The Homepage of Cyrus Kirkpatrick – Author / Researcher

8 Signs You’re a Slave Instead of an Employee


Literal slavery is a horrible practice that still persists into the modern age. But, I want to talk about another form of human exploitation–employment slavery, which can also ruin a person’s life. Generally, I consider this a self-inflicted slavery because it’s ultimately a person’s choice to work under such conditions—but I also understand that brainwashing can occur, creating the illusion that there’s no way out.

Slavery (in general) exists because of the inclination among people to obtain the benefits of human resources, while providing little (or nothing) in return. Human work is the most intelligent, efficient way to create a system of wealth and power. For the morally bankrupt, such benefits are sought for free.

Employment, in the best case scenario, is a business deal of mutual benefit. But in other instances, the company is expending such minimal resources that they are taking advantage of you. In the worst case scenario, through a combination of slave-driving principles and psychological techniques to break you down, such a job can morph into something very similar to actual slavery.

If you don’t know any better, it’s easy to fall into slavery conditions. Here are signs that your sense of freedom in life is totally gone:

You Work at Minimal Wage for a Big Company

Because of the way employers conveniently ignore yearly inflation, today’s minimal wage is not enough to maintain any semblance of a normal lifestyle. Minimal wage makes some sense in small businesses just starting out. But, In America, $8.25 an hour, or less, from a large, billion-dollar corporation is inexcusable. In this case, your annual wages cost a second of the company’s hourly profits. In other words, your hard work is a very bad deal for you, and a killer opportunity for the suits upstairs.

You’re Told You Can’t Do Any Better

bad guy boss

“You’re lucky you even have a job!” is a psychological taunt that bad employers use to try and keep their wage-slaves from believing they can do any better. Such statements are made to maintain a sense of control. Understand, voluntary slavery is not a rare phenomenon. It happens when a person is brainwashed into the belief that they have nowhere else they can go.

If your manager uses psychological put-downs like this to denigrate your professional abilities–understand that it’s being done for a reason.

You Can’t Move Up

The idea of getting a raise and a promotion may be dangled in-front of you, but you’ve seen no evidence to suggest that it really happens. In fact, only a very small percentage of your co-workers ever obtain this goal, and they tend to be the cronies of upper-management. If this is the case, then what exactly is your reason for working at this company?

They Engage in Scheduling Abuse


Inconvenient hours are inevitable in jobs, but some companies will abuse the system. This ranges from illegally denying overtime pay, to scheduling month-long bouts of “cloping” (working until closing hours late at night, then opening hours the next morning) that leaves the employee physically and emotionally drained.

An employee in this system may feel the intense pressure by the bosses to conform to abusive hours, under the threat of being denied promotions or even getting fired for seeking better treatment.

Vacation Time is Discouraged

America’s two-week annual vacation time is one of the weakest in the Western world, and American workers tend to not even use it. This is because many employers will hint that vacationers are likely to end up on the shit-list of not getting promoted. They may even hint that unruly vacation-seekers will be the first to get laid-off or fired at the earliest opportunity.

A system of slavery does not allow free-time for individuals to maintain their own lives outside of their work. This could cause dissent and break the system of total control. An unspoken methodology among abusive managers is to destroy the lifestyles of employees so, instead of tending to family or hobbies, they work at full capacity.

You’re Terrified of Your Bosses

Theon Greyjoy Torture Dungeon

Feeling motivated based on high-standards and being scared to go below those standards is one thing, but being genuinely scared of the people you’re working for is another.

Slave-masters maintain systems of fear, to break down their subjects and perhaps—in time—build them back up. For the best example of this—please see Theon Greyjoy in Game of Thrones.

Psychological and verbal abuse is usually what occurs. An abusive employer understands exactly what strings to pull to generate feelings of shame or guilt, and they’ll use the professional context to destroy a subject’s sense of self-worth, perhaps by implying worthlessness at the vocation they’ve devoted their life to.

In other instances, the abuse is very overt and could include yelling, tantrums and even physical assaults. But the outcome is the same: the employee living in a constant state of paranoia, fear, and subservience.

