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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Work group rituals enhance the meaning of work

T. Kima, O. Sezer, et al.
Organizational Behavior and 
Human Decision Processes
Volume 165, July 2021, Pages 197-212


The many benefits of finding meaning in work suggest the importance of identifying activities that increase job meaningfulness. The current paper identifies one such activity: engaging in rituals with workgroups. Five studies (N = 1,099) provide evidence that performing group rituals can enhance the meaningfulness of work, and that in turn this meaning can enhance organizational citizenship behaviors (to the benefit of those groups). We first define group rituals both conceptually and empirically, identifying three types of features associated with group rituals—physical actions, psychological import, and communality—and differentiating group rituals from the related concept of group norms (Pilot Studies A and B). We then examine—correlationally in a survey of employed individuals (Study 1a) and experimentally in a study that manipulates the presence or absence of the three types of ritualistic features (Study 1b)—whether performing an activity at work with ritualistic physical, psychological, and communal features (versus an activity with none or just one of these features) is associated with more meaningful work experiences. We test whether this enhanced meaning predicts the extent to which individuals are willing to engage in behaviors enacted on behalf of that group, even without the promise of reward, using organizational citizenship behaviors in Studies 1a–1b and performance on a brainstorming task in Study 2. Taken together, these studies offer a framework for understanding group ritual and offer novel insight into the downstream consequences of employing group rituals in organizational contexts.


• Physical, psychological, and communal elements capture group ritual’s core meaning.

• Organizations can employ group rituals to imbue tasks with meaning.

• This meaning can, in turn, enhance organizational citizenship behaviors.


Group rituals are prevalent in countless contexts, from sporting events to religious services to workplaces. Our findings not only suggest that there may be wisdom behind their ubiquity, but also that groups can engineer group activities to increase the success of meaning transfer. A series of ritualistic movements can become a simple—yet effective—tool for enhancing meaning at work.