Conclusion: McKinsey as Cult?
McKinsey emphasises its difference from other firms: it is ‘unique’. It claims that its practices differ from that of dominant business ideology.2 Its staff have common beliefs and values, they are similarly ‘extraordinary’ and hardworking. Like any corporation, it will have a centralised authority structure, with hierarchical roles and routes of progression. It certainly makes a distinction between itself and other firms. It also distinguishes a clear ‘us’ which implies a ‘not us’ that is, a ‘them’. Further, the employees also identify with McKinsey, adopting the first person plural ‘we’ and arranging their lives around their work. Long hours and international relocation require that kind of commitment. There is further anecdotal evidence that staff are told how to dress, which public places they should frequent for entertainment and so forth. However, personal conversation with people in the industry suggests that this is more self-censorship than explicit control. The employees work in teams and are rarely left by themselves in a professional capacity (something usually remarked upon in ex-member accounts about cults). The commitment that is required means that separation from friends and family, especially if international relocation is involved, is inevitable. It is well known that, ‘the travel, the hours and the difficulty of maintaining a personal life’3 are an intrinsic part of working for McKinsey.
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