Is Your Office Haunted? – How to Spot a Workplace Vampire or Zombie

One of the biggest drains on organizational performance comes from persons who literally suck the life out of initiatives and team morale.

Is your office haunted by workplace vampires or zombies?

“Vampires” are people who take much more from others in time or productivity than they contribute. They typically are high-maintenance persons who thrive on conflict, negativity, bullying or taking credit for others’ ideas and contributions.

“Zombies,” on the other hand, are those who no longer add value to the enterprise. They are the “living dead” who continue to collect a paycheck even though they have checked out in terms of day-to-day performance and accountability.

Vampires and zombies can be found at every level in organizations. However, they are most dangerous in the management ranks where their presence can compromise major projects and teamwork.


Do you have a vampire or zombie in the office? Find out by answering these questions.

  1. Is the person highly paid yet unproductive or not accountable for any specific outcomes? Yes/No
  2. Has the person outlived his or her ability to be effective even after performance feedback and coaching? Yes/No
  3. Does the person aggravate or prolong problem situations by his or her lack of responsiveness? Yes/No
  4. Are the person’s superiors reluctant to say anything because of his or her long tenure or friendships in high places? Yes/No
  5. Is there a lack of a successor to the under-performing person, making removal difficult? Yes/No
  6. Does the person have a pattern of verbally abusing subordinates, bullying or behaving disrespectfully to colleagues? Yes/No
  7. Does the person take credit for the work of others or sabotage those who are seen as competitors? Yes/No
  8. Does the person hold others to unrealistic standards or timetables? Yes/No
  9. Does the person repeatedly make excessive work demands in non-emergency situations (or consider everything to be an emergency)? Yes/No
  10. Does the person take up large amounts of management time required for fact-finding and troubleshooting conflict and complaints?  Yes/No

Tally up your responses:

“Yes” answers indicate a problem. The more “Yes” answers, the worse your Vampire or Zombie problem is. A score of three (3) or more “Yes” responses indicates that your workplace is indeed haunted by one or more persons who are detrimental to team and organizational success. They may be dead weight; they may be toxic to co-workers. Or they may be both.

Fictitious zombies and vampires are known for being hard to “slay.” But in real life when their presence and tactics are dealt with appropriately, everyone can exhale and focus again on executing brilliantly.


About the Author

Susan Battley

An advisor to Fortune 100 executives and world-class institutions for more than twenty years, Dr. Susan Battley is an internationally recognized expert on CEO and leadership effectiveness. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional service firms, and elite research institutions. She has worked with chief executives, university presidents, Nobel laureates, and prominent scientists, diplomats, and educators. A respected media source for analyzing leadership in the context of news-breaking events and key trends, Battley has been featured in outlets worldwide including CNN, CNBC, Fox, Bloomberg, and National Public Radio, and in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Chief Executive, Business Week, United Press International, Harvard Management Update, Entrepreneur, Science, Leader to Leader, Investments, and Worth. She is the founder and CEO of Battley Performance Consulting, a leadership strategy and organization effectiveness consultancy.