Do you ever try to avoid the number 13, or act a little more cautiously on Friday the 13th? How about throwing salt over your shoulder if you happen to spill some? These are just a few of the rituals and superstitions that we engage in, often without even giving it much thought. They often become second nature to us. When it comes to your employees, it is much the same thing.
By taking the time to observe the natural rituals and superstitions of your employees, and then engraining the positive ones into the normal practices of your business, you can actually give your business a boost. When people feel they have their “lucky rabbit’s foot” or go through their “lucky chant,” their productivity increases. After all, we are all a result of our beliefs.
Identifying Rituals and Superstitions
If you have never noticed any rituals or superstitions in your employees, there is a good chance you just haven’t been paying much attention. Most people have them, to one degree or another. Even those who are famous and successful have particular rituals and superstitions that they follow and believe have contributed to their success.
For example, take the National Hockey League players who, during playoff season, live by the ritual of not shaving. They sport a beard through the entire playoff season, because they believe it will bring them the luck to win the Stanley Cup. How about David Beckham, who wears a new pair of soccer shoes for every game, or Michael Jordan, who always wore his North Carolina shorts under his uniform?
Whether we talk about reading daily horoscopes, crossing your fingers, or having a lucky pen, rituals and superstitions play a big role in our lives.
The Benefits of Rituals and Superstitions
There are many reasons why people engage in various rituals and superstitions. They can be influenced by cultural beliefs, life experiences, and our own ideas about what helps us to succeed. That’s something that only we can identify with. Some of the benefits to having rituals and superstitions include:
- People will perform better when they believe in the power of the rituals and superstitions. This is why, with your employees, it has to be their rituals and superstitions.
- Rituals help to increase familiarity and ease anxiety. Even though we cannot exert control over everything that may happen in a day, we can control certain elements, such as wearing our lucky hat or using our lucky pen.
- When rituals give the person a sense of control, it also increases their confidence. Whether it is Tiger Woods using calming rituals on the golf course or a sales person wearing their lucky tie, these things help them to be more on their game.
Even writers have rituals, according to the National Writing Project, which help to reduce anxiety, increase fluency, and increase the writer’s power and control. Some writer rituals include only writing in specific environments, during particular times, and even behaviors such as standing up or sipping a particular drink while writing. For example, Ernest Hemingway always started his writing as the sun began to rise.
If you really think about it, you probably have some rituals and superstitions of your own that you use in your work. When they bring about a sense of control, power, and confidence, it is clear to see that they can also be an important tool when trying to increase employee productivity.
There is no problem with encouraging your employees to focus on their positive rituals. It may even bring about some business-boosting opportunities that you hadn’t anticipated. As long as the rituals don’t hurt or offend others, they are harmless, and they can bring about great benefits to the believer. If nothing else, you can make it your superstition to allow your employees to focus on theirs.
Mike Michalowicz is the Author of the business cult-classic, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur and is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal. Michalowicz has built three multi-million dollar companies, is a frequent expert guest on MSNBC, CNBC, ABC and other television networks, and is a nationally renowned speaker. His website is ToiletPaperEntrepreneur.com and his book is available at Amazon.com and all major book stores.