The Sliding Door Company is definitely a family-run business, so there's that vibe. While it has been described to me as "La Familia", a Godfather figure running things, I think there are some "cult" like things going on here too. It's definitely a very hostile environment in which people are carefully controlled.
So what constitutes and differentiates a "cult" and how might that be applied in a company setting? There are many articles describing this. For example: 9 Ways Groups Become Cults defines nine very clear elements that suggest a cult-like atmosphere:
Mind control: Cults use mind control and brainwashing techniques in virtually every aspect of their teachings, recruitment and policies. Cults aim to reduce one’s critical thinking skills and gain control of one’s thoughts, emotion and behavior through the use of mind control techniques.
Charismatic leader: Although many religious leaders are considered charismatic, cult leaders have a different kind of magnetism and power that wins over followers. A cult leader is considered the supreme authority of the group, and he or she typically becomes the object of worship. This figurehead commands the upmost [sic] respect and compliance from its members and they have the only and final ruling on matters.
Deception: Unlike most religions, cults will use deceptive and manipulative ploys to get people to join the cult and stay in it. They are notorious for using deceptive recruitment efforts, such as not identifying themselves and not being transparent about their organization or message.
Exclusivity: Cults are notorious for claiming that they have an exclusive line to God and have a special revelation of the truth.
Offer explanations and solutions to everything in life: Cults have a tendency to give ambiguous explanations for the most complex things in life and suggest unethical solutions to the world’s problems. These deceptive teachings are all part of the cult’s totalitarian worldview and brainwashing.
Exploitation: Information control keeps cult members from thinking critically and questioning the group’s beliefs.
Isolation and total dependency on the group: Cult members are generally forced to cut ties with old family and friends and replace them with their new "family."
Totalitarian worldview: As part of totalitarian control, cults often approve unethical behavior, whether it’s violence, deception or brainwashing, in order to foster the group’s beliefs.
|Some employees find what they need in the TSDC family |
(not a photo of the actual family)
Characteristics Associated with Cultic Groups - Revised
I'm very inclined to comment on each of these, but let's just highlight for now. I have left the check boxes in so employees at TSDC can take the test:
The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.
Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).
The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).
The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).
The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members' participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).
The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.
The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
The group is preoccupied with making money
Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.
So, how is The Sliding Door Company like a cult? Well, whether or not you think it's completely a cult might depend on your experience there, but there definitely IS a cult vibe there.
What do I mean by this? After all, a well-run business with a strong, karismatic leader could look similar, right?
I think most people (even their own HR manager) would agree that TSDC's CEO, Doron is not a "people person". And yet, he has a sort of "karisma" that nobody denies. The "A Players" help promote this - making Doron appear larger-than-life. As an example, within a week of working there, I was told that Doron was formerly head of the intelligence department for the Israli government. Really? And now he's selling sliding doors? Was this an rumor intended to make Doron seem "unaccountable to authorities", above the law, - or just "larger-than-life"?
The difference between a well-run business and a "cult" (as these articles indicate) is difficult to discern sometimes (that's why I am blogging about this). The "cult" feel may very well be promoted by the "US vs THEM" attitude The Sliding Door Company has regarding their own customers. There have been comments on Glassdoor suggesting TSDC's managers tend to seek out desperate people (single mothers) for employees - so there is some suggestion that they prefer employees who might need support from a company/family atmosphere. When someone is desperate, they will tolerate a lot of abuse. TSDC managers have exploited this vulnerability. Yet, some employees find what they need in the TSDC family. Those have become the "elders". Even the elders, however, may live in fear of losing their jobs in a volatile work environment.
But there is more to the "fear factor" than just fear of losing a job - especially for managers (elders). The "cult" is set up in such a way that once you're out, friends you made at TSDC are expected to ignore you - even socially. It can be devastating for someone who has made good friends at work. And it's a good negative incentive to keep employees from leaving. How would TSDC know? Well, the walls have ears.
So, there's definitely a lot of "harm" available to TSDC managers, should they choose to dispense it. As you might expect, there's a good rumor mill in place at TSDC and the managers use it. The person running the rumor mill is TSDC's HR Manager. The rumor mill makes it possible for an employee to be the last person in the company to know they have been fired or demoted. Controlling information is one of the main purposes of a cult. Between the IT department spying on employees, and the HR department dispensing rumors, employees must be very conscious of what they say and do and even who they share information with at TSDC.
As you might expect, TSDC is of course preoccupied with making money as any business should be. This sets up the "US vs Them" situation in which dealing with a customer complaint gets in the way of their preoccupation with making money.
TSDC's attitude: Customers are "THEM" and have no idea how much effort goes into making and installing sliding doors. That they would even complain when something is done badly is disrespectful to TSDC and the work they do to make the world a better place - by making and installing beautiful sliding doors.