Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Do You Recognize These Ten Signs Of Corporate Idolatry?

Chapter 2: Idolatry Then & Now Part 13

Corporate idolatry is the adoption of a company-first value system instead of a people-first value system.  Here are ten warning signs that you may be practicing corporate idolatry.

  1. You find yourself doing “what is best for the company” instead of “what is best.” What is best for the company is not necessarily what is best for customers, employees or the public.  Further, what is best for the company is subjective, and need not adhere in any way to people-first values.
  2. You joke that you are “married to the company.”  Both Hosea and Ezekiel portray idolatry as the betrayal of a marriage relationship, where one partner (God) has supported and nurtured the other (the people of Israel) who betray the relationship by worshipping other gods.  And in Ezekiel, why does the spouse take on other lovers?  In Hosea, the wife betrays the relationship for money; in Ezekiel it is for the pleasure of having another lover. “For Ezekiel, the motifs of losing control and forgetting are central to the sin of idolatry.[i]
  3. Persistent feedback from your spouse or partner that you are working too many hours. There can only be one top priority.  It can’t be both work and family.
  4. You are experiencing mental health and stress-related illnesses. Taking a company-first attitude means that personal health comes second or later.
  5. You work more than 60 hours per week and make a six-figure salary.  Productivity significantly decreases above 40 hours per week.  In my opinion, working 60 hours is beyond what is needed for survival and has become a habit or a hobby.
  6. You don’t care how you treat people at work.
  7. You are considered “successful” in your career, but are often feel unfulfilled in a way that you cannot define.  To go new age for a moment, this is your spiritual side talking to you.  True happiness comes from connections to other people, and for some, a spiritual connection to something larger than themselves.
  8. Someone says that you are “drinking the cool aid.”  This phrase comes from the terrible events of the Jonestown massacre, when people committed ritual suicide at the behest of their cult leader.  This type of intermediary worship is forbidden by the Second Commandment.
  9. Your boss skips key political meetings, asking you can handle them on your own.  This dynamic is another form of blind obedience.  In some cases, the boss may be setting you up to take the fall.  See Chapter 4 for more.
  10. Feeling indispensible to the company and above politics.  From the interviews I conducted, people who were caught up in a company-first attitude often felt that the company depended on them, which served as a rationalization for working longer hours and the sacrifice of family and personal time.

When I was caught up in corporate idolatry, my life featured eight things on this list. Remember that idolatry is a lifestyle, not an isolated mistake. I found a way to quickly change my life, and as you continue to read, so will you.

[i] Idolatry by Moshe Habertal and Avishai Margali.  Translated by Naomi Goldblum.  Harvard University Press.  (1992) p12-17.


  1. I got 8/10 as well. Thankfully, that was a couple of companies ago.

    I’m amazed how people put their company first and their life second even when they say they are “family people.”

    I think it boils down to our conditioning and not wanting to look like a “loser.”

    Our culture loves to tell us we are losers if we don’t come in first, kill ourselves for the company or don’t wear the right clothes. It’s a really harsh word that implies we choose the path to being a loser when it might just be we were unfortunate.

    Keep up the great posts. I really enjoy them and I can’t wait to buy the book.

  2. Greg Marcus says

    Hi Jarie,

    There are a lot of rationalizations that allow people to keep the family-first self image. It was very painful for me to to realize that my family was in fact NOT first in my life. And as you say, there are a lot of messages and pressures that come into play to encourage that company first, must do it all lifestyle.

    Glad you are enjoying the book so far, and thanks for the encouragement!


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