Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Slaying Hallway Zombies

For the past few months, I have been working on a project for a division of Boeing. It was a bit of a culture shock, going from a small, dynamic, family feeling company like Contegix to one of the largest companies in the world. But it's a Grails project, and the prospect of helping all of those oppressed Boeing Java devs get into Grails is well worth the cross-cultural experience. :-)

So, what does that have to do with zombies? Well, when working for a huge company, one often ends up in a huge building. And in huge buildings, we often find very long hallways. The building I work in has hallways that are several hundred feet long (almost 150 meters). Something strange happens to (otherwise friendly) people when they walk down long hallways. They become hallway zombies. Hallway zombies aren't like other zombies — they aren't decaying (usually), and they don't try eat your brains. But if you’re not careful, they will rob your joy. There’s something unnatural about walking directly past another person and not even acknowledging that they exist. But if you don’t fight it, it will start to become natural to you. And then you will have become a hallway zombie yourself!

Hallway zombies can be defeated, though, and fortunately you don't even have to decapitate them. (How would that look on a reference letter?) Some hallway zombies can be defeated with a simple smile. Some may take repeated smiles. The first smiles may seem to bounce right off of them, but if you keep it up, you will start to break through. Others are tougher and may require more drastic action, such as a full round-house “Good morning!”

Those are the basic weapons for fighting hallway zombies — and fight you must, or your fate is sealed. But these weapons are much more effective with a good technique. If you spot a hallway zombie coming towards you a couple hundred feet away and you start smiling at them right away, they will be able to defend against it. It's best to catch them by surprise. Let them think you’re one of them. Look straight ahead, or down at the floor. (Don't be tempted to take furtive glances into open office doors or down a row of cubicles. That's a dead give-away.) Then, when you are within 15 to 20 feet of passing, strike quickly with your best smile and even a nod of the head. If you're pulling out the big guns, you can start a bit sooner, just in case you see an opening for a “How’s it going?” to follow up on your “Good morning!”

I’m not yet convinced that any hallway zombie is beyond reach, but there are a few here that are proving quite challenging. I’m working on some new attack strategies, just in case. On the other hand, there have been some successes that are quite encouraging. Slaying hallway zombies is hard work, but it’s very rewarding. So I keep fighting.

You may not work in this type of environment, but chances are that you will find yourself somewhere, at some point in time, where you are faced with a hallway zombie. Don’t panic. Steady your nerves, hold your ground, and… Smile!


Jim Shingler said...

And if that doesn't work, . . . wear a Chuck Norris mask, . . . They will be friendly just out of fear. ;-)

Hamlet D'Arcy said...

Right on Dave! I totally agree. I can't imagine not having fun at work and smiling is about all it takes.

Rick said...

Good post, thanks for posting it.

Best Regards,


Mike Miller said...

Great post. The title just pulls you in...