Work Forces

An appearance by the author of The Corporate Cult: Surviving and Transforming Your Career

Lost somewhere in the gears of corporate America are the workers -- the cubicle commandos forced through a Kafkaesque existence far from the fabled American Dream of their parents. But for Dr. Diane Kasunic, it's not some dark romance for sitcom and film fodder; it's a real, Orwellian culture she has dubbed "The Corporate Cult," loosely defined as the game that has to be played between bosses and subordinates in order to get ahead -- or just to keep your position.

"There are people who know that there is a cult, and they're trying to get out; they're running scared, and they're not sure what to do," says Kasunic, who will be signing her book, The Corporate Cult: Surviving and Transforming Your Career, at Borders in Cleveland Heights. "That's how I spent most of my time."

The quick solution, of course, would be to quit your job, but unfortunately, it's not always that easy. So Kasunic used her experiences to write The Corporate Cult to help the cogs mesh a bit better with the system -- at least on an individual, internal level.

"In a way, it's defeatist," she admits of the grin-and-bear-it attitude. "But in a way, it's just reality. If you're a single mother and you've got five kids, then you have to open your senses to the cult, but not let it consume you."

Kasunic spent many years with various Fortune 100 companies before recognizing the cult of corporate politics. "I do believe it is demonic," she says. "I don't know that it's intentional, but it really is. You buy in because of all this money they're going to give you -- they want you to buy the bigger house, because then they've got you. But people don't understand they're giving up their soul."

Using epithets like "regime" and "Roman Empire" to describe the corporate structure, Kasunic paints a dark picture of overlords and field hands hidden behind white collars. And, as with any power-based system, making it better for the peons is not truly an option.

"I tried to change the system," Kasunic says. "If you fight the cult, you get fired. The people who are fighting it are leaving. That's why I'm a consultant now; because I can go in and say things that I'd be fired for if I was an employee."

But even if her suggestions were instantly implemented, she figures it will be years before the average worker sees any effects. In the meantime, she offers a heady brew of new-age philosophy, self-affirmation, and simply knowing your enemy.

"Most of us aren't whole," she says, explaining the need for activities that develop your spiritual side. "I've done two firewalks, I've done a sweat lodge, I've done extensive meditation in the mountains, I've climbed volcanoes -- I've done all this stuff, and I'm telling you, this is what you have to do to keep going."

Besides, a well-placed firewalk could put the boss in the hot seat, for once.