Halloween is upon us, and again dread spirits are rising from the realm of the undead to haunt workplaces across the land.
Your workforce might think this holiday is an occasion for frivolity—decorating their cubicles, donning witch hats or setting out bowls of last year’s stale candy corn.
Yet as in a low-budget horror film, one lone Cassandra—that’s you, communicator—can hear the ominous music foreshadowing disaster. Ghouls, ghosts and gremlins are haunting your workplace, killing harmony and sucking the life out of your corporate spirit.
Quick, time for an all-company email warning your workforce about these spooky specimens:
1. The Smartphone Hunchback
This creature slouches around, incessantly staring at his smartphone and never acknowledging conversations in the human realm. To thwart this beast, choose a public moment—such as a meeting—and try this incantation: “We’ll continue when Herb’s done checking the playoff scores.”
2. The Deathly Dull Town Hall Specter
No matter how many times you’ve worked on these zombie executives’ presentation skills, they cast a deadly pall of boredom over any public meeting. Employees fall into a moribund trance and cannot roused except when a spell-breaking airhorn is sounded in the ear. To escape this curse, try a few tricks from this story.
This monster, assembled by a mad scientist in an attic laboratory, has been spotted by Carlin Twedt and other fleeing villagers. Calming his nerves with a swig from a rescuer’s whiskey flask, Twedt, who is Ragan’s marketing and social media manager, stammered that the creature was last seen producing interminable PowerPoint presentations with unreadable fonts and no narrative or design continuity.
4. The Haunted Phone Voice
This disembodied ghoul always takes a few beats to respond to you in a phone conversation. It’s clear his or her attention is on the computer screen, not on you.
Solution: End the conversation at once with the words, “So it’s agreed, then. Thanks!”
Haunted Voice (long pause): “Um…”
Take this as a go-ahead for whatever your request would have been.
5. The Multitasking Monster
Related to the Haunted Phone Voice, this loathsome creature is common in dank cubicles throughout North America. While you stand talking to this beast, it busily sends emails, sorts through filing drawers or dusts its desk with a wet wipe. It is prone to saying, “We’re rewiring our brains.” Sadly, this rewired brain rarely gets instructions right or remembers assignments.
6. The Bellowing Banshee
This undead creature, who materializes in your office, bawls in a voice audible across vast workspaces, forcing co-workers to overhear every detail of his bone-chilling conversations. Solutions include distributing bullhorns so the rest of you can hear each other, or fixing up a stadium-size jumbotron to remind the evil spirit of more work-friendly decibel levels.
7. The Goodies Phantom
The first of our more voracious villains, this apparition “appears for cake and free lunches, but vanishes when an urgent project pops up,” reports a shaken Rob Reinalda, Ragan Communications’ executive editor. The Phantom is known to come back for seconds and thirds on the doughnuts before everybody gets one—then grabs another to take home.
Responding with an arsenic-laced cupcake, though tempting, is not recommended.
8. Sandwich-Sampling Psycho
Startling awake from a dead faint, Ragan.com editor Robby Brumberg warns that this fridge-raiding lunatic is on the loose in many lunchrooms. Try setting a mousetrap on the top shelf of your icebox, and see what hilarity ensues.
9. The Last-Drop Demon
“Always takes the last of the coffee and never has the decency to brew a fresh pot,” trembles Brendan Gannon, Ragan Communications’ marketing and editorial coordinator.
Often this fallen angel tries to disguise its perfidy by leaving a 17th of a cup of coffee in the pot, saddling the next person with the responsibility. A crucifix and a group recital of the corporate mission statement usually send this menace shrieking into the night.
10. Microwave Marauder
This slimy beast heats and explodes a can of tomato soup in the popular lunchroom appliance, then leaves the bloody crime scene for others to deal with, Brumberg gasps.
Image via Pam Beesly
11. The Morale-Mangling Werewolf
This hairy hellhound transforms from a jovial sort into a frothing-at-the-mouth beast at the slightest provocation, Reinalda warns, shaking this reporter by the lapels.
Appearing in both male and female forms, this fanged fiend can claw apart camaraderie in any workplace.
The creature often manifests itself in its executive incarnation, generally as a CEO sidekick who is feared and detested by everyone else in the company. Only the silver bullet of a transfer to your Yemen office can thwart this killer canine.
12. The Foldergeist
Fear the co-worker whose labyrinthine organizational system you are forced to deal with, Twedt gravely utters. Any attempt to reorganize usually results in the ghostly spectacle of disappearing information.
13. The Brainstorm Vampire
“This one sucks the life out of every promising idea,” Reinalda says. Leave him or her out of your planning sessions, or you’ll risk bleeding your colleagues’ enthusiasm.
14. Ghoulish Groomers
It’s bad enough when these ogres remove their shoes and fumigate the atmosphere with an odor of overripe sweat socks. Even more horrifying is when they clip their toenails or conduct a very public earwax extraction with a Q-Tip.
15. The Home-Haunting Supervisor
Just when you thought you had successfully fled the horrors of the office, this nightmare ghost emerges after dark with texts, phone calls and non-urgent emails to be followed up on your own time. Once it has you in its claws, it is all but impossible to escape.
A more benign version of this spirit can be warded off with the phrase, “Is this something we can discuss in the morning?” Its evil twin, however, cannot be thwarted except by a stake through its heart. Solution: Turn off the phone through which this being channels its presence.
Go ahead, lock the doors. Hang the garlic cloves. Tell yourself you’re safe. Won’t help. You’ll never again feel at ease again in the office—never—after an encounter with these Halloween terrors.