7 Signs Your Quirky Company Culture Might Be ‘Cultish’

Tales of corporate cult leaders are a TV genre, with “WeCrashed,” “Super Pumped,” and “The…

  • Tales of corporate cult leaders are a TV genre, with “WeCrashed,” “Super Pumped,” and “The Dropout.”
  • Amanda Montell’s book, “Cultish,” says that companies often use cultlike language to build loyalty.
  • Montell spoke to Insider about signs your company might be “too cultish for comfort.” 

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

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

“We’re turning 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 it can be problematic. It’s not super healthy to derive your entire sense of belonging from your job.”

Her book, which was published last summer but recently gained new popularity on TikTok, covers several types of organizations that resemble cults and how they use words to wield power and influence human behavior. The main difference between harmless brands and more nefarious organizations is how they deploy that influence. “Cultish” contends that it’s important to spot this type of rhetoric in order to remain in control of our lives and choices. 

Montell spoke to Insider about seven characteristics of cultlike companies, so employees can consider whether their organization is harmless or, as she calls it, “too cultish for comfort.”