Is Your Workplace Scary All Year Round?

Jack O

Having a scary workplace may be fun on Halloween, but what happens if your workplace is scary all year round?

I’ve worked in organizations where managers would sneak up behind employees trying to catch them doing something wrong. Others would howl at people who failed to follow orders exactly as they were told. Then of course we had departments full of people who had retired (and in some cases died) in place, yet nothing was ever done to prevent others from following suit. I call these organizations scary places to work and unfortunately, they still exist today. Here are some questions to ask in order to ascertain if your workplace has employees trembling:

Is someone poisoning the well? It only takes one person to poison the well. This toxic individual can quickly undermine everything you’ve done this year to move your organization forward. Find the source of poison and cut it out of your organization before more damage is done.

Does your organization resemble the Night of the Living Dead? Do you have bodies walking around aimlessly? Time to put some order into place. Although we’d like to believe mature adults don’t need managing, this is certainly not the case. People need to be given direction so they can arrive at the final destination while they are still alive.

Could your company use a jolt? Does it appear that employees are working in slow motion? Perhaps they could use a jolt. Try mixing up teams, bringing in a new leader or simply giving them a day off so they can recharge their batteries.

Do you have some screamers in your organization? You know the type. They believe people can’t hear them so they insist on yelling to make their point. These type of people need to make an immediate behavior change. Find them a coach who is willing to enter the lion’s den, before they take the head’s off of other people in the organization.

Do your offices resemble a dungeon. I recall working for a client who was literally housed in a bunker. Talk about depressing. Lighten up the workplace. Working in a dark dingy office can impact attitudes as well as productivity. Bring in some lights and add some signs of life (e.g., a fishtank filled with tropical fish or some plants, etc.) to help your people cope with their surroundings.


Working in an office shouldn’t be a scary proposition. Take stock this Halloween and make some minor adjustments so the only sounds of people crying, are those on TV.

Roberta Chinsky Matuson is the President of Human Resource Solutions and author of the forthcoming book, Suddenly in Charge! Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around (Nicholas Brealey, January 2011). Visit Roberta’s Blog on the Generations at Work or her Linked-in Group Suddenly in Charge! Sign up to receive a complimentary subscription to Roberta’s monthly newsletter, HR Matters