Rituals and their importance in the workplace

Posted by Andrew McGiffert |09 Aug 13 | 0 comments

Rituals and their importance in the workplace

Rituals have significance in everything we do. All over the world, people in pain turn to rituals to face loss, dressing in black after losing a loved one, burning love letters at the end of a relationship, or shaking hands with the winning team after losing a match. But what is the point of these rituals.

Some rituals are related to culture, religion, superstition and sometimes they must just be habit. Research into sports psychology by Harvard University has revealed that wearing a favourite pair of socks or performing a sequence of events before a match can help in increasing an individuals happiness. If a person can be persuaded to make better rituals, they could be made to be happier, in turn increasing productivity.

Think of the simple business ritual of the handshake. A paper published in the December 2012 issue of the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience found that handshaking not only increases the positive effect toward a favourable interaction but also diminishes the impact of a negative impression.

Many of our social interactions may go wrong for a reason or another, and a simple handshake preceding them can give us a boost and attenuate the negative impact of possible misunderstandings.

Effective rituals connect our team members to each other, to their leaders, and to our compelling cause. These might be as simple as bringing in doughnuts to celebrate employee birthdays; hosting regular social events or sharing a proud moment at the beginning of every staff meeting.

Yum! Brands is the world’s largest restaurant company–it owns Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, Long John Slivers and A&W. To start each staff meeting, all employees all do the YUM! cheer, and it’s an honor to be asked to lead it. Everyone participates, every time, with everything they have. The Yum Cheer by CEO David Novak goes like this:

Give me a Y.

Give me a U.

Give me an M.

What’s that spell? What’s that spell? What’s that spell?

Team cheers and chants can come across as very corny, if done properly they can be an energizing and fun way to connect with one another, but only if it fits their culture.

Effective rituals–those which incorporate a business’s specific culture–build connections. That’s why it’s essential to select rituals that fit your leadership style and the chemistry of your team. It has to feel comfortable and natural for everyone in order to work.

Could your team use a ritual to connect? Take a moment to think about creating something fun, easy and meaningful. Keep it simple. Start with just one ritual, stick to it, and don’t compromise it.

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