The Workplace Exhibits Cult-Like Conditions

Read carefully the ten warning-signs you’re in a cult by the Cult Education Institute. Some of these that could be very applicable to a workplace include: absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability, no tolerance for questions or critical inquiry, the leader (boss) is always right, and former followers (employees) are vilified as evil for leaving.

If the job feels less about, you know, getting the job done–and is more about the influence, charisma and infallibility of the boss—then get the heck out of there. This means the person in charge is getting a side-benefit to running or managing the workplace: power and dominance.

You Work as an Intern

intern messy desk

The number one sign you’re a slave and not an employee is that you’re working an unpaid internship, and it’s not for college credit. You may be promised great benefits and valuable “connections”, at what amounts to harsh workplace conditions, long hours, and zero pay.

A huge mistake I see young professionals make, and it really irks me, is naivety about people’s intentions. I went to film school for my bachelor’s, and many students I knew lusted after top internships at film studios or with big names in the entertainment industry. Such internships are often offered regardless of college credit.

When a person is blindsided by their desire to “make it” and get in with big names, they are likely to make bad decisions—and unscrupulous employers will prey on this desire.

Internships are great IF it’s part of a student’s actual curriculum. It means hands-on work and real experience versus useless classrooms. But, the questionable non-credit “internships” I warn about also exist to lure young people into systems of slavery. It’s gotten so bad these types of arrangements are quickly becoming illegal in California.

The reality of such internships is that the slave-drivers only desire one thing: unpaid work. There is NO promise that you will “move up” or land any type of a paid job. When your internship finishes, they will discard you and find the next victim.

The biggest reason to avoid internships is the mentality behind the deal. Imagine a law firm or a film studio that is a multi-billion dollar operation. How hard would it be to throw their new recruit at LEAST minimum wage? The fact such a company would, despite their huge profits, still desire unpaid labor is indicative of a slave-driving mentality that funnels wealth to the top at the expense of the people on the bottom making it possible.

As a professional, it would be best for you to avoid doing any type of business with any individual or company that possesses a philosophy like this.

In Summary

Employment-slavery situations are common. Very common. But ultimately, the biggest factor in determining how bad it is, is a single question: are you happy?

If you are happy at $8.25 an hour with no benefits, because you like the people you work with, you like the nature of the work, and you feel it’s moving you somewhere you want to be—then it’s not slavery. You’re making an investment that’ll either pay off, or it won’t—but at least you enjoy what you’re doing.

However, if you are miserable in your current conditions, it’s quite possible that the uneasy feeling in your gut is your intuition telling you that someone is taking advantage of you.

Employment is supposed to be a business contract, and an exchange of services. Never a system of control. Sometimes, just the willingness to walk away is your strongest defense against a terrible job situation.

For more about avoiding systems of employment-slavery, please see my short books: Freedom: How to Make Money From Your Dreams and Ambitions, and How to Quit Your Job: Escape Soul Crushing Work, Create the Life You Want, and Live Happy.

(For more books, also check out the Developed Life bookstore,

40 thoughts on “8 Signs You’re a Slave Instead of an Employee

  1. Here’s a good way to tell if you are a slave.

    1) Calculate the lowest cost of living feasible while meeting all basic needs, including food, shelter, and reasonable security.
    I think you’ll find that the “suits upstairs” have made this nearly impossible. But there’s a “living wage” calculator at MIT that’s
    better than nothing. Other than that, the US government censors basically anything except cost of living indexes, which are relative.

    2) Subtract your lowest cost of living, which I’ll refer to as “minimum living expenses,” from your after-tax income. Let the result be called real income, since slaves would presumably have those expenses covered for them.
    If the value is negative, you are earning less than a slave would. Congratulations, chattel slaves make more money than you do. The positive value is the money you can spend on free choices, including more expensive substitutes (like a residence bigger than an inexpensive studio.)

    3) Trace the positive quantity to ensure that it’s not going to expenses such as interest or protection fees. In order to be free, you must be able to decide what to do with your own after expense income.

    Your real income, as long as it can be freely spent, is the measure of the financial freedom you have. A slave has none. A wage-slave often has less financial freedom than a chattel slave. At least, if freed, a chattel slave would have no outstanding debt.

