Corporate Cults: The Insidious Lure of the All-Consuming Organization
by Dave Arnott
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From Library Journal
What's the similarity between the Branch Davidians and Southwest Airlines? According to business columnist Arnott (management, Dallas Baptist Univ.), both organizations are cults, one religious, the other corporate. In this unique, fascinating look at organizational dynamics, Arnott shows that the many controlling tactics corporations use are similar to those used by well-known religious cults, e.g., charismatic leadership, separation from community, and a demand for unwavering devotion to the cult. The author's personal experiences with some of these organizations enrich this disturbing analysis of how "culted companies" require employees to pledge unconditional obedience to leaders, subsume their identities, invest all their "free" time and energy in the corporation, and consider family and community expendable. In addition, personal insights into those who find meaning in what they do instead of who they are and practical strategies for restoring a more normal balance among work, family, and community make this an important book. Highly recommended for business collections and all university libraries. A Dale F. Farris, Groves, TX
From The Industry Standard
In the latest backlash against corporate America, the American Management Association has chimed in with an alarmingly titled book that features a tattooed, suited skinhead on the cover.
It's main point: Corporations can steal your soul. In the 230-page book, Dallas Baptist University professor of management Dave Arnott contends that in the rush to make companies friendlier places to work, they've been turned into a replacement for family and community. "It starts with a refrigerator in the lunchroom and ends in a full-blown corporate cult," writes Arnott.
A "corporate cult," says Arnott, has all the characteristics of any other cultlike group: It subordinates the individual to an organization; it uses terms like "family" to describe the organization; it rewards behavior, not tasks. Arnott says employees contribute to the problem by turning to their employers for their emotional needs and adopting a loyalty to the company that exceeds devotion to one's family and personal needs.
Arnott describes a corporate cult as one that requires devotion from its employees, has charismatic leadership and causes a separation from the rest of the community by supplying enough of those needs itself. Sounds a little like some Net companies.
Corporations create cults, not culture, by giving too much to employees, he says. The author warns that employees are short-sighted to hope for emotional fulfillment from companies - prisons are better providers than employers, he charges. Prisons, for example, give inmates their own toilets, permit visits from friends and family, and allow inmates to watch TV and play games.
Companies, by comparison, make people share toilets, often punish employees for socializing with friends and family in the workplace, and wouldn't dream of letting employees watch TV or play games on company time (OK, here's where Internet companies might be an exception).
The situation isn't entirely the fault of the company. Arnott says that when employees allow themselves to be hired for who they are instead of what they can do, they perpetuate the idea that identity and self-worth should come from the boss man.
Arnott takes pains to illustrate how companies' cultlike behavior evolved. In a strong economy, one would not bother to argue about emotional bondage, because economic bondage would be strong enough. The current economic boom, plus the emphasis on intellectual capital rather than industrial strength, makes the market ripe for cultish behavior. So does the geographical breakup of families, who are now too far removed to provide all of a person's support.
So does this mean that workers should disregard all that warm and fuzzy "team building" stuff they learn? No, says Arnott. It's OK to like what you do and want to work with others, but employees are at risk of becoming corporate-cult members when work gets in the way of reason. - Laura Rich
Sports facilities, laundry services, cappuccino bars. A ready-made set of companions. A purpose in life. Sometimes work is such a great place to be, you don't even want to leave--not in the evening, not on weekends, and especially not on vacations!
All of this is fantastic for your company, but seriously bad for you, says organizational expert Dave Arnott. These perks aren't merely altruistic gestures on the part of your company. Instead, they're consciously designed to induce you to devote more and more of your time, talent, and emotional allegiance to the corporation--at the expense of your private life, your family, and your community.
And rest assured, says Arnott, corporate cultism is not an isolated phenomenon or a far-fetched concept. Consider the top three factors that Fortune magazine calls the hallmarks of a great place to work: sense of purpose, inspiring leadership, and knockout facilities. Now read the uncannily similar characteristics that define a cult: devotion, charismatic leadership, and separation from community
Both startling expos and insightful self-help manual, CORPORATE CULTS gives you a clear picture of this deeply rooted, pernicious problem. It exposes the cycle of manipulation and dependency that is making unhealthy, "cultish" behavior a commonplace way of life for millions of people.
* You'll study the symptoms of "encultedness," including crushingly long hours, few (or no) friends outside the workplace, emotional attitudes about a job--and a dangerous blurring of "who I am" with "what I do."
* You'll learn about companies like Southwest Airlines, 3M, and Microsoft that forge the narrowly focused traits of their carefully selected employees into fiercely loyal and cultish organizations.
* You'll read the real-life stories of people whose jobs have become their lives--such as the USAA Insurance employee so enamored of his "compound's" fine facilities that he wholeheartedly proclaimed: "You become a part of this place, and it becomes everything you're about."
You'll take an eye-opening 20-question corporate cult test that accurately measures your own level of cultedness.
* And--best yet--you'll discover practical strategies for escaping the lure of the corporate cult...and restoring a healthier balance to your life.
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