Guard Your Company’s Life Essence from Corporate Vampires

Use Corporate Culture to Save Your Company

You know the tale of vampires: power thirsty beings that suck the life essence out of people unlucky enough to be in their way.

Beware if you have them in your company.

Here are 2 telltale signs of vampires in your midst:

1) Loss of organizational life essence

People who have to deal with corporate vampires often put in a day’s work, but without the enthusiasm, spark, or that extra something that makes a company great, keeps it growing, and enables it to out innovate competitors. They resemble the “undead” in vampire tales.

It’s not that people don’t have the skills or ability – it’s that their desire to perform in outstanding ways has been sucked out of them.

Corporate vampires use their power to impose their will on others. Bullying is another term for this. No facts or logic can dissuade the power seeking vampire from pursuing a chosen path. The path was chosen specifically to increase the vampire’s power.

In fact, vampire activity is all about increasing power at the expense of others and not about growing or improving the company, despite the words the vampire uses. Anyone brave enough to offer a difference of opinion to the vampire will be met with intense resistance. Resistance may be in the form of smooth, cultured talk (usually reserved for those ranked higher than them) or surprise, aggressive attacks (usually used on those of equal or lower rank). Vampires manipulate facts, embed small pieces of truth and then contort the results into lies and accusation. This practice is designed to scare people from even considering offering up alternative methods, strategy, options, or opinions. To drive home their point, vampires rip apart the professional image of anyone who dares voice differing opinions, often leaving just a shell of the professional.

Seeing this, other employees will quickly choose to put in their time, keep their heads down, and do everything possible to avoid the notice of the vampire.

If you see organizational people acting like the “undead”, look for a corporate vampire in their management hierarchy.

2) Vampires abuse power, which can be a powerful attractant for other vampires

Power attracts those who want power.

Abusers of power attract those who are want to abuse power, or be close to those who have power.

There are many reasons why the vampires want to hurt, discredit, malign, abuse, or harass others, such as:

  1. feeling inferior and using abuse of power to either hide it or silence those who see it
  2. wanting to remove someone they believe to be “in the way”
  3. wanting to hide lack of knowledge or ability
  4. wanting to dominate
  5. wanting to control others, especially when the abuse is sexual or discriminatory
  6. wanting to eliminate others from succeeding because they have vision, ability, and work well with others
  7. being psychopaths.

A vampire’s power is attractive enough to pull in others who want power but can’t get it on their own. This group of power brokers becomes a clutch, a clan that repels real change and stymies innovation while provoking organizational fear. They act together, support/enable/further lies, and continually act to discredit activity or people who dare to go outside the narrow bounds they’ve artificially erected to maintain their power.

Being clever, these clans may plan ways to purposely setup people they don’t like to make them “fail”. The clan then acts as judge and jury to pass judgement and remove all “non-conformists”. To keep people in line, the clan uses innuendo, small derisive commentary, or major declarations that others don’t dare contradict. This is done to ruin capable professional images and to tarnish character, thus leaving only the vampires in the running for promotion and advancement.

Abusive power leads to problem number 1, the destruction of the company’s life essence. It is allowed to exist because it’s easier to ignore abuse than deal with it, or, similar behavior may be allowed in other areas of management and thus be considered acceptable.

Unfortunately, garlic won’t get rid of corporate vampires. The most effective cure is the sunlight of honesty and the intolerance of abusive practices. To drive a stake in the vampires, they and their behavior must be immediately dealt with by management and executives. Embedding wording in corporate cultural statements stating intolerance of abuse and then gaining a reputation for acting in concert with that statement will help inhibit a vampire from even crossing the threshold of the company.

Constant vigilance and immediate action to seek the truth, be intolerant of lies, eliminate corporate fear, and force honest review of performance (the proverbial mirror) will put up barriers to those who might otherwise feed on your organization’s life essence.

Your organization is your community. If it isn’t safe, you’ll lose your community’s talent – either because fear limits performance or because your talent leaves your community.

What practices do you find effective in removing vampires from your organization?

Key words and concepts: power, abuse, lie, honesty, professional image, corporate continuance, sustainability, vampire

About the author: Cynthia Kalina-Kaminsky with Process & Strategy consults with and provides training for organizations eager to increase their competitive value by helping enable growth, align performance, make and move product (even when the product is electrons).


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