7 Signs Your Quirky Company Culture Might Be “Cultural”

  • Corporate cult leader stories are a television genre, along with “WeCrashed”, “Super Pumped” and “The Dropout”.
  • Amanda Montell’s book, “Cultish,” says companies often use bigoted language to build loyalty.
  • Montell spoke to Insider about signs your company might be “too bigoted for comfort.”

As much as cults can terrify us with their fringe beliefs and chilling crimes, we are fascinated by their power. Stories about the rise and fall of cult companies have become a cultural obsession recently, with the release of several documentaries and TV shows about Silicon Valley’s most menacing executives.

But calling an organization a cult is fraught with complexities, said Amanda Montell, author of the bestselling book, “Cultish: the Language of Fanaticism.” In business, some companies straddle the line between building loyal, cohesive teams and dominating every aspect of their employees’ lives.

“We’re moving to more secular sites of community, belonging, and identity, and the workplace has become one of those primary sites,” Montell told Insider. “But the pandemic has really shown us that that can be problematic. It’s not super healthy to get all your sense of belonging from your job.”

His book, which was published last summer but recently gained popularity on TikTok, covers several types of cult-like organizations and how they use words to exert power and influence human behavior. The main difference between harmless brands and more nefarious organizations is how they deploy that influence. “Cultish” argues that it’s important to spot this kind of rhetoric in order to stay in control of our lives and our choices.

Montell told Insider about seven characteristics of bigoted companies, so employees can determine whether their organization is harmless or, as she calls it, “too bigoted for comfort.”