Admittedly, I’ve always loved Halloween. As a kid, I didn’t just “kinda like” Halloween, I LOVED Halloween (it probably bordered on unhealthy). I had countless costumes, masks, decorations and books on how to scare others. I was so nuts over the holiday that annually I designed, orchestrated, and hosted a neighborhood haunted house. Friends, family and neighbors would converge, decked out in their creepiest attire and would attempt to scare the life out of our guests. When the spooky night was over, everyone would take off their costumes and go back to their “normal selves” for the next 364 days until our next fright night. It was an annual tradition that we looked forward to each and every year.
While that sounds like a fun once-a-year event, no one (including me) wants to be stuck in a haunted house every single day. And for many of us, that’s exactly what going to work feels like. It’s as if we are stuck making our way through all of the unpredictable turns and startling surprises present in any good haunted house. Speaking as an expert, I can attest that what makes a haunted house particularly effective is the monsters that live within its walls. As a result of the workplace monsters that sneak up on us throughout the day, working in a workplace haunted house feels unpredictable, nerve-racking and unsettling.
Common Workplace Monsters
There are a whole host of workplace creeps that may haunt us on any given day at the office. Consider the following (thanks to all of my colleagues who have contributed some of these wonderful examples!):
- Workplace Witch – The workplace witch is a dangerous visitor to any workspace. She / he will be pleasant to you in person and seem quite harmless when a request is made, but if they don’t get what they want, you’ll be secretly cursed. This witch’s curse can take any of the following forms: office back-stabbing, passive-aggressive behavior, work product sabotage, office politicking and damaging rumors. Best to give them what they want (if you can).
- The Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde Boss – One minute, your boss is a wonderful gentle soul. The next minute, he or she has lost her mind, raging on you and berating your efforts publicly. If this is true for you and you’ve got a Jekyll and Hyde boss, there is not much you can do other than keep as much distance as you can and monitor their moods (see: workplace werewolf for complimenting strategies).
- Ghostly Coworker – The ghostly coworker seems to suddenly appear out of thin air. One minute you are alone, the next minute he or she is right on top of you startling you with his / her presence (and often an urgent request). If you find yourself being haunted by a ghostly coworker, your best move might be to find another “home” in which to get your work done. They like surprising others so work some other place (ex: coffee shop, conference room, cafeteria, home, etc…) if you can!
- Invisible Man (or Woman) – Similar to the ghostly coworker, this coworker is difficult to spot. The difference between the invisible coworker and the ghostly coworker is that you can never find the invisible coworker when you need him or her. They seem to suddenly disappear when a project is due, when a fire occurs or when they desperately hold information that everyone else needs. Tracking their movements and regularly throwing powder in the air are your best tactics.
- Frankenstein – Lumbering and slow like our office zombies, the office Frankenstein comes by our workspace, mumbles an unintelligible and/or cryptic request and then leaves. If we don’t “guess” correctly on what they wanted from us and we under deliver, they let us know by raising their booming voice and knocking things over. Be brave and ask him / her to repeat their request in the beginning. Don’t let them stagger out of your site without a crystal clear understanding of what is expected. Guessing is never a good strategy at work, particularly when monsters are involved.
And of course, don’t forget our workplace werewolves, emotional vampires and office zombies we’ve already tackled this month. All are scary to work with and in combination can be downright paralyzing at work.
Consider Organizing Tours
If your office feels more like a haunted house, consider orchestrating tours. After all, the funny thing about us as human-beings is that unlike any other creature on earth, we’ll seek out and even pay for others to scare us. If you are going to suffer that badly, who says you can’t turn it into something profitable. In the unfortunate event that office tours are outside of the realm of possibility, looking for a less haunted workplace is your next best bet.
Of course, I can’t resist a good “haunted house.” If you’ll consider arranging tours, you can sign me up as your first victim. My palms are sweating already in anticipation!
The Workplace Therapist Featured on The Today Show
For more, read the entire My Coworker is Scary series.