See All Blog Posts

Slay the Workplace “Scaries” with These Tips for a Not-So-Spooky Office Halloween

Posted On09/30/2019

ContributorKaila Prins

As the end of the year approaches and the nights get darker and colder, it’s easy to get spooked by things that go bump in the night…but what about the frights that occur in the harsh fluorescent light of day?

Managing employees shouldn’t have to be a frightening affair. Just in time for Halloween, here’s how to face the scariest situations in the office.  

Interview Ghosts

With some of the lowest unemployment in years, the job market is now very much in the employee’s favor: while employers are hard-pressed to fill roles, both active and passive job seekers have their pick of the best positions.  

The availability of jobs means that job seekers may not feel it necessary to even let you know that they can’t make an interview if another, better-fitting role has come along. While the term “ghosting” originally described dating behaviors, where one person stops returning messages or never shows for a date, the business world has seen a mirroring of that behavior in employer-employee relationships.

An informal poll from 2018 suggests that anywhere from 20–50 percent of applicants and employees have displayed some kind of ghosting behavior (whether that means ghosting the interview, ghosting on the first day of work, or ghosting after on-boarding).

While you can’t force an employee to show up for an interview or for work, you can take some preemptive actions to ensure they will at least give you a chance:

Communicate, communicate, communicate! Candidates are used to the “black box” style of recruiting, where they submit a resume to an ATS and then never hear back. Show candidates that you care by getting in touch, communicating your expected timeline for interviewing and decision-making, and checking in to make sure that the candidate is still interested.

– Stand out. With a wealth of jobs available, candidates may continue to look for a better opportunity, even as they’re accepting yours. Demonstrate to candidates how your company and the role is different from others. For example, even if you can’t compete on pay, are there aspects of your company culture, perks, benefits, or advancement opportunities that you can use as selling points? Make sure candidates can differentiate between your offering and those of others

  • Be prepared. If candidates don’t show up for their interviews or new hires don’t show up for their first days of work, will you be caught off guard, or will you have a contingency plan? While you should start with an assumption of good intentions, it’s a good idea to know what your next move will be in case things don’t go as planned. Discuss contingency plans with your team in case you need to keep your job req open for another day.
  • – Work with a staffing firm. Working with a staffing firm like Nelson can save you from many of these recruiting and hiring pitfalls. Nelson recruits reliable, quality candidates and works with both you and them to ensure that the first day is just the beginning of a great working relationship.
  • Screen Zombies

  • From text messages to social media, there are a lot of screen-based distractions in the office — and sometimes, those distractions eat away at productivity. While you don’t want to mandate screen-time rules in most office settings (your standards might be different in retail, light industrial, and other industries), you do need to know how to have productive conversations with employees about unproductive behaviors. 

It’s first helpful to understand that, especially in creative/knowledge-based roles, taking breaks can actually be more productive. suggests that taking 30-second to five-minute “microbreaks” can improve productivity and mental sharpness by up to 30%. Therefore, you don’t want to assume that all time spent away from the task at hand is inherently nonproductive. 

However, if your employees are missing deadlines, it can be helpful to have a conversation about the way in which screen time might impact their ability to work. If you don’t have a workplace screen-time policy, then the best approach is to have a conversation with an employee if you notice things starting to slip. The longer you wait to have the conversation, the bigger the issue might become. 

Before an employee’s behavior escalates into a true problem, invite the employee for an informal meeting to discuss their deadlines and goals. Get curious: 

  • – What do they feel might be impacting their ability to get work done on time? 
  • – How can you better engage them in their work during office hours? 
  • – What support do they need to continue showing up at the top of their game?
  • Once you’ve established reasons why the employee is disengaging and proactively and collaboratively discussed ways to re-engage the employee with their work, work together on milestones and measurements so employees know what expectations you have of them. At that point, if they stay stuck in their phones and tablets and continue to disregard deadlines, you can have a disciplinary conversation and discuss next steps.
  • Energy Vampires

While they may not come out at all hours, employees with a dark and negative outlook do exist — and when they show up, that negative energy can be draining to both you and the rest of your team. 

Energy vampires are employees who are ready to shoot down every new idea — because it’s too hard; because it will never get done; because it’s “always been done like this.” 

Energy vampires suck the lifeblood — and productivity — from your team by making it impossible for anyone to feel good about the work they’re doing. Sometimes, they’ll even actively make sure that their negative predictions come true by blocking positive action. 

You can redirect this kind of behavior in a few different ways: 

  • – Get curious. Sometimes there’s a reason for negative energy — and your direct reports want you to figure out why. Instead of guessing, ask the employee why they feel things can’t be accomplished or what resources they need to do things differently. It could be they are frustrated and unsure of how to ask for what they need to be successful; by asking questions and getting curious, you may find out that there are different ways to run the team or missing resources that can be acquired to diffuse the situation. 

– Offer leadership opportunities. One way to break your direct report out of a negative rut is to offer responsibility. By giving your employee the opportunity to take the lead on a project, they may develop a new perspective. Leadership offers them a chance to own the project, figure out how to do things differently, and see that projects take teamwork to accomplish — and it’s possible that, by giving them the chance to lead a team to success, they may be more excited about working with the team on projects in the future. 

Have Direct Conversations. If things aren’t getting better, then it’s probably time to have a direct conversation with your energy vampire. Poor attitudes can be a reflection of poor performance — and, if that’s the case, you might need to take steps to correct that behavior before it becomes a bigger issue. Consult your organization’s HR department for policies on beginning and documenting a formal process for handling this situation. 

Make your office Halloween a treat by facing your fears and slaying the workplace scaries!