Rituals are usually found in the sports world and within families, but they’ve been finding their own place in offices as well. New research from the Harvard Business School, the University of Minnesota and several other universities suggests rituals can help ease anxiety and boost overall performance in the workplace.
In a recent survey conducted by Harvard, almost half of the 400 participants said they engage in some sort of a ritual before performing a task that causes anxiety. The other big benefit of rituals in the office is it helps bring teams closer together, keeping them more connected and getting them involved on a new level.
One company, Salo LLC in Minneapolis, has integrated rituals into all aspects of work life. For example, each customer request is posted on a big whiteboard, and can only be changed or erased by the person who signed the client. They also use colors to keep track of each request — it is initially written in black, updated in blue or orange and a red check mark signifies the need for new ideas. Another one of Salo’s rituals is the “pinkie-five.”
“When we are about to lock a deal down, it’s bad luck to high-five each other, because you might jinx it. So you do a ‘pinkie-five’ instead,” said Gwen Martin, managing director at Salo. The pinkie-five is simply a high-five using only your pinkie fingers.
When deals are complete at Salo, the salesperson celebrates by ringing a brass gong. Other teams within the company will celebrate victories with chest bumps and victory dances.
“Knowing they are performing a ritual puts them in a mind-set of lowering anxiety and feeling more confident,” said Francesca Gino, an associate professor at Harvard Business School.
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