Rick, Morgan and the other characters who have lasted share in common an ability to adjust to change; to understand that the important thing is to work with the world as it is now not as it used to be or as they wish it could be again. Rick gets into the swing of the new world very quickly, from waking up, dazed, in the hospital to battling his way out of Atlanta in only a few days. Morgan too was quick to adapt. While his wife was looking to the past – grabbing the photo albums – he was preparing himself for the apparent present and the likely future. He had already worked out what the world was like at that time and was doing what was needed to cope with it, whereas she was just thinking of what she would miss from the past, or need when the current situation reverted to ‘normal’.
Many fields, such as law, accountancy and medicine require that practitioners keep up to date with changing processes, legislation or methodology. It should be a requirement for you, too, if you want to get ahead. Change is inevitable: once you have accepted that you can begin to move forward.
Ask what is changing
In The Walking Dead the changes are both catastrophic and sudden. Nobody really had time to prepare for the new reality or take steps to avoid it. As we see in the back story show, Fear The Walking Dead, a problem that started small rapidly escalated as the authorities misunderstood both the problem itself and its potential lasting impact. In a huge city like Los Angeles the virus quickly spread among the population.
In your working life changes can be sudden and catastrophic, but more commonly change is gradual. Is your industry changing – have you read articles about new technologies, routes to market, operating systems? What are your organization’s competitors doing and what might the implications be for you if your business follows the same route? How is the economy faring? You need to keep your eyes and ears open – you stand a better chance of surviving change if you are well informed.
Work out what you need to do to be part of the change
Having accepted that the world is changing Rick and Morgan both work out what they need to do to be part of the new world.
Seeing the changes is only the first step; understanding what you need to do requires greater thought. So Tara and her family noticed a change and realized the need to survive, but they thought the safest thing to do was hole up in their flat with all the food and water that was available. Not only was this a short-term plan but it also meant they weren’t out in the world learning more about the changes taking place. If it had not been for the presence of The Governor when their father died Tara, her niece and sister may also have been turned. Not everybody is able to make the creative leap from observation to a plan of action, so if you can do it you will have a distinct advantage over your contemporaries. As Henry Ford famously said, ‘If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.’ While others thought change meant more of the same but better, Ford approached the advancing world from a more creative angle. .
Perhaps you work in a business that sells two different products or services. You note from reading the industry press that a new technology has been developed, and you realize that said technology could revolutionize one side of the business, the side you are not currently involved in. So what do you need to do to arm yourself with the know-how and credentials to switch to the side of the business that is shortly to be in the ascendancy?
Take steps to achieve that
When Rick decides he needs to survive and works out he needs weapons to help him he goes to the logical place – King County Sheriff ’s Department, where he used to work – and stocks up on what guns and ammunition remain. Having heard that there is a refugee centre in Atlanta, where the Center for Disease Control is also located, he sets off in that direction, calculating that his best chance for survival lies there.
It is no good knowing what you need to do in order to be part of the change if you do not act on that information. Is there a course you can attend that will give you the background or qualifications you need in order to be part of the new world? Perhaps you need to read round the subject – could you do this as part of your daily commute? Ambitious and committed people use every opportunity they have to further their careers – time on the train spent reading a blockbuster novel, no matter how entertaining, is time wasted if you could be immersing yourself in future-facing thinking. And don’t forget the N word – networking – maintain good connections with others in the industry or other parts of your organization. They can be both mines of useful information and routes to the next phase of your career.
By now you should have had enough time to settle in to watching the rest of season 6 of The Walking Dead and you may have noticed a few parallels between the show and your work life. However, if you’re wondering what on earth we’re on about, then perhaps you need some help identifying the zombies of your office. It may surprise you to learn that the office joker is a walker underneath all the bravado and banter. And did you know that what you have for lunch can indicate whether you or your colleague are also walkers? It can be difficult to tell who is and who is not a zombie in large offices but here are some helpful tips to help you be on the lookout and hopefully help you avoid the pitfalls of becoming one yourself.
They’re followers. Watch a herd of walkers and you will note that they all move in the same direction at the same speed, only changing course in response to noise or movement. There’s no independent thinking, no courage or daring. Thus it is with the walkers in your workplace – they do the job as prescribed, and no more.
They arrive on the stroke of 9 and leave at exactly 5. They go to lunch at the same time every day, refuse to stray outside the bounds of the system (‘More than my job’s worth’) and are careful to avoid doing anything not in their job description. Their job is just something they have to do 35 hours a week in order that they can collect a pay cheque every month. It’s something to be got through and survived. They slow down projects by insisting they can only do the work within their fixed systems and schedules.
They’re the office joker. Office jokers may seem happy but this is just a way of getting through the day – it’s the only way they get meaning from being at work. They carve out a niche for themselves – everybody knows who they are – but they are never going to be taken seriously. Which means their career progress within a particular organization is going to be limited. They distract colleagues from their work and disrupt company culture.
