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Hypocrisy Makes Zombies


Wed Jul 14 2021

Hypocrisy Makes Zombies

Have you ever seen a zombie at work (outside of the office Halloween party, that is)? Have you ever been a zombie at work? We’re not afraid of raising our hand on that. According to Gallup, approximately two-thirds of the US workforce is unengaged—these employees are going through the motions. At CEEK, we refer to unengaged employees as “zombies in the workforce.”

Collins English Dictionary defines a zombie as, “a person who is or appears to be lifeless, apathetic, or totally lacking in independent judgment.” Are you uninspired and complacent in your job? Like the zombies of popular fiction, are you lifeless, apathetic, or lacking in independent judgement? If this is you, or if you are surrounded by zombies in the workforce, we have some thoughts on how you can re-engage and inspire your colleagues.


Thousands of books, articles, and blog posts have been written on the reasons why employees disengage. Reasons vary from poor management or questionable policies to substandard working conditions, unclear priorities, or a lack of balance and general disregard for employees’ welfare. These are all just symptoms of disengagement. We contend that you will find the root cause of disengagement wherever professed values differ from demonstrated behaviors. That root cause is hypocrisy. It’s what makes people susceptible to zombie outbreaks.

Are Your Values and Behaviors Aligned?

Do you profess collaboration as a core value yet work behind closed doors? Do you value accountability yet show up late for every meeting? Or do you profess healthy balance as a priority yet demand night and weekend work?

Hypocrisy within organizations often is not intentional or malicious; instead, it reflects a lack of shared understanding. Employees hold different standards by which they assess the demonstration of the organization’s core values.

If respect is a core value of our organization, what does respect mean in terms of employee management? Does respect mean that we provide employees every opportunity to learn and improve? Or do we respect the workforce by confronting employee problems in a timely and direct manner?

What Can You Do?

If, as Peter Drucker says, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” why would you have a strategic plan but not a culture plan? To minimize the impact of hypocrisy, we encourage you to develop an intentional culture plan using these steps to get you started:

  • Define your values. If you have not already, engage your team to define the core values by which you will hold each other accountable. Select three to five values that differentiate your team in service to your stakeholders and colleagues.

  • Articulate behaviors. Brainstorm with your team to define the expected behaviors that represent the application of the value (and those behaviors that do not). To do this, group like statements together and vote to embrace four to six behaviors for each value.

  • Establish rituals. Intentionally define daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly rituals that represent a tangible, recurring application of your core values. We recommend teams adopt eight to 12 rituals that further reflect the values.

For example, we established integrity as a differentiating core value within our company. One of four associated behaviors is to honor our wholeness. Via this behavior, we promote the well-being and balance of our colleagues. We embrace “analog time,” a weekly ritual that allows staff to be offline for a two-hour window during normal working hours. We use this time to promote personal well-being. We recognize that a healthy, engaged, and inspired workforce is good business.

Next Steps

No matter where you sit in your organization, you have an opportunity to influence culture. Whether you lead your family, a team of 10, an office of hundreds, or agency of thousands, we encourage you to minimize hypocrisy. Clarify and align behavioral expectations with your values. Once you minimize the one element—hypocrisy—that most commonly destroys engagement, you will be positioned to inspire and promote even higher levels of engagement. Join us in at ATD21 in Salt Lake City to find out more about intentional culture plans and how you can fight hypocrisy and save workforce zombies.

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