Like many of you in the United States, I attended fireworks with my family over this Fourth of July weekend. This prompted discussion among us about previous holidays and the traditions that accompany them. My wife reminisced about watching fireworks along the shores of the Wabash River in Vincennes, Indiana at the George Rogers Clark monument while I talked about the 100’s of fireworks shows I saw while working at Kings Island and the times when I had debris falling on me while trying to sweep up the trash from the masses of people who had enjoyed the rides during the day.

Like families, workplaces have traditions that people find important. Every organization I’ve been part of has had traditions that those in the organization find reassuring and contribute to the meaning they find from the work. While we often talk about engagement at work and strive to find the “secret sauce” that can increase engagement, we forget that our traditions can provide either incentives or disincentives to be engaged.

Way back in my theme park consultant days, a tradition we had on days for client visits to our office was to have our popcorn machine going so that the smell of fresh, buttery

Imagine your office filled with the smell of fresh popcorn!

popcorn would be present in the building when our client arrived. This was always followed by another tradition after the client left. That one was the making of caramel corn in the machine. Since it made a huge mess, that deliciousness was followed by yet another tradition, cleaning the popcorn machine! These traditions made for a great time (yes, even the cleaning!) since we all equally enjoyed and took responsibility for maintaining these traditions.  The cleaning, while not fun, was still an essential part of what we did to make working there full of engagement through tradition!

What traditions exist in your organization and do they work as an incentive or disincentive to accomplish what needs to be accomplished?

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