Tuesday, January 25, 2011

We've Got A Job Ahead (Not What You Think)

At the beginning of the year, we did a post on what the results were of our experience with NewAge Management techniques in business; namely, forcing us to quit or be fired from one job after another - with nothing to back them up - to avoid the totalitarian insanity imposed on someone who was just trying to do their job and earn a living. Now the BBC's Peter Sessions has written a devastating memoir that details his experience of being regarded as a "lunatic" for refusing, as best he could, to go along with the madness.

As much as we'd like to dwell on his NewAge revelations ("Anyone who [looks for climate change information] with a mind not closed by religious fervour,...") we'd rather point out the obvious - that we've never worked for the BBC and The Corporation isn't in the United States. So what's going on? How is it the same NewAge outlook towards management exists on both side of the ocean? Is there something happening that journalists, amongst others, aren't reporting? Of course there is. And it's strangling business, turning it not into a apparatus for making money but (as Mr. Sessions says) a "propaganda machine" for nonsense.

As Lawrence A. Pile revealed in his paper, "The Siren Call of Modern Pied Pipers", this has been accomplished by corporations falling under the sway of cult influences. Here's an excerpt:
In an article in Working Woman entitled "Wacky management ideas that work," Nancy K. Austin wrote, "... making it in modern times requires staking out brave new competitive territory. And to do that, the tool managers most urgently need is imagination."{1} Few CEOs, managers, or even shop foremen would argue with that observation. Where differences arise, however, is in proposals offered to produce or stimulate this needed imagination. Along with new or expanded imagination and creativity, corporations large and small throughout North America are increasingly looking for ways to augment productivity (and profits) by helping their employees to more effective performance through stress reduction, self-regulation, accelerated learning, and accepting a greater share of responsibility for themselves and their companies.{2}

To accomplish these commendable and even necessary goals, numerous businesses are turning to a mushrooming crop of training and consultation firms offering workshops, seminars, and courses which claim to transform employees into highly motivated and efficient visionaries and producers. Among the major corporations which have enlisted these firms are AT&T, GM, Ford, IBM, Calvin Klein, Westinghouse, Dupont, Scott Paper, Campbell Soup, Lockheed, RCA, Procter and Gamble, All State Insurance, NEC, Boeing Aerospace, General Foods, GE, and McDonald's-in short, approximately 20% of the Fortune 500 corporations,{3} plus innumerable smaller companies.

And it is not only business, but also government that is jumping on the creativity training band-wagon. The IRS, CIA, the Army, Navy, and Air Force have all engaged these training companies. Many of the trainers, however, use techniques and promote philosophies at variance with the moral and religious convictions of employees who are urged, and sometimes required, to attend the workshops.

Most often, these techniques and philosophies arise from the broad and variegated matrix of the so-called New Age Movement (NAM). And this fact has caused a great deal of controversy in and around the workplace, reported in numerous books and articles. The core of the controversy is highlighted by Arthur Johnson's statement that "There's a fine line between corporate culture and corporate cults."{4} Consider the following:

Steven Hiatt, an evangelical Christian,was fired from his job as a senior manager of a car dealership after first recommending, and then urging the cancellation of, a New Age training program offered by the Pacific Institute of Seattle. He says he became disillusioned with the program, then called "New Age Thinking," on the third night of a facilitators training workshop for employers he attended. That was when, he says, the instructor "set a very spiritual mood and began talking about life after death. He urged us to question our concepts of truth, and to set spiritual goals using the program's techniques and goals. He said the real reason for the training was to save the world." That was enough for Hiatt, who got up and walked out.{5}

William Gleaton, former manager of human resources for a Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. plant in Albany, Ga., also lost his job after objecting to a training program offered by the Pacific Institute.{6} He sued and eventually reached an out of court settlement with the company.  In May 1989 eight former employees of the DeKalb Farmers Market in Georgia also accepted an out-of-court settlement of their suit against their former employer charging that they had been fired for refusing to attend a training program they claimed promoted New Age ideas and techniques. The program in question was the Forum, said by detractors to be a watered down version of Werner Erhard's 1970s est (Erhard Seminars Training). According to the plaintiffs, "...the Forum's espousal of the supremacy of man violate[d] their belief in the primacy of God or other higher beings. Supervisors who declined to participate and recruit their employees were harassed, humiliated and interrogated."{7}

Also in 1989 five employees of an electronics company in California sued their employer for requiring them to attend "communications and time-management courses" taught by an organization, Applied Scholastics, that proved to be a branch of the controversial Church of Scientology. The employees alleged in their suit that "the training sessions amounted to recruitment and indoctrination into Scientology."{8}

In the spring of 1991 almost three dozen Broward County, Fla., employees were sent at county expense to attend training offered by Lifespring, a program similar to Werner Erhard's est and Forum. Though some workers said they enjoyed the program and even went on to further training at their own expense, other employees disliked it and balked at going further with it, while still others dropped out without completing the first sessions. According to an article in the Broward County Sun-Sentinel, "Employees were required to attend Lifespring after work, from about 6 p.m. to midnight for three days, then all day on the weekend."{9} In February 1992 Franklin County, Oh., Children Services discontinued staff training by the Forum (at taxpayers' expense) after a rash of negative news reports and complaints from the community.{10}

Why all the fuss? Simply that many of the seminars and workshops being offered promote New Age concepts to which some employees object, and they have been charged with using methods and techniques that instill these concepts without the participants' realizing what is happening.
And this is still what's going on, but in a more advanced stage of development, with The Forum (now called "The Landmark Forum") leading the way. Some companies are more open about what they're up to - such as Vancouver, Canada's Lululemon Athletica Inc., as well as Pasadena, California-based Panda Express, and the San Francisco Bay Area's Cafe Gratitude - but what they're up to is what they've always been up to - cult indoctrination techniques - and, with so many larger companies having had a drink of the Kool-Aid long ago, is it any wonder it's difficult to escape cult influence - or the wrong-headed insanity it unleashes - throughout the world?

And what kinds of problems are these programs making for the larger society? As we've mentioned before, we knew Cafe Gratitude was under cult influence after one visit, but what if someone doesn't know what's happening to them? Could they be causing trouble at home? Divorces? Other forms of chaos? Even those who don't fall for the indoctrination techniques can find themselves in trouble once they're out of work for not going along. (And even that situation can land you back under cult influence nowadays - you even get it sitting at home watching Oprah - so there's no escape.) As Lawrence A. Pile mentioned, any number of things are happening out there, including:
Marital or other relationship discord. Seemingly normal "spats" between spouses, siblings, or parents and children can be precipitated by attendance at a New Age (or other) seminar or program. The radical transformation or conversion that often occurs frequently produces a fanatic out of the convert, whether the conversion is to New Age thinking or Christian fundamentalism. Unconverted relatives normally find it difficult to endure the religious/metaphysical obsessions of the fanatic.
Think about it. The skyrocketing divorce rate, all these people with an unknown source of "fatigue", etc., might all be some form of cult strain - something no one's looking for since few even realize we're under any form of cult influence. But take it from us:

We're about as far from controllable as you can get and, believe it or not, we certainly know it's been a strain.