by Dave Arnott
AMACOM, 256 pages, $23.95
Work and family often get shortchanged for our work responsibilities. This is not news. Arnott, however, offers a provocative thesis as to the reason we continue to let work remain our first priority.
A Dallas Baptist University management professor and an experienced businessperson, Arnott defines a cult as an organization that inspires devotion, has charismatic leadership, and promotes separation from the community. Many companies fit the bill, even, and perhaps especially, if the company is one of the most employee-friendly around.
Arnott has found that more and more people are establishing their support systems through the workplace. Increasingly, close friends and intimate relationships are found at work, and with corporate "campuses," employees can have their dry cleaning, child care, and banking all taken care of on-site.
'One Big, Happy Family'
"In corporate cults, the organization has become work, family, and community for the employee," Arnott writes. This is good for the company because it wins the loyalty and commitment of its employees. It is dangerous for employees, however, because our social resources are limited. If we find at work approval and affection and people to whom we relate, we will not have much left over to give to or receive from our families and communities.
Companies can't always deliver on their perceived promise, either. They are not unconditionally supportive the way that families are, and if you lose your job, you lose your support system too.
Should you be complacent about your work then, and not try to find a sense of accomplishment in it? No, Arnott says. Your body and mind should be dedicated to work, but your spirit should be dedicated to the reason for your work, not the organization. They are rarely interchangeable.
Corporate Cults is an attack on companies that serve their own interests under the guise of empowering employees. His profound sociological analysis of the work/family conflict offers a compelling argument to stop basing who we are on what we do.