. on and the wind blowing, she would hear no one approaching her house nor the screams of death from the woods but she believed the road would protect her once more.

 

You may remember at least one terrible instance from your childhood when your parents fought with such intensity, that you feared moving.  You wanted to hide under your bed or in the closet, but you remained still, like prey in the bush, and hoped to remain unseen and unrealized.  If you come from a happy home and your parents are still together, you recall that one evening when they fought like bitter enemies and details too intimate for you to hear, raged from their mouths.  If you grew up in a broken home or unhappy marriage then you may have seen this too frequently, but one fight above all others has remained embedded in your memory throughout the years.

In either instance you saw a side of your parents when they momentarily appeared no better than the criminals you saw on your favorite TV shows.  Through their red-faced cursing and selfish disregard for your presence, you shook with the belief your home and life might be no more.

Levi Schroeder sat on the floor of his room, too afraid to move, as a storm erupted below between his parents.  He looked at his poster of Mr. T, the toughest man on television, for courage.  Mr. T glared at him with a scowl and had no pity for him.  Levi drew pictures of battleships and ignored the hollering which normally his father produced.  Not until his mother began shouting did Levi pause and take notice.  He had never heard her shout, not even when he cracked the aquarium, and for half a second, he wondered if another woman must be screaming.

His father’s voice sounded like muffled conversation compared to hers but then she did not smoke or overuse it as he did.  Levi bent to his knees but the floor creaked and he froze.  Were they now looking up to the ceiling?  They didn’t pause or take a breath.  He heard something shatter and his mother fell silent mid-sentence.  His father seized the floor again.  Levi shook but did not move forward, backward or to either side.  He sat still, his knees grinding into the wooden floor, and listened.  He heard his father yell something about “the woods” and “deer” but he didn’t understand the rest.

His stuffed Koala, Mistletoe, stared at him from the foot of the bed.  He leaned over and pulled him off without upsetting the boards.  His father shouted commands.  He heard his mother’s light footsteps on the stairs.  His door flew open!  She scanned the room with a wild panic he saw only in girls who ran from guys wearing ski masks.

“Grab your shoes honey.  We’re going!”

They were already on.  He jumped to his feet and ran to her but his father appeared in the doorway and blocked their escape.

Levi’s eyes popped open.  The dream ended before it turned worse.  Each time he had it, the dream unraveled just as the events occurred twenty-three years earlier.  He couldn’t fly in it.  His best friend in third grade didn’t appear.  And no, Mr. T. didn’t bust through the wall with his machine gun.  Nothing unusual happened in this dream which ironically is what made the dream unusual.  Every two or three months he relived that episode from his past through dream and no detail went missing.

He took a deep breath and turned towards his wife Jules.  He feared he had woken her as he had on previous occasions.  When he turned to see her lying there watching him, embarrassment overtook him because he knew he had thrashed around on the nights when the dream played the story to its end.   Often, she refused to wake him, choosing instead to lie awake and allow him to work out the emotions in his head.  He didn’t like to show her cowardice, even while sleeping.

Lately, as his marriage aged, he lost confidence in her love for him.  She rattled on often about the other men she knew.  One man, six years her junior, made her laugh every day at the copy machine.  He couldn’t remember the last time his wife laughed at anything he said.

A second man, much older than her, made loads of money and always bragged about the vacations he took.  Naturally he traveled to places Levi could never afford to take her and of course this man, made passes at his wife.

He had laid awake the night before until his wife pulled in the driveway at 1:00 a.m.  The movie she attended with her friends ended at 10:00 and even with the long drive she should have arrived home by eleven.  He wanted to call or text but he didn’t want to appear insecure so he tossed and turned and watched the minutes change on his digital clock.  When her headlights rolled over the house, he closed his eyes and passed out, happy she arrived home safely even if she was having an affair.

He slipped out of bed and into the bathroom without turning on any lights.  His wife, if woken, would no doubt offer an explanation as to her whereabouts the night before but Levi didn’t want to force her into making up one.  He washed his face and brushed his teeth in the dark before leaving.  She would be relieved when she woke and found him gone.  That way he wouldn’t know exactly how late she had slept.

Levi Schroeder pulled his car to the edge of Haven Beach road in front of an abandoned home.  The clear summer day warmed the mood of everyone he met in town.  Rarely could you go into town and not run into someone you knew and on a day like this, smiles abounded.

