My Job at the Cult – The Huddle

My Job at the Cult – The Huddle

About four years ago, I started a job at what I know just refer to as “the cult.”  You’re probably thinking, how could a job be a cult?  I could write enough on that topic for an entire novel, but for the blog I’ll break it down into chunks.

All you need to know starting out is that they hired kids as young as possible (preferred high school graduates over college graduates), paid them less than fair wages and tricked them into thinking that no other job would be as good to them as this job.  Like I said, there is much to tell about this place… but today let’s start with the huddle.

A lot of smaller companies or departments will have a morning meeting or scrum when they work with an agile development cycle, but at the cult the huddle was for every employee every day no questions asked.

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At 9:13am every morning (not a second before or after), you would hear loud motivational music blaring from the main room.  Tunes to the likeness of “We Will Rock You”, “Let’s Get It Started” or perhaps “We Are The Champions” would play and every employee must start walking towards the main room while clapping in unison to the music.  Bonus points for cheering and high fiving your coworkers.

Once we all were standing in the main room clapping together like a bunch of idiots, they would cut the music and start the huddle.

First up was a call to hear about “Who got caught being awesome” the previous day.  You were expected at least once a week to raise your hand and call out a co-worker for being awesome.  Favorite awesome examples included:

  • Josh made a big sale yesterday.
  • Stephanie stayed late at the office working last night.
  • Tiffany did a really good job on the recent print ad.

After each example of awesomeness, the leader of the huddle would give the rest of us a number of claps to reward the person with.  He would say, “Two claps for Josh!” and then everyone would go CLAP CLAP in unison.  Clap rewards ranged from 1 to three, with one being the most powerful.  Rounds of applause were very rare, but happened.

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Next we had a theme for every day of the week, the one I remember the most was “Marketing Monday” since I was in the marketing department.  Department chairs would do a short presentation about key events going on in that department.

Finally, employees were quizzed on the cult’s core values.  We had an abbreviation, and if you couldn’t remember a specific value when quizzed you were publicly torn down a bit and asked to study.  Employees who got it wrong the day before were asked again the next day, and the next until they memorized them all perfectly.

Now you may have read up to this point and thought, “Okay that’s a little weird… but I’m not seeing any crazy cult here.”  Let me tell you a bit more.

On more than one occasion, we were asked to hold hands and “Pray to the  power of the universe” about an event.  I remember a co-worker was in the hospital for surgery, which is certainly nothing to scoff at, and we were told to hold hands and send her “good vibrations” while the CEO droned on about mother universe healing our dearest friend.

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For a while huddles got pretty dry, so the department chairs started adding their own jokes.  A particularly unfunny manager decided to end his presentation with a photograph of an obese woman in the bathing suit that he secretly took from his cell phone while on vacation.  He then made a joke about “I wanted to show y’all some whale watching me and my wife did!”  This is in front of 60 people, who I can assure you are not swimsuit models.

On more than one occasion, the CEO fake cried to drive a point home.  These tears were usually caused by “being really proud of what we’re doing here.”  Employees were also encouraged to share emotional details of their lives to the point of tears.  The more feelings, the better.

Finally, turnover was stupid high at the cult (I know you are shocked).  We had several husband and wife pairs that both worked at the company, and during one huddle a wife was told in front of her entire company that her husband had been fired.

Luckily I was spared from the huddle’s worst offerings.  I fantasized often about quitting publicly in the group of cheering comrades, but chickened out when the time came.  To this day I pretty much refuse to clap in unison to just about anything.

38 thoughts on “My Job at the Cult – The Huddle

  1. Wow…I get what they are trying to create, but sounds like it isn’t working.

    That cell phone pic? Just horrible. I would have so not been able to tear a strip off that person – totally not cool. Bill 168 up here in Ontario.

    What does this company do?

    1. The cell phone pic was HORRIBLE. I ended up privately e-mailing HR afterwards and expressing my severe disgust and disappointment in the company. The person who shared it issued a publicly apology (complete with tears) the following day, but I’ll never forget that.

      I don’t want to divulge too many details about the company, but basically they sold a niche of ‘how to make money’ classes.

