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Workplace Vampires and a Failing Company Culture

25 Jan. 2017 Posted by aadams

Freya Cooper, FEI Account Manager

Recently, a friend of mine told me about a dramatic conference call at work. It was so eye-opening and traumatic that it changed his opinion forever about his job and the company he worked for.

After a C-Suite executive berated a vendor in a shockingly condescending way, my friend realized there was a serious gap between his vision of unity and teamwork and what some higher-ups thought those things meant.

Furthermore, the incident obliterated any notion he might once have had about working for an inclusive and relationship-driven company. In other words, company culture had failed.

When Company Culture Fails

As a result of this incident, my friend admitted that he could never again recommend working at the company. But was he taking the wrong approach? Is it misguided to badmouth the place where you work (or worked)?

J.T. O’Donnell’s blog encourages disenfranchised workers to refrain from “dissing” their (former) employers. Negative talk makes you look bad to prospective future employers, she states.

Of course she’s right, but there’s another reason not to adopt a fatalistic attitude: Very often, it’s better to become part of a solution than to give up altogether.

One way to gain a better perspective on situations like this is to focus on the good. Try identifying “saving grace” employees, as they’re the ones who counterbalance the people who don’t exactly behave in a manner consistent with company culture.

Culture Vampires Versus Culture Stars

In a 2012 article published in the Harvard Business Review, Eric C. Sinoway outlined an employee classification system for determining who’s helping and who’s hurting company culture. It goes something like this:

  • Stars. People great at promoting company culture.
  • High Potentials. People with great behavior, but who need more training and development.
  • Zombies. Those exhibiting bad behavior and bad performance.
  • Vampires. These individuals are worse than Zombies because they actually perform well and have power and influence. However, their behaviors are completely misaligned with company culture. They attract followers (the Zombies) who will then begin affecting High Potentials and Stars.

Returning to my friend, he needed to look at that bad-acting executive within the context of Sinoway’s classification system. When viewed in such a way, company culture exists separately from any one person’s influence and remains intact; it is simply being attacked by a Vampire.

So, what do you do about the Vampires at your company? It’s up to the Stars, High Potentials and Zombies to resist the culture-eroding influence of all Vampires they encounter.



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