    I tried to avoid standard economic and statistical jargon, as these are largely exploitative mysticism. I hope you enjoyed my analysis. Now watch as exactly no one reads this. Vote for me.

  2. Edit:

    I’ll add that unpaid internships are actually a good deal, since entirely every good job on the market requires previous work experience, which most people don’t have for the job in question. In all honesty, that means that these aren’t new jobs but merely invitations to transfer from one department in the military industrial complex to another compartment. A job transfer is not a new job on the market. For simplicity sake, ONLY entry level jobs are new jobs and if and only if they:

    1) require no experience
    2) are reasonably likely to hire you as an anonymous individual with related academics or other basic demonstrated interest.

    Look carefully, and you’ll find that there are basically no jobs like that at all in the economy except minimum wage jobs or unpaid internships.

    If your dad isn’t Ron Paul or you aren’t part of some favored political identity, good luck landing that sweet job without doing it for free for awhile.

  3. The issue is not paying a poor intern minimal wage. A big company can afford to pay someone eight bucks an hour, which is truly a minimal amount to get by. The temptation of free work makes many internship employers start just cycling through their free labor. Now it all works fine in school, you get that experience you need, and you get college credit, but I’ve seen so often companies promise some type of position after an internship fades, just to boot the guy or gal out and get a new intern. As for the addition to the resume – OK, that’s great – but how much have you lost to slightly increase your chance of landing a job?

  4. Schools push their students to take internships. Schools are just employee mills. I used to tell students who came to where I worked to observe, never to work free. Never. Some said they’d do it for the experience. I said, You’re not an employee, so how do you say you worked there? I asked what made them think eventually they’d get paid? They will just find another free grad. I get appalled by the “Positive thinking” crowd. I got called a “pessimist” Thinking that everyone will treat you as nicely as you treat them is just naive. These people will reap the rewards of their arrogant, obstinate thinking. They think they are the next big thing.

  5. State involvement in economics is at the root of almost all socioeconomic ills. Corporatism (Crony Capitalism) exists only because of the government. It then becomes the forced and accepted norm. But this is merely economic Ideology, not natural economics. Hence the slave believes she is free, and her master is the biggest proponent of big government. The illusion of huge societal breakdowns and build-ups is created and the State benefits regardless.

    The answer lies in voluntary Capitalism or in “Laissez faire Capitalism”; or the elimination of government from economics. This gives the state no motivation for compulsory fines, taxes, or imprisonment, and supports a healthy society with a strong but limited government.

  6. Pink Photons, I never DID GET the positive thinking crowd. For me–at first–I was a realist, but people kept pushing being positive, especially when I was a Christian (I’m not Christian anymore because of that mentality), because being positive meant -I found out- that it closes the door to critical thinking thus questioning the system, puts the blinders on you (i.e. denial), and depending on others (that’s covertly evil). I was just fine until they keep pushing that dogma unto me. It worked (the positive thinking) for a short while, but ONLY because I had a gut feeling that something good was about to happen. But when I’m told to be positive when something bad was happening, THE BAD THING HAPPENED. I’m so glad I got out of this thinking. I destroyed me, but I’m slowly building myself back up.
    Another thing, those with “positive thinking” shuts off their intuition and are open to attacks from narcissists and psychopaths, and these creatures feed on emotions, then exploit them.

  7. Alexis, yes, I know, it’s like some kind of a drug. There’s a difference about being hopeful. But I’ve talked to people who say they only associate with “positive energy people”. Okay, that’s like being around people all jacked up on life. People who are struggling to get by, or are more cerebral aren’t going to be like that.
    What’s good when you stop that stuff…you really KNOW what is good vs bad for you.

  8. The whole “unpaid internship” is a newer concept. No one would have ever expected you to “work free” long ago. Yeah, you’re getting experience, but you are ALWAYS getting experience when working. So who decides when you have enough experience to be paid?
    It really isn’t like the person is standing around watching, either. Younger people have been so conditioned to think that this is normal, and they have to always sacrifice. As long as they can get people to work for little or no wages, this will get worse.

  9. Everything in the article is correct, from the “cultism” to the long hours. I had one job where I got off work at 7am, got home at 8am and was expected to be back at 3pm. When I brought this up to my boss, he dismissed it.

