non-believer (n): person who does not believe that this year’s strategy is the “chosen path” for the business, and has demonstrated either vocally or non-vocally their disagreement with the “chosen path”

What’s the most disturbing aspect of the following situation?

The Managing Director of a mid to large-sized business stands up at a sales conference, and says “we’ve weeded out the non-believers”.

Is it:

a) the fact that the company had established a campaign to make redundant all those people who did not agree with its so-called “strategy”, which as you know, changes every year because the last one didn’t work within a couple of months.

or b) the fact that you are still there.

This actually happened. Usually quite sensible with his words, this time he decided to stand up and tell everyone in the room that the company had successfully weeded out the non-believers – the people who he could not keep in line. We had seen it happening – one by one, people were being picked off, quietly ushered into a room with Human Resources and their line manager. Said Line Manager sat there, quietly nodding, knowing that any diversion from the “agreed line” would result in “non-believer” status. The non-believer sat there, staring glassy eyed.

And now they were gone. Or were they? Was this a coded message to me? Did he glance at me as he said it? Or do I actually now believe? Have I officially been inducted into the cult that is <this company>? They love me, I must love them.

That’s how the cult works – they let you know that they’ve spared you. This time. Lucky you.

What to do if you suddenly find yourself in a cult

Well, the cult pays your mortgage so ham it up. Remember this year’s strategy? Yes, the one that was hastily written on a fag packet by a consultant paid £250,000 for half an hour’s work? Come on, you all know it off by heart now – after all, it’s just a fucking mission statement five words long. “Let’s all make more money” – or at least, that’s what it’s meant to say. Why not get it tattooed on your arm? And when the company changes tack next year because this one failed, you can claim laser surgery on your expenses. It’s painful but you’ll keep your job, you believer, you.

When the consultant pops by, make sure he knows your name. Shake his hand – some of that glory might just rub off. Congratulate him on his strategy, say that it will “drive real, tangible value for the business” and that you’re “really excited” about it.

The cult loves “excitement” – the more you ham it up, the better. They’re not very good at seeing through this kind of thing. Start working the words into your e-mail signature, use them in day-to-day communication. Why not change your name by deed poll? Get it on expenses.

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