They resist change. Regardless of whether it’s moving the coffee machine, changing the invoicing system or a complete departmental restructure they don’t like it and it’s not going to work. In fact they’ll do all they can to ensure it doesn’t. You’ll never see the resistors put as much effort or creative energy into anything as they put into trying to keep things the way they’ve always been. Not all changes are good and some have huge implications for the business and the individuals working within it but these people haven’t thought deeply about the changes – they just dislike them because they are not what went before.
They’re always right but they’re never willing to put their money where their mouth is. This kind of workplace walker could spend the whole day telling colleagues why management is doing everything wrong, and will bore you for an entire lunch hour if you’re unlucky enough to encounter them in the canteen. They particularly love introducing new recruits to all the flaws of the department or organization – it gives them a sense of power. They create a bad atmosphere in a team, making their manager’s job a lot harder.
It’s not their fault. Zombies never own up to their mistakes, not even to themselves, which means they can never learn from them. With the workplace walker there’s always a reason for an error but it’s because of some failing in the system or a problem created by one of their co-workers: ‘I wasn’t given the figures from accounts in good time’, ‘I only did what the project manager told me’, ‘that’s the answer the system gave when I put the information in’. They can become aggressive if any suggestion is made that they could have done something to mitigate the situation and make more work for their manager and colleagues because somebody else has to sort out their errors.
They don’t stand out, or they stand out for the wrong reasons. A typical office zombie just won’t get noticed by management outside their department. If they do catch somebody’s eye it’s likely to be for the wrong reasons: ‘Oh yeah, the guy who’s always playing practical jokes’, ‘Is she the one that really kicked up a fuss when we moved the coffee machine?’ This is not the route to promotion.
They eat the same lunch every day. In 2015 research undertaken for butter manufacturer Lurpak into the eating habits of 2,000 office workers revealed that 32 per cent of UK workers eat exactly the same lunch each day – a cheese sandwich. The average worker has been doing this for almost four and a half years and despite the monotony, 40 per cent of respondents said that lunch is usually the highlight of their working day. That’s just depressing, and seems to be further evidence of a lack of care about work, that it is something routine, just to be got through. In order to work at your best you need to be in good health; nutritionists advise that to help achieve that goal we should eat a wide variety of foods; just one reason to shake up your lunch habits.
Just as the humans in the series all carry the virus and are capable of becoming walkers, we all have the facility to fall into workplace zombie habits. But now you know what to look out for you’ll be able to catch yourself if you ever seem to be behaving like a walker and pull yourself back onto the path to career success.
The most talked about show on TV, The Walking Dead, returns to British screens this evening. Adrenaline-infused, gory and at times heartbreaking, the show has garnered a huge fan-base over the last six years and is promising to ramp up the action still further this spring. But as well as high-octane human drama, the hit series is the source of some surprisingly good advice for anybody interested in boosting their career, claims a new book published this month. Working With The Walking Dead uses incidents, themes and characters from the show to demonstrate how readers can avoid becoming one of the walker herd at work. Included are these ten tips:
- Work out your mission: without a goal, work can become mindless toil; witness Abraham’s energy when Eugene tells him he has an important mission for him – and his distress when he discovers it has all been a sham.
- Pick the right organization: it is much easier to work in a place that shares your approach to career building. Rick’s group is like a family in which everybody is invested, while Joe’s Claimers all aim for individual self-advancement – which doesn’t suit Daryl.
- Speak up: follow the rules, stick to your job description and don’t ask questions and pretty soon you’ll find you are one of the walker herd. To get noticed you need to take every opportunity you can to show you are thinking creatively and wholly engaged with pushing the business forward.
- Respect others: Deanna’s inclusive style of leadership makes everybody feel valued. She listens, considers and aims for consensus rather than forcing her views on others, and Alexandria is (OK, was) a peaceful and well-ordered town as a result.
- Take a break: Rick never allowed himself to stop for a moment. It eventually took its toll on him as he began to hallucinate dead members of his group, including his wife. A lesson for us all on the importance of rest.
- Love your mistakes: most are not career-fatal. As Deanna says, ‘Some day this pain will be useful to you’, so treat mistakes as learning opportunities. Just make sure you don’t repeat them.
- Be adaptable: one crucial difference between the show’s survivors and those who failed to make it past the first season is the ability to take changing circumstances in their stride – even benefit from them. Embracing change is the only way to avoid getting left behind in business.
- Don’t be a bastard: the demise of The Governor, Dawn and the residents of Terminus demonstrates that nasty guys do not finish first. Ambition does not mean destroying everybody in your path: Daryl’s competent, tough, nice – and still around.
- Dare to be different: don’t think there is only one way to get to the top. Just as, in the safety of Alexandria, Rick yearned for the danger of the outside world, some people are simply not cut out for corporate life. Setting out on your own may be a less sure route to success but that’s all part of the thrill.
- Walkers aren’t the main problem: our gang’s survival would be easy if all they had to worry about were the undead; it’s the other people who create danger. Careers don’t happen in isolation, so keep an eye on what your ambitious colleagues are doing.
By presenting simple business concepts in an entertaining way the book aims to encourage people who may never have picked up a business book before to engage with their careers.