  10. I’ve been looking for another job. I lost my full time job about a year ago, when the owner let everyone go, and replaced us with inexperienced people right out of school.
    Since then, I haven’t been able to find a full time job. Not even a part time job. I have 4 places that I do Per diem work with, and there is no guaranteed hours or pay. Sometimes, I make enough to save for the next month, and sometimes, it gets very lean. There is company cronyism and favoritism to deal with, too.

    So I just can’t quit my job. I need an income. Unless you have enough money to just go buy land and grow your own food, you need some kind of an income. No income means facing being homeless and I don’t even want to think about that one.

    People think that if you’re poor, you can go live off the land. Actually, it takes quite a bit of money to do that. Land is expensive, then you need money to either build a shelter or buy a manufactured home.

    You need tools and supplies.
    You need to maintain some kind of vehicle, unless you REALLY want to isolate off.
    You need to have a nest egg of money, in case you need medical care–unless you’ve decided that if something goes wrong, you’re going to let it be your time to go and let it take you out.

    I might take a look at your book. I know your site here is to sell your book, and I get that, and I don’t agree that I can “just quit my job” but you’ve made some good points repeatedly, and I want to see what you have to say.

  11. I am interested to see how you thought navigate the current economic situation. It seems everything has been invented,or it takes a company with a lot of money to R&D something.
    Most of the “new” inventions are just cell phone apps.
    To start a business, you have to have something you know will sell. You can’t afford to go into something and know there’s a huge possibility of failing. It’s like a boxer going into the ring and knowing he will lose. How do you support yourself while you develop a business? Where do you get the money? So many people have a second income in the home, so they can quit and let the spouse support them, while they start a business. They aren’t going to starve.

    I saw a comment in your book about people going into healthcare. “I’ve known people whose calling is healthcare.” So many people go into healthcare to have a job. I doubt most of the people who go into healthcare have this overwhelming altruism and caring for people they don’t even know.

    It doesn’t mean someone isn’t “the right fit for the job”. Someone who isn’t so giving might be technically good and be focused on doing things well for self-satisfaction. But the patient benefits from this. The opposite is the bubbly, perky do-gooder who is a big show but incompetent.

    The problem with most of these jobs is…you can’t get ahead. Not nowadays. Everything costs too much, and wages in some fields are down, with no cost of living or merit increases. As you pointed out in your article above, no place to move up to. Or having to deal with favoritism, where you did a good job and all the right things, and someone’s friend gets the manager job.

  12. Photons, we are in the middle of an entrepreneurial revolution. The old idea of outer dependence on a job or a boss is limited in the new era i.e. jobs or bosses can be used as a tool to sharpen your creative entrepreneurial (self-reliance) skills. The new era is one of independence or interdependence in the sense that individual strength is what will bring natural cohesion and strength to our nation.

    Obama and company are using codependency as a means to usher in their altruistic view of the world not knowing that it is leading us into a hell of sorts.

    The only way we can reclaim this country is by reclaiming ourselves individually. No one outside of ourselves can figure this out for us. The more we move away from the downward spiral of the codependent (the narcissist, the sociopath (malignant narcissist), the more we are able to find ways to move toward vitality.

    This process is what the narcissist in Obama and his constituent cannot and will not face. They are literally adult children reenacting past trauma. Codependency is like a disease–a behavioral mechanism used to cope with the scars of unresolved trauma/PTSD.

    It can be a brutal and nightmarish path, but its the only good fight there is.

  13. Polar, I agree, but only in theory. Actually becoming independent is very very hard. Not saying some can’t do it. And yes, it’s definitely worth pursuing. Like escaping from a prison. The benefits outweigh the risks.
    I don’t know where people come up with the money to start businesses. There aren’t many “angel investors” around. Most people have someone to rely on, while they build a business. If you have to support yourself while trying to do so, plus come up with money for the business, it’s very hard.

