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.
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.
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.
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.