This blog’s mission is to be witty, entertaining, and informative. That mission is difficult when the headlines are as sobering as what we’ve seen since last Friday in Paris. Before I launch into this week’s EntertainHR installment, I want to extend my sympathies to and express my solidarity with the people of Paris and, in particular, the lawyers and staff of Capstan Avocats, our French affiliate through Ius Laboris. My thoughts and prayers are with you.  

I have a mindless indulgence—ghost-hunting shows. Maybe it goes back to my childhood days in the Ozarks listening to my family tell stories that had come down from across the generations but, whatever it is, I just can’t get enough of these things. I love watching a group of people wrap themselves in electronic gear, stumble through a purportedly haunted house in the dark, and scare themselves senseless. I eat it up when they manage to catch something—a voice, an image—that actually defies explanation. I once got myself so wrapped up and spooked watching one of these shows that I screamed bloody murder when my wife simply walked in the room. (No, not one of my better moments.)

Considering there is an abundance of these shows and even entire networks focused on the paranormal, it looks like I’m not the only one. People just enjoy a good, harmless fright. After all, ghosts aren’t real (right?).  What’s the harm?

Ghosts at the office are a different story. They’re real, they’re a pain, and they’re more frightening than their otherworldly counterparts. You encounter them much the same way the family in The Amityville Horror fell in love with their house; on first glance, everything looks great (the house is a dream, the resume is perfect).  When you seal the deal, however, the nightmare begins.

Here are a few categories of workplace ghosts.  Feel free to suggest others below…

  • The wandering lost soul: This spirit begins haunting you about a week after you hire him. You see, you hired this guy right on the spot–he had excellent credentials, spot-on industry knowledge, and a go-getter attitude. The problem is he was hiding a noncompete agreement, and now you’re stuck in a litigation nightmare.
  • The hitchhiker: We’ve all heard the story—a driver picks up a friendly young lady on a deserted road and drives her to her home, only to have her disappear because she actually died a grisly death on that very road X number of years ago. The office hitchhiker isn’t much different. She shows up on her first day, fills out all her paperwork, takes a look around, goes to lunch, and never comes back.
  • The poltergeist: Poltergeists are the most frightening haunts because you can’t see them; you know them only by the destruction they leave in their wake. Similarly, you won’t see the office poltergeist when he approaches. He insinuates himself into the company through an attractive mien and flattering approach. Once inside, however, he goes on a tear: screaming at coworkers until they flee in horror, plaguing HR with harassment complaints, and refusing to go away. The office poltergeist, however, is a mirror image of the “real” (?) deal. You can’t see a “real” (?) poltergeist, but you wish you could; on the other hand, the office poltergeist is quite visible and defeats all your attempts to make him go away.