June 9, 1998

Contact: Jamie Lawson Reeves, (615) 322-2706

jamie.l.reeves@vanderbilt.edu



All work and no play is bad for corporate America

 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - It's human nature to party, says a Vanderbilt University specialist in organizational behavior.

As companies across the country - from Fortune 500 corporations to family-run businesses - plan summer picnics, barbecues and other informal outings, it's important for employers to recognize that corporate celebration is essential during the bad times, too.

"It's human nature to celebrate, and this takes place in a cycle - it's this cyclical nature that basically makes us tick," says Vanderbilt Professor of Education Terry Deal.

Deal says ritual and ceremony help people deal with tragedy and loss, such as the recent school shootings in Springfield, Ore. The aftermath of the April 16 tornado that devastated property and lives in Middle Tennessee recently brought Nashville musicians and members of the community together for a benefit concert, and in the days following the tornado thousands of volunteers showed up for the clean-up effort.

Deal says that celebration and rituals can also help companies handle the corporate rough times - mergers, downsizing and poor economic performance. Businesses that use such techniques include Middle Tennessee's Saturn Corporation, Southwest Airlines and Wal-Mart.

Deal has co-authored the new book, "Corporate Celebration: Play, Purpose and Profit at Work" (Berrett-Koehler, June 1998), with Vanderbilt alumna and clinical-community psychologist M.K. Key.

"Ceremonies and rituals create community, fusing individual souls with the corporate spirit," the authors write. "When everything is going well, ritual occasions allow us to revel in our glory. When times are tough, ceremonies draw us together, kindling hope and faith that better times lie ahead."

Both say corporate celebration isn't about touchy-feely nonsense - it actually improves product quality and financial performance. Research has shown that a tightly knit, well-focused, value-driven company culture pays handsome dividends over time, according to Deal and Key. The top two performing stocks from 1972 through 1992 were Southwest Airlines and Wal-Mart, both well known for their distinctive cultures and a healthy penchant for celebration.

This is Deal's 17th book; his most recent work before "Corporate Celebration" was "Leading With Soul: An Uncommon Journey of Spirit" (Jossey-Bass 1995). His first book, "Corporate Cultures" (Addison-Wesley, 1982), has sold more than 200,000 copies and is in its 24th printing.

Before his career as a college professor, which has included teaching positions at Stanford and Harvard, Deal was a school teacher, principal, administrator and police officer. He combines this varied background with his academic and research interests to study the human side of organizations - leadership change, culture, symbolism and spirit. As a consultant he has worked with businesses, hospitals, banks, schools, religious and military organizations.

Deal received his doctorate in educational administration and sociology from Stanford. At Vanderbilt he has received several awards for his teaching, including the 1997 Madison Sarratt Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

Key received her bachelor's, master's and doctorate degree in psychology from Vanderbilt, where she now teaches as an adjunct associate professor at Vanderbilt's Peabody College. She is president of Key Associates LLC, which offers organizational consultation on topics ranging from designing retreats to corporate celebration planning. She also has more than 25 years of experience in the health care industry - as a provider, researcher and administrator.

Deal and Key will be signing copies of their book at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Nashville Wednesday, June 17, at 6 p.m.

 

-VU-


Vanderbilt University is a private research university of approximately 5,900 undergraduates and 4,300 graduate and professional students. Founded in 1873, the University comprises 10 schools, a public policy institute, a distinguished medical center and The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center. Vanderbilt offers undergraduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences, education and human development, engineering and music, and a full range of graduate and professional degrees.

For more news about Vanderbilt, visit the News and Public Affairs home page on the Internet at http://www.vanderbilt.edu/News.


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