  2. Yikes! The therapeutic riding center I worked for was kind of cultish, but they definitely didn’t have huddles or prayers to the power of the universe (just the regular kind to Jesus)!

    Please, please, more posts on the cult!!

  3. Okay, so I worked for a call-center for a major mobile phone company while it was in its ramp phase. I was an intern in HR (making more than I make now, actually).

    They had the power songs and the happy feelings all over the fucking place. I was lectured several times on “softening”, because I was deemed too harsh for that environment. Surprisingly, I wasn’t offered a permanent position. 🙂

    I was giving a class lecture on setting up benefit stuff – pretty important, right? – and I had mostly lost my voice. When the class wouldn’t STFU, I whistled. I later got reprimanded for whistling, because they felt it was degrading. No mention of the class being rude to me. Yargh. Hate those sorts of companies.

    1. If you can imagine, I had a pretty similar experience here. I will write in the future about how I left the company, but I did fall for or participate in the ra! ra! environment. It’s just not my personality and it never will be.

  4. Not only cultish, but very Orwellian. I swear there is a similar scene in 1984. My job has very weird moments (cops showing up, kids threatening to kill other kids, parents twerking in front of school), but yours are beyond “normal” weird. :0)

  5. Oh. My. God. I work in the mental health field and I swear there are far crazier people out there than our patients!

  6. Ummm…wow! I’m usually a very cheerful and optimistic person, but I’d even be cynical in a ridiculous environment like that… It actually sounds creepy.

  7. I took a part time job in college with a similar ‘feel’. I worked my first shift, then just didn’t go back. They phoned repeatedly and wouldn’t listen when I tried to quit. Finally, my boyfriend told them I had moved away – at which point I got a letter saying I’d been fired. Not my proudest moment, but the whole thing was so, so weird. On the plus side, some of the crazy stuff that happened just in that one shift lives on – my friends still laugh about it at my expense and we have ‘in’ jokes many years later 🙂

  8. Yuck! That job would make me go insane. No way could I handle any of that, especially the clapping and cheering. That’s one of the reasons I quit going to my Mary Kay meetings. They do all these chants and cheers and I couldn’t take it!

  9. Oh MY! That sounds like a movie along the lines of Waiting for Guffman or Best in Show. Over the top motivational mantras, the music. It’s funny, yet not. I’m appalled by the whale comment. So NOT funny. What is wrong with people?

    Before I read the post I thought about my first job out of college. When I read the part about the low pay and tricking people into thinking this is the BEST job they’ll have, I could have sworn we worked for the same place.

    My disaster employer was a small private company outside Chicago. The husband was the CEO and the wife the CFO. They would outwardly do all these nice things for us like host fabulous parties and give us gifts from places like Nieman Marcus. I think we all got very fancy Halloween pumpkin mugs filled with uber expensive chocolate from NM. Anyway, they made us all dress up for Halloween and be happy and Halloweeny. I thought it was creepy because they had no children and in a weird way it was like we little people/worker bees had to play out this role of doing things as though we were children.

    I should probably blog on this. . . the greatest satisfaction I got was giving my two weeks notice after being there one year and seeing the shocked look on the face of my boss. I was in charge of a certain report that no one else knew how to put together/create. Anyway, a few weeks after I left and was working a retail job at the mall, they called me and were desperate.

    The CFO (who actually made me call a client for an accounts receivable call–the client owed us ten cents) always called me Sue (not Susan which is my name) and I knew she didn’t like me. She complained to my manager before that I didn’t know how to copy very well. (And to think I’d become a teacher–photocopying is something I can do in my sleep!)

    Well, my former boss said, “We’re in a pinch and wanted me to call you and see if we could bring you back as a consultant to help us generate the report for XYZ client.”

    I said I would be happy to do so and my consultant’s fee was $50 an hour. (I think I had been making $10 an hour). I knew that would infuriate the penny pincher! So I got a call back later that said they were going to make other arrangements to run the report and thanks anyway.

  10. Oh. My. God. These are the moments I’m glad that I work with other relatively cynical people. I’m for all encouraging people, but I would not have lasted in a place like that. This is crazy. How did you ever end up here?

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