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Intruding into the Workplace

Article Index
Intruding into the Workplace
Clarification of New Age
A Clash in the Workplace
Violation of Civil Rights
What Goes On in an LGAT?
The Impact
Development of a New Age Training
Program: A Case Example
Problems with Being Transformed at Work
Management Courses and Worker Responses
Additional examples
The Forum and Transformational Technologies
What happened at two companies ...
Jumping on the Bandwagon
Psychological Casualties
Buyer Beware, Thought-Reform
Processes at Work

An excerpt from the book Cults In Our Midst

by Dr. Margaret Singer

Copyright 1995 by Margaret Singer.
Published by Jossey-Bass Publishers

There are many advancement programs, workshops, seminars, and training sessions currently utilized by companies and corporations in the United States and elsewhere that are legitimate in their intentions and often effective in their outcomes. Some of these programs have incorporated new ideas and new ways of thinking, which is why, on occasion, they are referred to as New Age training programs. This in itself does not make them harmful or of evil intent. Yet, a small but significant portion of these programs are not what they appear to be. In some cases, they are fronts for cults or other organizations using thought-reform processes that can cause considerable psychological harm and turmoil and can even precipitate psychoses in some employees without delivering any increased skill, productivity, profit, or other purported benefit.

Several years ago, the executive vice president of the American Society for Training and Development estimated that $150 million was being spent annually by U.S. businesses on suspicious training programs. This may not seem like a lot compared to the billions of dollars spent overall in this country on motivational training, but when we consider the loss of time as well as money on programs that produce no positive job related effect and merely seek to sell more and more seminars, when we realize the distress caused to employees who are unprepared for the emotional and psychological duress of some of the sessions, when we realize the intrusion into personal beliefs perpetrated by those programs that misrepresent themselves, then we see a trend of impact on everyday life that cannot be ignored.

Certain programs introduced into industrial and office settings have been causing particular criticism and alarm. Sold under the guise of management and communication courses, these programs are frequently purported in advertisements and word-of-mouth sales to be able to "motivate" and even "transform" employees. The details of what motivation and transformation involve are usually left vague but cryptically promising.

There are three primary reasons for discussing such programs in this book. The first is to reiterate the ever-present need to evaluate the premises beneath the various offerings that are made to us daily. We must always ask ourselves, Who is this person offering me some new cure-all, some religious, political, social, psychological, health-related, or other life pathway that he wants me to purchase and follow?

The second reason is to bring attention to the fact that certain training programs use the same types of intense influence techniques that are identical with cults. Also, many of these programs are actually recruiting venues for certain cults. Cults have put on three-piece suits and come directly into the workplace, disguised as self-improvement management courses.

The third reason is that the philosophy of life espoused in many of these programs falls within the realm of religious issues and personal belief systems, an important matter for many people. Underneath some New Age offerings there sometimes lies a philosophical and spiritual cosmology, a theory on the nature and principles of the universe. New Age cosmology generally views reality as one unitary organic whole with no independent parts, and this cosmology constitutes a belief system or religion that, at root, differs from, say, Christianity or Judaism.

A 1992 Gallup Poll reveals that more and more Americans -now 58 percent- consider religion to be "very important" in their lives. According to the Gallup organization's 1992-93 report "Religion in America," 89 percent of Americans single out a religious preference, with 82 percent reporting that they are Christian, and 2 percent, Jewish. Two-tenths of 1 percent are Muslim, while one tenth of 1 percent hold Hindu beliefs.

In legal cases brought before U.S. courts by employees who were made to attend training programs of various kinds, the employees noticed that there were "religious" differences between their own beliefs, which are constitutionally protected, and the cosmology or philosophy put forth by these training programs. These citizens were the first to alert the public to this encroachment on our freedom in the workplace.