The Power of a ‘Project Beard’ and Other Office Rituals

The Wall Street Journal:

Rituals are common among gamblers and sports figures, from wearing a lucky shirt to blowing on dice to counting dribbles before a free throw.

Now researchers are finding that rituals help on the job too. People who engage in ritualistic behavior before a difficult task are less anxious, get more involved and tend to perform better than people who didn’t have a ritual, according to research at Harvard Business School, the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and other universities.

People tend to believe intuitively in the value of rituals—repetitive, symbolic behaviors that aren’t motivated by reason and lack a particular goal or outcome, studies show. Nearly half of 400 people surveyed online recently by Harvard researchers said they engage in ritualistic behavior before performing a task that makes them anxious, says Francesca Gino, an associate professor at Harvard Business School. One participant wrote that, before going to work or stepping into a meeting, he tries “to remove any negative energies” by pounding his feet on the ground several times and shaking his body.

Read the whole story: The Wall Street Journal

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