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Is it a cult or company?

HERE ARE some common characteristics of cults. They have hierarchical structures. They prize charismatic leaders and expect loyalty. They see the world as a hostile place. They have their own jargon, rituals and beliefs. They have a sense of mission. They are stuffed with weirdos. If this sounds a bit familiar, that is because companies…

HERE ARE some common characteristics of cults. They are organized in hierarchical ways. They expect loyalty from charismatic leaders. They view the world as hostile. They are familiar with their own language, rituals, and beliefs. They are driven by a sense for mission. They love weirdos. This is because many companies share the same traits.

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Some cult-companies are easier to spot than others. They are more like deities than executives. These leaders control the company and are almost certain to have founded it. They are well-known to the general public. They love rockets and have a brother named Kimbal.

But in other cases it can be hard to tell where a company ends and a cult begins. This is true for employees as well. This guide will help you determine if you are working in a regular workplace or if you have fallen for an entirely different group.

Workforce nicknames. It is not enough to be an employee of a company any more. Employee nicknames can be used to identify employees, from Pinployees to Microsofties to Googlers to Bainies to Pinployees. You may lose your ability to grasp reality if you are a member of one of these tribes. You are already a member of the Apostles Of The Thrice-Tabbed Spreadsheet if you work in finance.

Corporate symbols. Uniforms are defensible in some circumstances: firefighters, referees, the pope. A mug, a journal, an umbrella are all examples of corporate merchandise. It can go too far. Wearing a company-branded hoodie on the weekends or a lapel pin that declares your loyalty to a company are warning signs. If your employer’s corporate swag includes an amulet or any kind of hat, that is also somewhat concerning.

Surveillance. It is reasonable for executives to want to know what their workers are up to. It is unreasonable to monitor their every move. Monitoring software that takes screenshots of employees’ computer screens, reports which apps people are using or squeals on them if a cursor has not moved for a while are tools of mind control, not management.

Rituals. Rites are a source of comfort and meaning in settings from sport to religion. This is true even in the workplace. Many companies give out awards and badges to employees who are the best. Some meetings are called “ceremonies” by project managers. IBM had its own songbook. “Our reputation sparkles as a gem” was one rhyme; “Why the heck do we have that bloody anthem?” wasn’t. Walmart encourages its workers to sing a cheer for the start of each day in its supermarkets. Some of these actions are merely a bit disgusting. But if you are regularly chanting, banging a gong or working with wicker, it becomes sinister.

Doctrines. More and more firms espouse a higher purpose, and many write down their guiding principles. Mark Zuckerberg has recently updated his company‚Äôs “cultural operating systems” which, among other things encourages Metamates (see “Workforce Nicknames”) to challenge physics and “Live In The Future”. Amazon drums its 16 leadership principles (“Customer Obsession”, “Think Big”, “Are Right, A Lot”, and so on) into employees and job candidates alike. While corporate culture is important, common sense does not automatically become a belief system because capital letters are used. If values are treated like scripture, you are in cult territory.

Family. Some companies entreat employees to think of their organisation as a family. It may sound appealing to use the f-word. Who doesn’t want to be accepted for who they are, warts

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