debtor ordinary people Nothing beats the coronation of Charles III on May 6th. The ceremony takes place at Westminster Abbey, where monarchs have been crowned since William the Conqueror in 1066. In other situations, this kind of behavior warrants a medical diagnosis. But traditional alchemy is meant instead to evoke a sense of continuity and ideas of shared history.
Rituals are also a big part of corporate life. As much as some CEOs might like the idea of robes and thrones, nothing matches the level of weirdness of a coronation ceremony. there is. Some are internal. The repetitive rhythm of performance reviews, weekly meetings, budget processes, and farewell parties are all ritualistic. Others are more public, from investor days to conference calls with analysts. The pandemic has spawned many new habits, from regular events designed to lure people into the office to hours dedicated to focused work.
Business rituals can occur spontaneously. It’s an informal game of office bingo when you use your boss’s favorite jargon. You can also keep it completely private. There is no rule that business travelers must check the minibar when entering a hotel room. He must be ridiculously pleased if the hotel manager writes him a welcome letter. If there is a plate of fruit, he must eat it all at once.
A prime example of a set piece ceremony is the Annual General Meeting of Shareholders. As a way of getting things done, this format is terrifying. Information that shareholders actually need is available elsewhere. Many people delegate their voting rights to others. Many people come just for the sandwiches.
But as a ritual, it is important. The board of directors enters and sits on the podium. Some of them may say nothing at all. The boss makes a presentation to show that the shareholders don’t want a better set of managers. Yes, it performs well, but when it’s as bloodless as corporate governance, a little performance is not bad. Annual meetings serve as a physical reminder of who is accountable to whom.
Standard rituals of this kind can evolve into company-specific ones. Amazon has attached a copy of its first letter to shareholders in 1997 to everyone it has published since, demonstrating that the underlying spirit persists as the world around them changes.
Rituals are also used as a way to build culture and team spirit. There is a long-standing practice in the financial industry of giving a “tombstone” to a customer or banker when a transaction is completed. The original tombstone was a newspaper advertisement and was so called because it was arranged in a manner similar to the inscription on the tombstone. The modern version is sometimes called a “deal toy”. Lucite may not have much intrinsic value, but the ritual survives as part reward, part commemoration, and part bragging. There are occasional low-involvement rituals of celebration, such as the ringing of bells and the ringing of gongs.
Even simple rituals can promote a sense of community and purpose among your employees. A paper published in 2021 by Tami He Kim and co-authors at the University of Virginia asked volunteers to participate in a series of body movements before beginning a brainstorming exercise. Some looked at each other during this warmup, some didn’t. Those who maintained eye contact rated the brainstorming that followed as more meaningful.
But turning everything into a ritual also risks getting messy. The only thing worse than an unnecessary meeting is an unnecessary meeting with pre-stretching. Inviting colleagues over for a regular meal and calling it a “great Friday” is most appealing to those who otherwise have a “friendless Friday.” It’s an ordeal. Kim’s paper refers to a digital agency that hosts regular sessions where employees share personal stories about life-changing moments. It is also possible to cut it into four pieces. If there’s a golden rule of corporate ritual, it’s that it should make people feel like they belong. ■
Read more from management and work columnist Bartleby:
If most people think you’re a bad boss, you’re a bad boss. (April 23rd)
What are good office perks? (April 20)
How to Become a Superstar on Zoom (April 13)
Also: How the Bartleby column got that name
https://www.economist.com/business/2023/05/04/a-short-guide-to-corporate-rituals A Brief Guide to Corporate Ceremonies