Is Being a Cult Really a Bad Thing?

I’m fascinated by US-based cults. I’ll watch and read anything that’s related to any of the notorious cults: Jonestown, The Manson Family, Children of God, and so forth. (Even The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.)

The subject raises so many questions: How is it possible that all of these people became so devoted to one person? Why don’t/didn’t they just pick up and leave? The oversimplified answer is that the people in charge create an environment so stifling and manipulative that people just lose all their good sense—or, they are cut off from all that they love, value and hold true.

By now we’ve all heard about tech companies being cult-like. Some have even called Bluebeam a cult of sorts. And we certainly raise eyebrows in the community when we are all out and about in our Bluebeam T-shirts, either because we have an event, it’s a group picture day, or we get lazy with our laundry around the same time.

I recently mentioned this notion of Bluebeam being a cult to a friend, who replied, “You know, it’s good for company culture when everyone bands together and feels a sense of greater purpose.”

That hit the nail on the head. If you comb through interviews with ex-cult members, they invariably mention that before joining the cult, they had a deep desire to achieve something bigger than themselves, and they really believed at the time that the organization would help them achieve that. We can all relate to that on some level, can’t we? To an extent, of course.

At Bluebeam, our purpose is real: We are improving the way our world is built. We’re helping our users open hospitals faster, restore communities, keep skyscraper occupants safe...and generally, we want to make the world a better place. With that kind of mission, it’s easy to see why we can get carried away with our collective ambition—and it’s not a fantasy.

Let me state the obvious: real cults are dangerous. A cluster of employees who enjoy each other’s company is hardly the same as a group of people who are being controlled and manipulated. Bear in mind, this is coming from someone who personally prefers to avoid our video dance numbers, celebratory ribbon-dancing, happy hours that consist of more than 10 people, etc. And you know what? I’m still here, happily. I am friends with my co-workers. And I, among many others, have not been ostracized for not participating in some of our activities. (I do participate in a few, of course. I do like these people.)

So maybe we can stop using the term “cult-like” to describe a group of employees who are, perhaps, a bit more fanatical social than your average coworkers. They’re just... enthusiastic. Think about a time when you were among a group of like-minded people— maybe at college, summer camp, a music festival... Did you feel like you were being pressured to do things you wouldn’t do in your right mind (sober)? Or did you just feel like you were a part of something great, outsider opinions be damned? That’s what working for a good company is like. And you belong, even if you don’t ribbon-dance.

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Is Being a Cult Really a Bad Thing?
Samantha Finken

Samantha is a Copy Editor for Bluebeam. She enjoys photography, reading non-fiction, and pretending she does yoga regularly.