Ghostly goings on at work? Call the British Ghostbusters!

If your work place is more likely to be home to apparitions than apprentices then who you gonna call? Ghostbusters from the University of Essex and Bradford University!

Just like their filmic counterparts, Dr Kathleen Riach and Dr Simon Kelly are university academics, although they won’t be packing proton packs or ridding the world of giant Mr Stay Puft marshmallow men! However, like Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis in the original film, they are interested in investigating stories about things that go bump in the night or day in libraries and hotels, as in the film, and other places of work right across the country.

So, if you have a spooky story to tell this Halloween about your haunted office or mysterious phenomenon in your place of work, a researcher at Essex Business School (EBS) at the University of Essex wants to hear from you.

Turning Mulder and Scully in researching these spooky goings on are Dr Kathleen Riach, from EBS, who is turning ghost hunter with Dr Simon Kelly, a colleague from Bradford University School of Management, for a study expected to reveal how paranormal activity in the workplace can impact staff relationships and morale, and ultimately productivity and turnover.

“One chef refused to go to a specific part of his workplace due to phantom footsteps, and another accountant spoke of avoiding a cold part of their office where a murder had apparently taken place years ago,” Dr Riach explained. It was these and other anecdotes from managers and employees with whom Dr Riach was working on other projects that have inspired her latest study.

Dr Riach and Dr Kelly want to interview anyone who has had mysterious or unexplained experiences in their workplaces.

“Whilst this may seem like a curious topic for a research study, by exploring the supernatural at work we might better understand the wider implications for how people experience work. Using the supernatural as an extreme example of the emotional experience of work may help to uncover how employees behave or react when faced with something that falls outside formal organisational practices or does not fit with their expectations or assumptions,” Dr Riach explained.

“Of course, having a paranormal experience may also bring business benefits. Not only is paranormal tourism on the increase, but organisational cultures benefit from the stories and tales that people tell and retell within their companies when people join. It may be that exploring these storytelling cultures surrounding the uncanny reveals one way that people socialise and bond within the workplace.”

The research team are looking for interviewees willing to speak about unusual or unexplained occurrences such as strange noises, moving objects, disembodied voices or cold spots; stories and urban myths about company buildings or history; and ghost stories that are used to promote an ‘experience’ such as a haunted room in a hotel.

To tell your story, contact either Dr Kathleen Riach, e-mail:kriach@essex.ac.uk or telephone 01206 872373 or Dr Simon Kelly, e-mail: s.kelly5@bradford.ac.uk or telephone 01274 238919.

All data collected will be anonymised and treated as confidential.

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