Ever felt like your job is a cult? I’m starting to see it that way, especially as I get older and realize how capitalism might be the root of the problem.

So, let’s dive into why your job might be a cult and how capitalism figures into the equation.

Why Capitalism is Like a Cult

It may seem like immature hyperbole to say that capitalism is a cult, but here are some reasons I think it’s worth considering.

Dogmatic beliefs: Capitalism pushes the idea that the free market is the ultimate solution, similar to how cult members think their beliefs are the only right way.

Ideology trumps compassion: Capitalism has principles like private property, competition, and individualism. Some folks argue that capitalists are too focused on these principles, even when it leads to negative consequences, making them cult-like.

Money and wealth matter: Critics say capitalism encourages a non-stop chase for wealth and accumulation, often at the expense of relationships, community, and the environment. Sounds a lot like single-minded devotion in cults.

In-group mentality: Capitalism can create an “us vs. them” mindset, dividing people into winners and losers or the “haves” and “have-nots.” This mentality mirrors the in-group/out-group dynamics in cults.

Exploitation: Some argue that capitalism creates inequality and exploits workers and resources. This exploitation can be compared to power dynamics and manipulation in cults.

Propaganda and indoctrination: Critics claim capitalism uses advertising, media, and education to promote its values, much like cults use indoctrination to control members. I’m typing this as I’m wearing a tech company hoodie and drinking coffee from another tech company’s mug. So, yeah, propaganda is powerful.

Remember, these are subjective opinions. Not everyone sees it this way. Capitalism has also been credited with innovation, economic growth, and prosperity by rich oligarchs like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. (And maybe your dad, who also has a “blue lives matter” sticker on his truck.)

How Professionals Make Capitalism Worse

Let’s face it, many of us in the corporate world make work worse by acting like cult members.

Founders and Executive Board Members: These people act like cult founders and leaders, fighting for the market and shareholders instead of customers and employees. And they never tire of telling you they’re in positions of power and you are not.

Functional Leaders: Your CFO, CTO, CHRO, and CMO can be like the four horsemen of the apocalypse, delivering bad news and often putting people at the center to blame and fire them. And let’s not forget all the other C-suite executives, too.

Directors and Managers: Ever wonder why cult leaders don’t get their hands dirty? They have a corporate structure like your workplace, with directors and managers doing the dirty work.

HR Professionals: Just like cults need people to onboard and indoctrinate recruits, companies need HR. These folks think they have power, but they really don’t.

Worker Bees: Cult leaders and executives love “the children” – the newbies chasing enlightenment (or industry transformation). Sadly, these children are often suckers for a movement and a message.

It’s wrong to blame ordinary people for the cult-like culture in our workforce. So, instead of looking for people to “fix work,” maybe we need to rethink other ways to incent people to solve problems and offer innovative solutions to customers. For example, that’s why I like universal basic income.

How to Leave a Cult

Leaving a cult or a toxic job is tough, but you must be brave. Here’s where to start:

Acknowledge the situation: Recognize the toxic environment and accept that it’s not good for you.

Seek support: Reach out to trusted friends, family, or counselors for guidance during your transition.

Embrace continuous learning: Learn from others who’ve left similar situations and gather practical information on safely disengaging.

Create an exit strategy: Develop a detailed plan for leaving, including financial preparations, alternative housing, and legal or professional help.

Prioritize your well-being: Nobody does anything brave while feeling depleted. Focus on your mental, emotional, and physical health.

Establish boundaries: Cut ties with toxic people and maintain healthy boundaries with those from your former cult or workplace. Clean up your social media and unfollow people, pages, and companies perpetuating toxicity.

Go to therapy: Quitting anything is a shock to the system. So instead, give yourself time to heal, rediscover your interests and passions, and develop new social networks outside the cult or toxic workplace.

It’s not disloyal to put yourself first. If anything, prioritizing yourself means you’re a better and more productive member of society. And it can open up a world of opportunities that weren’t visible when you were in the cult — oh, I mean, at your old job.

How We Move Forward

While capitalism has driven economic growth and innovation, some argue it shares specific cult-like characteristics. That somebody is me. Right here. Right now.

Within the corporate landscape, various roles can perpetuate these unhealthy dynamics. However, comparing capitalism and cults is a subjective opinion, not a universally shared view — except by this author. I’m sharing this view now. What do you think?

Professionals must recognize these pitfalls and create a healthier, more inclusive work environment. By cultivating a culture that prioritizes the well-being of employees, businesses can break away from the cult-like mentality and foster sustainable success.

Leaving a cult-like work environment or quitting a job may require bravery and careful planning. Evaluate your priorities, seek support from trusted friends or professionals, and create a plan that aligns with your values and goals. In the end, it’s crucial to prioritize your mental and emotional well-being over the potential gains of a toxic work culture.

Remember that, as individuals, we can change the narrative and work towards a more balanced and ethical approach to capitalism. By acknowledging the challenges and addressing them, even if they seem absurd, we can work together to create a more equitable and just society.