By Dan Gephart, October 14, 2020

This time of year is celebrated widely and wildly in the neighborhood where I once lived. Faux spider webs, mock tombstones, humongous inflatable black cats, and DIY haunted garages would overtake North Palm Beach Heights, drawing trick-or-treaters, gawkers and street drinkers from miles away.

I don’t know if anything has changed in the Heights. My guess is that it’s as wacky as ever. I’m glad I’m not there. It’s hard to get into an appropriately festive mood this Halloween. Numerous events over the last several months – acres-ravaging wildfires, multiple hurricane threats, social unrest, and a pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans – have made real life a little too scary. Heck, we’ve been wearing masks (at least those of us who care about our fellow humans) for several months already.

So excuse me if I don’t have the Halloween spirit this year. You too can certainly ignore this holiday. It’s easy. Forgo the costumes. Turn off your outdoor lights. And don’t answer the door.

Unfortunately, Halloween-like behaviors are happening every day at work – and your fate will be worse than a house-egging if you ignore the Energy Vampires, Zoom Zombies, or Garish Ghouls.

Energy Vampires

The majority of employees, maybe 80 percent, are good workers. You wouldn’t call them stellar. You’d probably call them “OK” or “fair” or consider them your “no problem” employees. Then you have the 10 percent of employees who actually are stellar – your top performers.

And then you have the bottom 10 percent. That’s where the “toxic” Energy Vampires reside.

They are the ones who, either because of performance problems or misconduct, drain everything from you. They are exhausting. You take them and their issues home with you. They’re a big the reason for your stress and anxiety. They take up an inordinate amount of your time, meaning those 80 percent aren’t getting the kind of management they need to join the top 10 percent. And those 10 percent stellar employees are probably not getting the recognition they deserve.

So what do you do? You take action, and you do it quickly and effectively. If you’re not sure how to do that, well I have good news: We do. That’s what FELTG is known for. Email me and we’ll bring one of our instructors to your supervisors. To find out more, read what we cover in our UnCivil Servant, Developing & Defending Discipline, and Managing Accountability classes, as well as our other Supervisory Training offerings. All of these trainings are offered both virtually and, in person, depending on your circumstances.

Zoom Zombies

The Zoom Zombies are a relatively new creature in the workplace. As work moved remote, agencies have relied on platforms like Zoom, Teams, Webex, and Skype to meet. The Zoom Zombies don’t seem quite there during these virtual meetings. Truth is, they know where the mute button is – and they’re not afraid to use it.

Are they even there? What are they doing? Honestly, they’re probably doing other work, talking to their children or their fellow teleworking spouse/partner. What can you do here? FELTG instructor/author Dr. Anthony Marchese offers four ways to put to an end to the Zoom Zombie:

  1. Don’t structure your virtual meetings the same as your face-to-face meetings. Make them less about information dissemination and more about “doing.” Use your meetings to collaborate and brainstorm. Create the expectation that everyone will contribute and not use mute unless absolutely necessary.
  2. To promote involvement and rebuild team cohesion, devote a portion of your meeting to positive aspects of working remotely/life during a pandemic. Select a different person each week to share something new he or she has learned about themselves during the past six months. Your zombies will likely tune in to hear more.
  3. Fully embrace the technology to encourage interactivity. Add video, whiteboards, polls, and chats to make the meeting more interactive.
  4. Avoid getting into a rut. Think of different approaches for your meetings. First, what is the reason for having the meeting in the first place? Next, consider: Am I defaulting to a “meeting” because that’s what I’ve done before? If I only have 60 minutes with my team this week, what can we do to best use that time? What does my team really need from me? From one another?

To hear more from Dr. Marchese, join him for the half-day virtual training event The Performance Equation: Providing Feedback That Makes a Difference on Wednesday, October 28 starting at 12:30 pm ET.

Garish Ghouls

Any time I read recent EEO case law, I feel like I’m watching a particularly cringe-worthy episode of Mad Men. People don’t really still do these things, do they? Yes, they do. Want a recent example? Read Deb Hopkins’ article last month about a now-former (thankfully) Fed named Dave.

There is way too much harassment and bullying going on in the federal workplace these days. Yes, some EEO claims are frivolous, over-reactions to being held accountable. But a lot of harassment that is going unreported. The #MeToo movement has brought light to the issue, yet much, sadly, remains hidden away due to embarrassment or fear.

Ghouls can thrive whether in the office or at home. In fact, the home environment makes some harassers more comfortable to take their actions. Regardless of where the workplace harassment takes, there is one important thing you need to know: You CANNOT wait to discipline the employee.

If you’re aware of inappropriate sexual conduct, you must take action. Right away. It doesn’t matter if a complaint hasn’t been filed. The other thing you’ll notice from reading EEO decisions is that they take a long time to get resolved. If you wait for that process to unwind, the agency harasser will commit more offensive actions. It’s your responsibility to protect your employee from harm and protect your agency from liability.

And here’s how you do that:

  • Take all harassment allegations seriously.
  • Stop the harassment, separating the alleged harasser from the situation.
  • Promptly investigate and take quick action.

Harassment Investigations will be covered on the second day of Workplace Investigations Week Nov. 16-20. Register here.

If you’re looking for something shorter, join instructor Katherine Atkinson for the 60-minute webinar Preventing and Correcting Hostile Environment Harassment next week (October 20 starting at 1 pm ET).

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