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Jan Johnston Osburn
Jan Johnston Osburn Mogul Influencer | Career & Life Coach | Helping People Turn Dreams into Realities
1y Washington, DC, United States Story
Scary Corporate Cultures and  Scary Movies: You Can Survive!

13 Ways to Survive a Scary Work Culture (Or a Scary Movie)

With Halloween just days away, we are in the season of gory movies! I do love a good, tawdry scary movie.

All movie buffs know that if you are going to survive one of those movies, there are rules that must be followed.

But so few people follow those rules . . . and we know what happens. It's not pretty. 

Your culture at work can be a killer, too. It may be the key to happiness when searching for a new position or deciding to stay on in your current role. But if the culture is not a match, it could spell disaster for everyone.

So, just for fun – what if we applied those same survival rules to our work culture? Would it help us? Or better yet, maybe we wouldn't venture into the bad culture in the first place?

I wonder, I wonder – just what would that look like…

Rule # 1 – Pay Attention!

The red flags are in every horror movie. We find ourselves shouting at the screen, “Don’t go to the basement”, “Look behind you”, “Don’t run up the stairs”, and “Look in the back seat” and you know there is always going to be someone behind you when you close the medicine chest mirror in the bathroom.

The lesson: Don’t be “observationally lazy” as defined in a this article in Psychology Today by Joe Navarro. Observation, he tells us, is not about being judgmental but it’s simply having situational awareness so that we can then interpret those verbal and non-verbal signals.

Rule # 2 - The jerk is always the first one to get it.

The lesson: This one is easy. Be nice. Nobody likes working with, or working for, jerks. Period.

Rule # 3 - If you find a place that looks deserted, ask yourself why.

How many horror movies have you seen where the characters happen upon abandoned places but they still insist on staying and looking around. Why? Why for the love of all that is good and great do they do this?

The lesson: Bad cultures metaphorically kill people. If it feels deserted, there’s probably a reason why. Stay away!

Rule # 4 - Do not keep all of your sharpest knives in one of those wooden blocks on your kitchen counter.

The lesson: Always have a secret weapon and know when and how to use it. A secret weapon is unique. Figure out what makes you exceptional and a force to be reckoned with.

Rule # 5 - If you're running from the monster, you're will trip.

The lesson: So stop running away from problems. Even the slowest monster always catches up with you. You need to stop, turn, and face the issue. If you don’t face your issue, it continues to grow in size and gets stronger. It morphs into something that appears unstoppable.

Rule # 6 – Always make sure it’s really dead.

The lesson: I’m still talking about issues here and not your boss. This complements # 5 above. You need to get the root cause. If you don’t attack an issue at its root, it will just grow again and it will keep rearing its ugly head.

Rule # 7 – When you have the benefit of numbers, NEVER go it alone.

The lesson: The sum is always greater than the parts. Teamwork maximizes strengths and intellects. You need both of those for survival.

Rule # 8 - When you're searching through the house because you've heard a noise, turn the lights on!

The lesson: Issues (or people / bad behavior) don’t hide forever, you have to shine a light on things to expose it. If you walk around in the darkness, you’ll bump into things. Darkness only hides issues but when you shine a light on it, you know how to tackle it and you take away the element of surprise for someone else.

Rule # 9 - Make sure you get up early enough so you can kill the vampires during the day.

The lesson: Don’t become complacent or lazy in your career. Own your career. Don’t let the symbolical blood-suckers get to you and zap your energy and drive.

Rule # 10 - Make sure your car has a fresh battery and a full tank of gas. You’ll need it to start immediately in a time of crisis.

The lesson: Be prepared. Being prepared is having the ability to be proactive and anticipate countless ways in which any given situation could play out. The key thought here is to anticipate. The more you can anticipate how a situation or event will play out, the better prepared you will be.

Rule # 11 - If any friend suddenly begins to show uncharacteristically odd behavior, get away from them.

The lesson: You are who you associate with so associate with people who reach their goals and with people who encourage you every step of the way.

Rule # 12 - If the strange lady starts speaking incoherently and tries to give you advice, take it. More often than not, she knows what she’s talking about.

The lesson: Everyone has something valuable to say. Everyone deserves respect. And, everyone has a story. It’s up to us to actually listen to them and to know when to ask for their advice.

Rule # 13 – If you find an open window that you previously closed, don’t close it again. It may be your only way out when whatever has come in through the window starts chasing you.

The lesson: Don’t close your mind to new opportunities. Opportunities come when you least expect it. Sometimes you just have to pay attention and grab it when the time is right.


It’s usually the people who have sex first who are murdered. I guess the lesson here is that if you’re gonna have sex on the desk or conference room table, tread carefully… there may not be a good ending with that one either.

Final Thoughts

If a clown shows up, all bets are off (Think Captain Spaulding) and if you don’t learn your lesson, the sequel will just be worse!

Over to you: What scary movie rule would you apply to work?


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1 comment

  • Kelly Hudson
    1y ago

    I love #7. I wonder if you could do this comparison with fun.

    I love #7. I wonder if you could do this comparison with fun.

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Jan Johnston Osburn
Mogul Influencer | Career & Life Coach | Helping People Turn Dreams into Realities

Johnston Osburn is a Career and Life Coach who helps people turn dreams into realities. After years as a Global Talent Acquisition Professional, she realized how frequently people limit themselves because they lack belief in their abilities. They are afraid to dream, let alone dream big. [...]

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