  14. When people gave up their farms with the Industrial Revolution and moved to the cities (this also happened more recently in China), they thought it would be easier than hoping that conditions would favor their crops every year. But while farming was hard, they had more freedom and didn’t have to work for intimidating bosses and such.
    Which brings up the topic…I’ve worked at a lot of places, and I’ve seen the same thing, time and time again. Good bosses are rare, but it seems most bosses are put in those manager or supervisory positions because they know how to intimidate people and run them around. I’ve met bosses, that when you bring up a real problem, something that needs to be resolved or the situation will get worse, just change the subject or say they can’t deal with it because they are going to lunch. But you don’t get a lunch break.
    That’s why I agree with Cyrus on the slave thing. I’ve called it “slavery” as long as I can remember. Most bosses are just slavedrivers, and don’t care about motivating employees through good means.

  15. I’m reading your book. It’s well written. You do a great job of identifying the problems with being a slave. But so far, no real answers. If you are able to travel across the globe, then you have money. Just the airfare alone is huge. So if you can afford to travel, why do you need to work then? I wouldn’t be able to come up with thousands of dollars for flights, hotels, food–even if you go frugal, it still costs a lot.
    Traveling isn’t going to get me a better job, or help me start a business. I disagree about getting a website and a business card. For what? You have to have some idea of what business you are starting or doing. All of those things cost money, and until you know what you’re doing, it’s wasting money. Do I have a plan of what to go into business doing? Heck no! I have absolutely no idea of what I could do and have the money to build the business. I haven’t given up.
    You’re book is good for people who don’t know why their jobs are making them unhappy, and I don’t mean to to dismiss your book!

  16. Sounds like RHP Properties! Wow! Scary and horrendous. Praying for everyone is these predicaments.

  17. You’ve got to have some kind of idea or a valuable skill. With neither you have to be smarter or willing to work harder than your peers or both.

    No path is easy besides being born into the right family.

    Aside from that you have to know your own worth and understand your true master is your spending.

  18. Even offshore IT some companies consider their employees as slaves managers are like man eaters forcing people to work continously and making them sick without allowing leaves

  19. I think it goes on all of the time, but people are uncomfortable about talking about it. They don’t to talk about how they get pushed around at work because it interferes with their “self-esteem”, or they don’t want to relive uncomfortable moments.

  20. Its true you cant argue the fact its sad to see people working many hours for money that cant even pay your rent alone this country is falling apart!!!!! How does everything you buy eberything bills go way up and your pay does not go up!!!!!! Unreal!!!!! Sad america is not what it used to be!!!

  21. Many think just b/c a place looks good on the outside there aren’t folks working like slaves on the inside with little to no money, benefits, hours, etc …! That is how my situation stands at 60 years old living with a 80 year old mother who is still working the same deplorable conditions as a cashier …!

  22. You’ve got to have some kind of idea or a valuable skill. With neither you have to be smarter or willing to work harder than your peers or both.

    No path is easy besides being born into the right family.

    Aside from that you have to know your own worth and understand your true master is your spending.

    BIG Business is meant to sink or swim, and we’re ALL given 3 blessings; time, money and talent …! Don’t share those with others, we will find our own in jeopardy soon enough …!

    There lies the problem …NO ONE is willing to train as they are so busy living in a paranoid delusional world for fear if they train any individual, the Boss will terminate them, and give their job to the person they trained …! Plus they also are not getting paid extra to train or supervise any one, nor do they have the title to go with the job of training them …! How do I know this …!?! I have seen it done to the individual that trained me …!

  23. Pinkphotons
    I lost my full time job about a year ago, when the owner let everyone go, and replaced us with inexperienced people right out of school
    Similar situation to me. Though the idiot who took over the shop where i work is torturing the experienced staff to the point where many of us are handing in our resignations and leaving. And yes he is hiring a bunch of part time school kids. In my instance, i have an online income, decent savings and a new job almost confirmed, so i planned my exit carefully.

  24. You See The Big Bosses They won’t empower you they will make sure that you think without the job you’re nothing

    They take advantage of your home situation

    I was even working on a holidays the guy was gay he even had sex with me because I was afraid of losing my job

    One day I refused that’s how I lost my job

    If they was equality they world might be a better place

    I live with this pain everyday

    I live with resentment

    I hope one day to find inner peace

    I didn’t choose to come from a poor background

    Slavery is real

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