He examined the trees of interest to him, shrugged his shoulders and saw nothing terrifying at first glance.  He and his friends played war in woods like these as a child.  They looked no more significant than the other forests he had encountered.

“Those woods are haunted,” croaked a rickety voice.  “You would do well not to trespass in them.”

The unexpected, crusty words shook Levi.  The presence of a person he did not notice when he exited his car surprised him.  An ancient woman eyed him from the front porch of her two-story dilapidated home.  Cracked, plastic flower pots hung from the porch roof.  The absent plants long gone with the wind.

He smiled his best despite being shaken and jogged across the gravel road to put her curious mind at ease.

The small, frail, woman looked like wrinkled laundry that had dried in a ball.  Her short, thinning hair remarkably still had a few streaks of black.  She wore no shoes and she likely had not cut her toe nails within the last two months.

The home appeared abandoned when Levi first drove down the gravel road and parked in front.  Tall grass, bushes and small trees had so overrun its foundation that in a few years, the building would be completely camouflaged.

“You frighten easily,” she stated.  Her voice sounded as damaged as her house appeared and Levi guessed she smoked or once had.

Levi forced a smile despite her accusation.  “Just startled is all.  I wasn’t aware anyone lived here.”

The paint on the porch and columns had all but worn away.  Either time or wear had crumbled the brick steps leading to the front porch and the window behind the rocking chair in which she sat wore a hole.  Several wasp nests hung in the corners of the flaky, porch roof but as they buzzed around, Levi determined they and this woman had an agreement not to bother one another.

“I’ll admit the house is a bit seasoned,” she retorted.  Levi’s off handed insinuation her house was not fit enough for a person to inhabit insulted her.

“I didn’t mean to insult you,” he apologized.  “The driveway looks as though it hasn’t been used in years, and in all my trips up and down this road, I’ve never seen you on your porch.  That’s why I didn’t think anyone lived here.”

The old woman squinted at the gravel road which curved out of site a short way down.

“Visit the beach a lot do you?”

“Occasionally.  With my wife,” Levi nodded with a smile.  “Though I suppose it’s not much of a beach after all the erosion.”

“You’re married?”

“Yes.”

“Father?”

Levi shook his head.

“Seems like everyone is divorced these days.  No one understands the Good Lord meant for folks to stick it out.”  She grimaced at the distaste of divorce.  “How long have you been married?”

“Ten years.”  He didn’t know the destination of this conversation but he hoped to steer her back to her original comment regarding the woods’ haunted status.

“Ten years!” she rolled her eyes.  “I bet you’ve hardly been tested.”

Levi thought about his job and the little income it provided to the family, the old sedan his wife drove that broke down on rainy days, and the diamond ring he could never afford to buy her.  Other than infidelity, Levi thought nothing could challenge a marriage more than inadequate financial support.

He felt weak as a provider and while their friends and family drove past in new automobiles, Jules took notice.  He dreamed of publishing a book one day and winning her admiration but how many men failed at such a dream?  How long would she wait?  How long should he pursue his dream if it meant the end of his marriage?  If she left him for another man, why win her back if his heart wouldn’t allow him to love her once more?

“You have no kids either,” the woman added.  “That makes things easy but I bet you don’t know how easy.  Most people don’t until they have them.  Do you not want them?”

“I want them.”

“But…?”

“But it hasn’t worked out,” Levi answered this time with a touch of irritation because of her prying.

The woman eyed him for many seconds which felt like weeks due to her ugly gaze and so Levi threw her a legitimate answer she could understand.

“We can’t afford it.”

The woman nodded with understanding as though they shared a bond in battling poverty together.  “As you can see I can’t afford much either.”

Levi frowned but said nothing.  For all he and his wife lacked, he led a blessed life compared to this woman.

“But I’m alive.  I can be thankful for that.”

Was she truly thankful to be alive?  I would look forward to death rather than spend my last days in such a house.

“It’s a warm, wonderful day and I thought I would sit out here and spend time with my pet wasps.”

Levi remained expressionless fearing a smile or laugh might insult her once more.

The woman’s grin stretched across her face and the corners of her mouth and eyes crinkled like wax paper.  “I’m teasing son.”

Levi returned the smile and nodded, playing along with her attempt at humor.

“Truth is I don’t see much point in knocking them down,” she said referring to the nests.  “I couldn’t out run them and I don’t get visitors who they might bother.”

“Except men who stop in front of your house to stare at the trees,” Levi added hoping to add his own humor.

The old woman gazed at him, remembering why he parked in front of her house.

“Why are you so interested in those woods?” she grumbled.

Levi glanced at them.  The woods consisted of mostly pine, oak, and holly trees and at least on the fringes, thick briars.

“Well as you said, the woods are haunted or at least that’s what a lot of people think.  A haunting frequently attracts the curious.”

“And you’re curious?”

Levi shrugged.  “Curious enough I guess to stop and look at them.”

“And what do you think?”

“I think people’s imaginations probably get the better of them.”  A wasp flew past his head and he ducked.

She watched the bug buzz to its nest.  “Don’t fear them.  You’ll lose their respect.”

Levi thought about his volatile relationship with his father and the lack of respect he received from him.

“And where else have you been?” she asked rocking.

“What do you mean?”

“Have you been to other haunted places?  The West Point railroad or Church Hill?”

The town of West Point; much like a heavy smoker, looked old in appearance as the rich white smoke from the paper mill deteriorated the atmosphere and corroded the face of the surrounding houses.  According to legend the local ghost wandered the railway leading to and from the mill looking for his head.  Dozens have claimed to see a lone lantern light wandering the rail road tracks at night.  Levi recalled a few people telling him they had seen the eerie glow strolling through the dark but he figured the light likely came from an actual person tending to the tracks.

Church Hill, an old Southern Plantation, stood not far from his home.  According to legend blood appeared on the first snow fall of winter.  Snow blood, which likely appeared once from a wounded animal, frightened him little.  Not like the tales he read of Old House Woods.

“I know about West Point but haven’t hung out near the tracks late at night.  I’ll leave that up to the kids.  I don’t know much about Church Hill.”

The old woman’s eyes sparkled.  “A family mistakenly buried their comatose daughter alive because they thought she had died.  Shortly afterward a man dug her up to steal jewels buried with her.  He couldn’t remove her ring so the filthy animal cut off her finger!  That’s when she woke.  Of course he thought she had risen from the dead so he ran.  The poor girl crawled through the snow bleeding to the front door of her home but her father believed her scratching at the door came from wild animals.  He found her the next day frozen.”

“What a terrible story!”

His reaction energized the woman.  “You know burying people alive was common at one time.  They say that’s where the expression “saved by the bell” came from.”

Levi tried to mask his skepticism.  What the hell is this old woman talking about?  “I don’t understand.  I thought it was a boxing term when the boxer is saved from losing the fight by the bell signaling the round’s end.”

She shrugged.  “They say people so feared being buried alive that family tied a string to the deceased’s finger and at the other end, above the soil, they tied a bell.  That way the buried person could ring the bell.”

Levi failed to conceal the look of intense incredulity from his face.

“They say George Washington insisted they not put his body into a vault until at least two days after his death to make sure of course he was dead.”

Levi shook his head in confusion.  “How in the world could someone confuse you for being dead when you’re alive, even back then?”

“People once thought the world was flat too.”

Levi sighed.  He saw no sense in arguing though he had a tough time in allowing her to go on believing such non-sense.

“I’m not real interested in West Point or Church Hill.  From what I’ve read about these woods in books and old newspaper articles, this place dwarfs those in terms of ghostly activity.  The stories astounded me so here I am to see what all the fuss is about.”

“Hmph,” she snorted, “there has been more than one curious person who wished they hadn’t been so.  I’ve heard their screams as they run out of the woods at night.  Most people don’t believe in such things but the ghosts are there, I’ll testify to it.”

Levi’s interest stirred.  “You’ve seen them?”  He didn’t expect to learn much on his trip to the woods other than to record a description of the area.  If this woman had indeed seen the supernatural her account could help his story.  “I have read some of the stories but I’ve never spoken to an eye witness.”

The old woman catching on to his excitement flashed a cunning smirk.  “I’ll tell you what,” she said with a sly smile, “if you go to the store and get me a bottle of liquor, I’ll tell you everything I know.”

Are you kidding me?  Levi, put off at first over her desire for alcohol, reconsidered her proposal for a moment.  How accurate a story would he get if this woman were drunk?  He had little desire to further endure her company or her swarm of “pet” wasps more than he had.  But he decided she may well prove to be his best source of information.

He sighed.  “What kind of liquor do you drink?”

“Bring me something brown!” she smiled like she had won a large pot at poker not the least put off by his evident lack of enthusiasm.

“I’ll be back in fifteen minutes,” Levi said jogging towards his car, “Don’t go anywhere!”

“If I could go, I’d go get the liquor myself,” she hollered, surprisingly loud for an elderly person.

Her statement made sense to Levi as he climbed into his car and turned around in the road but then again, someone had to be bringing her food.  She had to have contact with somebody.

He waved to her as he drove off but she did not return it nor did she even smile.  She returned to rocking and watching the woods and Levi wondered if she was conning him.

 

7 Ways You are Sapping Your Colleagues’ Will to Live

As I’m talking to my son over the weekend about a few of the annoying things he does that he has no idea bother other people I’m forced to reflect on a few of the annoying things my colleagues have done to me over the years and some things I no doubt do to others.  Here are a few things you do that annoy the hell out of your colleagues to which you are oblivious.

Tell lame jokes – You think everyone loves a good joke but the key word here is “good”.  Are you an encyclopedia of jokes?  Do you have a natural knack for remembering every one liner told to you and then regurgitating the same joke over and over again to every colleague that passes by your desk?  Do you laugh uproariously at your own joke even though you’ve told it twelve times?  In closed company do you sometimes whisper the inappropriate joke about Stevie Wonder’s blindness or Polish people’s alleged stupidity.  You do?  Yeah, knock that mess off!

Sigh before smoking – Do you sigh before getting up from your desk on the way out for your 4th smoke break before lunch as if to convey, “Boy I wish this addiction didn’t have such a hold on me.  I sure feel bad for not working.”  It isn’t your smoke break that annoys everyone so much as your feigned sigh of remorse.  You know you don’t care that we’re working while you’re toking away and we know you don’t care either!

Yell in Your Emails – Ever had a boss or colleague send you an email like this?  “This report isn’t bad but WE CAN DO BETTER!  ALPHABETIZE THE COLUMNS AND SEND EVERY MONDAY MORNING FROM NOW ON!”  Easy Mr. Furious!  While you think you’re just trying to emphasize your request, your use of all caps comes across as angry shouting.  Chill!  Your yelling isn’t increasing your employee’s satisfaction.

“Who the F#@k won Survivor last night? – Run for cover because someone is dropping “F” bombs.  I know the casual use of “Fudge” helped propel Eddie Murphy and Dice Clay’s comedic careers but you’re in the office now buddy and using it to make yourself look funny or big only makes you look like a vulgarian.  Occasionally a well placed “Fu#k may illicit a laugh but we don’t need to hear, “What the f*ck, why the hell is the fu#king printer out of mother fu$king paper again?”  Just calm down man!

Zone out – When people start talking to me within ten seconds I usually start thinking about what I’m going to eat for lunch, or for dinner, or what I need at the store later.  I usually nod during the conversation at moments that probably don’t make sense and occasionally throw in a grunt of agreement a la Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade.  Not much time passes before they figure out I’m not even listening to them which obviously gets on their nerves or makes them feel boring and unimportant.  Yes, that’s right.  My hunger is more important than how we plan to boost revenue!

Not plan ahead – Ever had a colleague call you from the road and ask you for directions on how to get to their sales call and/or to book them a room for the night in the area even though they knew about their trip weeks in advance?  Ever felt like sending them an email that said, “I’M NOT TOMTOM OR YOUR F#@KING TRAVEL AGENT!”

Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me – You probably don’t remember this song from Hee Haw but maybe you’ve worked with someone like this.  One day your colleague complains about a sore throat, the next sunburn, the next diarrhea (egad), the next a headache, the next a runny nose, the next their sex life (egad x 2), until the cycle repeats all over again.  You are the pillar of de-motivation my friend and you are sapping the life out of your colleagues.

What behaviors at work do you do which may annoy others or what are the things others do that annoy you about which your colleagues are clueless?

Chapter 1 – Left Behind

Chapter 1

Left behind

 

Mosquitoes have no consideration for the suffering of others, gnats don’t understand what crying means and bees, devoid of empathy, disregard politeness as they hover, hum, and stare at those in anguish.  These buzzing insects swarmed and plagued a young mother as she cried in the long grass near two boards, tied into a cross.  At this moment, while the Virginia, July heat broiled her despair, these creations of God could not be more unwelcome.

“Get off her!”  She scattered the mosquitoes perched on the grave marker.  “Oh, Victoria I’m so sorry we have to leave!”  The young woman clasped her hands and begged for forgiveness.  The crude cross, which bore an equally crude carving of the name, Victoria Brown, stood in a mound of fresh earth a few yards from the woods’ edge.  She surveyed the trees and wiped her tears.  “I would rather have buried you in Gehenna then next to this cursed forest!”  The woman doubled over and cried once more at the thought of leaving her child’s body near so dark a place.  “I don’t want to leave you, I don’t want to leave you!  Oh, Dear Lord in Heaven please protect my little Victoria!”

“I’m right here mama!” Her mother hadn’t acknowledged Victoria’s presence in weeks and the little girl knew her cry was wasted.  “Mama, where are you going?  Take me with you!”  The child’s thick brown hair stretched to her behind.  Her dress, the color of a paper grocery bag, hung above her ankles and dirt soiled the trim of it.  Grime covered her bare feet.  The selfish, biting insects paid no mind to her.

Victoria’s father thudded through the grass in his leather boots, stopped behind his wife and leaned on his musket for support.  “We must move on, Rachel.  We must travel to Gloucester before the sun sets.”

“I can’t do it, I can’t do it!  I can’t leave her here!” Rachel sobbed and in her sick despair, laid her face on the cool, comforting soil of the grave.

“Victoria is gone, Rachel.  She is with the Lord.”

The woman didn’t respond but her crying subsided.  She caressed the fresh dirt over and over as though stroking her daughter’s hair.

“I’m not gone, papa!  God didn’t take me!  I’m still here!”  As usual in the last few days, neither parent acknowledged her.

Her father set the musket down and sat next to her mother.  He brushed away the mosquitoes parked on her back.  “We aren’t moving far.  We will return to visit her.  I promise.”

The woman inhaled.  Her husband extended his hand.  She pulled herself to her knees using his support.  He wiped the dirt from her face and smiled at her courage.  “I promise.”

She nodded. Turning she crawled to the cross and whispered, “Dear Lord, let no evil spirit or devil in these woods tread upon my daughter’s resting place. Please take her into your bosom. Let her rest her little head on your breast. Please don’t forsake her like the damned souls tarrying here. Please welcome her into your kingdom. I beg you not abandon her with these villains. In Christ’s name, Amen.” She kissed the cross and stood like an unbalanced, newborn calf.

Her husband grabbed his musket and took his wife’s hand.  “The horses are ready.”

Victoria followed behind them.  “Where are you going?”

In front of their two story, wooden house, sat a small wooden wagon tied to two horses who swished their tails with furious determination to keep the mosquitoes and flies at bay.  Hooked behind the wagon sat a smaller wagon filled with possessions and covered with a blanket.

The man climbed into the wagon then pulled his wife next to him.

Victoria stood at the side holding her arms in the air waiting for one of her parents to lean down and hoist her onto the bench beside them as they did before trips into town.  Neither parent moved.  She hopped up and down waving her arms trying to get their attention.  “Get me, get me!  I can’t get in!”

“The Lord has blessed us with fair weather for our journey,” the man’s voice cracked as he looked through blurry eyes at the cloudless sky.  His wife leaned into him.  He put his arm around her and sighed.

“She died too young,” she whispered.  “Why give her to us and then take her?”

“She is with Jesus now and happy.”

He snapped the reins and the wagon lurched down the dirt lane.

“Wait, wait!” Victoria cried.  “You’re forgetting me!”  She ran behind the wagon trying to keep pace with the horses.  “Mama, mama, don’t leave me!”  She cried and cried.  Her legs wobbled and she almost stumbled.

Her mother turned for a brief second.  Their eyes met.  Victoria paused and smiled, but her mother lowered her head and turned away.

“No, come back, come back!” she screamed and then collapsed into the dirt.  Tears turned the dust on her face into mud and through the blur she saw the wagon turn the corner and disappear.  “Mama!  Mama!  I’m scared.  Mama don’t leave me here alone!”  The broken child sat in the road for many minutes hoping for their return before turning and crawling home.  For days, then weeks, and finally years she wandered her property waiting for her parents.

5 Business Lessons Learned from Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse

Season 3 of AMC’s popular drama, The Walking Dead, premiered October 15 and drew 10.9 million viewers setting a record as the most watched drama episode in cable history.  The show focuses on a group of people who have banded together to survive a zombie apocalypse.  Along the way they gratuitously eradicate any “walkers” as they call them, by means of pistol, screwdriver, pitchfork, or any other instrument they can turn into a lethal killing device.  Though most tune in for the mayhem, an underlying story, that of the survivors battling each other, develops and keeps us glued to the screen.  The chaos simultaneously pulls strangers together and rips friends apart.  Here are a few business lessons we can learn from this rag tag bands’ inner workings.

  1. He who makes the tough choices, right or wrong, is the one called leader – Many of the survivors (Shane, Andrea, Carol, and even you Lori) constantly gripe about Rick, our hero’s decisions, but despite the sometimes calamitous outcomes of listening to him, they still follow his lead. Why?  Rick isn’t followed just because more often than not he makes a good decision but because he’s the only one capable of taking the criticism surrounding his bad choices, moving on, and coming up with a new plan.  In other words he can take the heat when the others can’t.  “Holy crap the little girl that I lost was turned into a zombie!”  Bam!”  Rick shoots her in the head.  “Let’s move on!”  Strong leaders do what others realize must be done but won’t because they fear judgment.  As redneck Daryl put it, Rick does the heavy lifting.
  2. A shared mission promotes cooperation even when “cultural fit” is lacking – “T-Dog meet Daryl the crossbow wielding redneck.  Daryl, meet T-Dog, our team’s only black guy.”  Daryl’s brother was handcuffed to the roof of a building and as the zombies rolled in T-Dog lost the key and had to leave Daryl’s racist brother behind to a probable gruesome demise.  Despite this these two men from wildly different backgrounds work together in the face of an opposing force.  Their differences mean very little when the whole of the world has been zombified.  As they continue working together for the greater good, past differences are replaced with mutual respect and cooperation towards their end goal of survival.  Though cultures may vary, shared values and a shared company mission can unite a diverse workforce into a formidable power.
  3. Who cares about cultural fit when you’ve got skills – Cultural fit means very little when the end goal is to survive to see the next day.  If you’re handy killing with a pick axe, baseball bat, or samurai sword, then you’re on the team regardless of whether you are red or yellow, black or white.  If you can do the job, you’re hired is the point.  Few of the Walking Dead survivors would hang out with one another if the world wasn’t overrun with zombies and yet little of that matters when they’ve got the skills to do the job and further the end goal.
  4. Don’t know how to shootNo problem we’ll train you! – Most employers want a well trained, batteries included, fully made employee right out of the box and will leave a position vacant if training is required until they find Mr. Perfect.  Not so in a zombie apocalypse.  Again adversity or rather the shared goal of survival pulls people together.  Those who can, do, and those who can’t step up to get trained.  “You don’t know how to fire a gun?  No problem, here’s how.  In fact let’s go practice on this hoard of walkers meandering our way.”  Whether your business is in crisis or on smooth seas, you can’t afford to wait around for dream zombie slayers when you have perfectly good people applying.  They can just as easily learn to behead a zombie with a scythe as the next guy.  Yes, you have to make an investment in them but that is also an investment in your company.  When you train people who share your end goal, your company’s survival for example, then odds are they won’t leave before their hard work has more than paid for the cost of their training.
  5. One bad apple spoils the whole bunch – Some people just can’t handle the pressure.  Rick’s best friend Shane griped constantly and consistently tried to undermine Rick’s decisions to the detriment of the whole group.  So strong was his desire to survive that he was willing to kill the living even if that meant killing Rick too.  So Rick killed him first.  Never one to advocate whacking your employees sometimes even your capable ones must be terminated (fired not killed) for the greater good lest they spread strife and dissension throughout your organization.  Opposing points of view are good but corrupting the company from within is not.

If you have any additional knowledge of how weathering a zombie apocalypse can help your business survive, I welcome your additional inputs.