Traditions are peer pressure from death people.
Or how traditions block progress.
When we were building the chalets at the farm, I listened to the stories the guys had to talk about living in Botswana. Sometimes they were making fun of each other, especially when it came to marriage. Actually, they were making fun of their suffering, because the tradition commanded that they had to pay the family of the bride before they could marry her. I thought this was something from the past, but I couldn’t be wrong more.
We are no longer talking about cows and goats but serious money, sometimes not only for the parents of the bride but also uncles and aunts.
All of them wanted to break with this tradition of starting their marriage with a debt and paying for the bride. As I learnt later the girls also no longer want to get ‘sold’ and marry the guy they love instead of the one who could pay for her.
And still there is a fear of breaking with this tradition.
It made me think of the traditions we had at home, or how every family, every region or country has its own traditions.
Traditions are part of culture and I have always found culture an interesting subject. Especially when I started as a management and organization consultant and started noticing that many organizations do things without even knowing why they do it the way they do, even if it brings no advantage, because of their culture, traditions and rituals.
There are many definitions of culture, the one I can most relate to is,
“A culture is a way of life of a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.” [Li & Karakowsky (2001). Do We See Eye-to-Eye? Implications of Cultural Differences for Cross-Cultural Management Research and Practice. The Journal of Psychology, 135(5), 501-517.]
What I find interesting about this one is the part – “generally without thinking about them” and “passes along by generation to the next.”
From this comes the well-known and used sentence, “This is how we do it here.” And in many cases, people even don’t know why they keeping traditions going. Why is it that we do it the way we do certain things?
It is an interesting question why a tradition started or was invented because I strongly believe, most traditions are invented and most of them based on power and fear. I did not investigate it, but I presume, most of them by men.
However, traditions are important in our lives and provide many benefits. We intentionally create and continue traditions because they provide a sense of belonging and meaning to our lives. Tradition reinforces values such as freedom, faith, integrity, a good education, personal responsibility, a strong work ethic, and the value of being selfless.
Due to globalization cultures and therefor traditions get mixed and become even more complicated to understand or to apply to.
As traditions have their advantages there are also the disadvantages. In organizations traditions can be killers for the motivation, creativity, talents and sometimes the humanity of the employees from again and again hearing, “this is how we do it here.” Without explaining the why.
The result of that is a decrease of productivity, an increase of employee dissatisfaction, bad products and or services. In short, an organization you don’t want to be employed.
What to do? Actually, it is quite simple in theory, why in theory? Because it takes guts to challenge traditions, especially when a powerful minority has an advantage and use their power to create fear. If there are traditions where nobody knows anymore what they are for and they bring no advantage, stop with it.
If there is a minority who use traditions to keep in power and to create fear, like some religions do, ask yourself if you want to work for or stay with an organization like that. And most of the time, the fear is not real.
The point is, become aware of traditions and why they exist, question them. And if they don’t work for you or the organization, say goodbye to them.