Don't Become a Work Zombie
Warning, this contains spoilers.
Unfortunately for too many American workers, the feeling of being trapped for hours on end in a room full of undead souls from which there is seemingly no escape is an all-too-familiar sentiment. Perhaps that’s why millions of people have tuned in to AMC’s hit television show The Walking Dead.
Although at first glance it doesn’t appear that a fictional TV show set in apocalyptic Georgia involving a small army of human survivors battling flesh-eating zombies has much to do with office life, a more thorough examination proves that isn’t the case. It turns out there’s a lot the average employee can learn by watching Rick Grimes and his determined band of misfits survive and adapt in unprecedented and dangerous environments.
Here are seven of the most important lessons The Walking Dead can teach us about work and careers.
7. Teamwork is Essential
From the very first episode when Rick wakes up from his coma, it’s clear people need other people to survive. Morgan and his son Duane – against their better judgment – end up saving an unsuspecting Rick from certain death at the hands of walkers.
Then later, when Rick gets to the camp in Atlanta, it’s clear everyone in the group has a job and pulls his/her own weight. This theme repeats itself as the group wanders to Hershel’s farm, and then the prison. Rick supervises, Daryl tracks and hunts, Glenn handles security, Hershel is a senior adviser, Beth babysits, and so on. When each member of the team knows his/her role and expectations, it makes things much more manageable.
If you’re used to working as a team on work projects, it’s the same sentiment. Do your job, your co-worker will do his/her job, and the rest will fall into place. It's when people decide to be go it on their own and forsake the best interests of the team that trouble arises.
6. Always Have a Plan
If we’ve learned anything from The Walking Dead, it’s that spontaneity and lack of proper planning can be deadly.
It seems like every time someone decides to go for a walk in the woods alone, they’re attacked by zombies and they eventually cause everyone else the pain and suffering that comes with having to put them down before they turn. After all, how many times in Season 1 and 2 did Carl disobey his parents by not doing what he was told?
On the other hand, the show proves a good plan is worth its weight in gold. The group made the prison their home by systematically and intelligently clearing walkers from the yard and cell block a little at a time. Then, when it was time to take on the Governor, they succeeded despite the fact they were vastly outnumbered and outgunned. That was a battle the group won before the bullets even started flying, because they developed a sound strategy.
Bottom line: lack of a plan in the zombie apocalypse or in business will end up with you eaten alive.
5. Make Quality Connections
It’s easy to succumb to the “every man for himself” mentality when stuff hits the fan, but The Walking Dead proves networking remains important even as the world is ending.
Where would Rick and company be had they not met up with Hershel at the farm and ultimately convinced him to take them in? How would Andrea have survived without Michonne first, and then working her way up the Woodbury ranks later (although that one didn’t work out so well in the end)? Rick’s connection with Morgan from Season 1 paid off two seasons later when he reconnected with him and was able to use Morgan’s stockpile of weapons to defend against The Governor.
The point is from getting a job interview to earning a promotion/raise, a lot of the time it’s who you know. The more quality networking you perform, the better your chances are of cashing in on them down the road.
4. Make the Tough Decisions
Hershel, the patriarch of the group, was bitten in the leg by a walker. Any hesitation to a zombie bite left untreated means the unthinkable – the elderly lovable father and sage adviser turns into a zombie and tries to literally consume the ones he loves most. Worse than that, someone would have to put him out of his misery before it got to that point.
So Rick sucked it up and did the only thing he could – chop off Hershel’s leg himself and hope the infection didn’t spread. There was no guarantee of success and Rick didn’t know if it was the right thing to do, but he did it anyway because he trusted his gut. And he was right.
Perhaps the business world could take a lesson from Rick and his decisiveness. Maybe if we spent a little less time planning a meeting to hold a meeting about how meetings are taking up too much time, we all could be more efficient and productive. While it's vital to research your decisions ahead of time, avoid getting caught up in "analysis paralysis."
3. Move On
One of the noticeable trends on The Walking Dead is the disposability of useless characters.
Carol’s abusive husband Ed was pummeled by other camp members and finally eaten by zombies after perpetrating violence against his wife, as well as never lifting a finger to help with chores. Some of the prisoners who joined up with Rick and company were both dispatched in the matter of a few episodes as they brought no redeeming qualities to the table. But most of all, The Walking Dead is never shy about disposing of characters after they become zombies.
Andrea put her own sister out of her misery. They leave Jim on the side of the road to turn into a walker after he became infected. When Lori died following complications from childbirth, her own son Carl turned a gun on her to prevent her from returning from the dead. And that was after Carl shot Rick's best friend Shane after becoming a zombie.
The point is, you may have a co-worker who was really superb at one point in time – but that time has passed. For whatever reason, some employees have mentally checked out and don’t care about their jobs anymore. Left unchecked, that attitude is just as infectious as the zombie plague. If you want to succeed, you need to cut out dead weight so you and the others who still care about their futures can survive and thrive. Tap the team members who still show initiative and work with them to get the job done.
2. Beware of Office Romances
Love makes the world go round, but romance on The Walking Dead is often doomed.
Rick and Lori were basically divorced when she met her end, largely because they couldn’t get over the rift caused by Lori’s affair with Rick’s best friend Shane. Sure they thought he was dead, but romantic relationships within small groups tend to breed discomfort, suspicion, and jealousy. Likewise, Andrea also had a fling with Shane after the Lori fiasco, and then she began hooking up with The Governor. Ultimately he ended up feeding her to a zombie, proving the point that it's best to focus on results instead of romance.
Whether you’re part of a small band of survivors fighting zombies or a team of dedicated employees at work, it’s usually a good idea to avoid romantic overtures for the good of the group.
1. Be a Strong Team Leader
Leadership is at the core of both The Walking Dead and office life.
Where would the group be without Rick? Sure he’s made mistakes, but by and large they have survived because he took charge and led them in the right direction. He’s been rigid and dictatorial at times, but he’s also loosened his grip on the reins and listened to the will of the group in democratic fashion. Rick knows he needs to be able to adapt to fluid situations, and he lets the circumstances of each individual situation dictate his leadership approach.
That’s a far cry from The Governor, who literally gunned down 99% of his "employees" when they dared disagree with him. Translated to the working world, no one likes someone who thinks they know everything and shoots down everyone else’s ideas.
Salary.com Can Help You
The quickest way to escape your zombie-like state at work is with a pay raise. And Salary.com can help.
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