Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ceremonial support for letting go

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM

NOTE. This article first came out in The Manila Times - Business Times Section, and also at the following web address:

One day your company is up there with the stars, next day you're down in the pits. Another company gobbled you up. Your income and profit are increasingly decreasing. A new product did not take off. Your sales could barely cover your daily operating expenses and, worst, your payroll. Something went awry with your products and you have to recall them. Your building burned down. Oh, as Mr. Murphy theorized, "anything could go wrong."

On the personal level, you might experience retirement, retrenchment, reassignment, resignation, even promotion, anything that will take you away from your current work or work station and tear you away from friends and current work team.

On a more personal level, you might lose a love one to another person or to death, lose your treasured personal belongings, be parted with a love one to the lure of challenges in a foreign land, and many other separation events.

What do you do? How do you cope with calamity and loss? How do you let go? What and how do you take the first step to the next level?

Author Terrence Deal writes, "Celebration of victory and success comes fairly easy. But what happens when things are on the wane? Such corporate calamities don't often receive our conscious attention or recognition. Misfortunes are rarely officially acknowledged as part of our everyday work world. Shriveling things are shunted to the side, left to wither away without bothering anyone. Mistakes are covered up or explained away. Yet everyone knows such glitches exist; there are skeletons in every corporate closet. