(Work) Cult or Culture.

Updated: Apr 1

Google the question “How many hours per year does the average person spend at work?” and you will see a wide variety of answers. The average person spends roughly 2,000 hours a year at work. (Thanks, Google).


It is healthy to have a good relationship with your coworkers, but is it unprofessional to think of a company as your family or market the basis of your company culture as your family? Is there a division between “cult-like” and “culture?”


Case study: LuLaRoe (https://www.lularoe.com)


A documentary, The Rise and Fall of LuLaRoe revealed some of the pitfalls of the culture promoted by the multi-level marketing company. The company was started by a female entrepreneur and heavily promoted women's empowerment and flexibility, but it quickly became plagued by lawsuits, was riddled with nepotism, and had to answer for some lavish, potentially questionable spending.


Case study: Wework

https://www.wework.com


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The co-working space company, WeWork, was able to capture its attention by providing people with the flexibility to share workspace and the culture of “working together,” by allowing fellow entrepreneurs to work in spaces together. IWeWork even took the concept a step further by developing a co-living space where employees could live in communities with their fellow coworkers. In an effort to expand on the idea of living better together, a private school, WeGrow, was established by WeWork.


The problems that existed within Wework?

  • Lavish travel by executives behind the scenes

  • Overshooting goals created not only overworked and underpaid employees but later faced ethical challenges.

Is it unprofessional to promote your company as “family-like”?


Yes and no. Family is relative; it depends on your perception of family. Many people create their own family units among friends and mentors. Several people I now consider family was once coworkers.


As studied by many thought leaders, employees perform at higher levels when they believe in the organization's mission and their leaders demonstrate commitment to the company mission.


Cult-like behavior in the workplace leads to employee dissatisfaction and low productivity.

As a leader, you should always be willing to get in the trenches with your team.

In the case of LuLaRoe and WeWork transparency and psychological safety (the ability to share ideas safely) were absent. There was an emphasis on stakeholders receiving benefits at the expense of employees.

How do build a healthy company culture?

When you spend so much time with your coworkers, it’s easy to blur the lines between your personal and professional lives. Therefore, leaders should take steps to promote workplace culture by:

  • Recognize that employees have their own lives outside of work by encouraging employees to use their paid time off.

  • “ Do as I do.” Stakeholders should be willing to do what they ask of their employees. As I like to say, “We all can push a vacuum when needed.”

  • Be transparent. You don’t build trust by keeping secrets.

  • Offer perks outside of work. Offer perks for off-the-clock activities like a gym membership or movie pass.


A company will always have its own personality, but “cult-like” behaviors in businesses are harmful to the employees and to the businesses themselves.

 

Resources:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/risasarachan/2021/12/13/the-rise-and-fall-of-lularoe-investigates-scandal-behind--marketing-company/


The Rise and Fall of LuLaRoe. 2021. Amazon Prime


How WeWork Went Wild. 2022. American Greed. MSNBC

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