Workplace zombies are people who are stuck in a sleep-walking state, with their eyes wide shut.

The current workplace environments that foster an “us versus them” victimization culture can make an entire team look like zombies. Team leaders are not exempt. If you find yourself sandwiched between zeds, then you have the opportunity to demonstrate bold personal leadership and wake them up to their potential or bring them back to life.

The universal law of attraction says that you “will draw unto yourself that which is like yourself.” Zombies know this, and feed off others who are ready to blindly follow them.  You have the power to embrace the law of attraction and become contagious with your enthusiasm.

You can help build a team that inspires you, even if you are not in the official leadership position. Here are three actions to help you bring your teammates back to life:

1. Listen

Zombies are contagious. They siphon the life force from those around them. Your positive energy can be even more contagious. Demonstrate zeal and exuberance by creating possibilities that invite a more positive outlook and conversation.

Listen to your teammates with the intention of understanding what they need to re-engage. Here’s a formula:

Start with this question: “When were you most excited about your work?”

Reflect what they say back to them to make sure you’ve got the essence right. Next state what you see: Truth + Impact + Request.

  • Speak the truth about what you see hampering the things they value in the current work environment.
  • Define the impact you see it having on yourself and others.
  • Make a request to collaborate on changing the team mindset with a goal of shifting how they see things or taking new action.


“Tom, you said you were most excited about work when you felt you could offer ideas about how to improve the processes and your boss would take action around those and honor your contribution. Now it appears you have stopped offering ideas; you rarely speak up in our meetings (truth). The impact that has on me and others is that we are not sure what you are thinking and whether you agree with our ideas or not (impact). I’d like to request that you offer your insights again (request). Your ideas and vast experiences will move us forward as a team.”

2.  They are us and we are them

Clarify who “they” really are when you hear people blame others. Shift the language you hear in order to lift the mindset. Even if you are the only person who seems enthusiastic to be on the team, refuse to join the march of deadbeats. Seek personal passion and purpose instead by focusing on a noble cause that is worthy of your time and attention. That might be as simple as taking one action a day to connect with the company’s customer in some way. Surround yourself with a team of people who find value in your work especially if it includes the customer. If you are unclear about the company’s mission in service to your community, look it up online and/or in the employee handbook, and set about bringing it to life in your work and with your team.

3.  Shine

Leadership is about influence, not position or title. Influence is built on trust. The captain on a sports team is often more influential than the coach or manager. Make a game out of igniting the inner spark in your teammates. The best way to do that is to show that you genuinely care about them.

We all land in places that appear to be toxic at some point in time. The challenge isn’t whether we run from it or stay in it, rather it is to be the light that helps ignite others to come back to life. That is the test of a true leader — becoming a catalyst of awesomeness when others see doom and gloom.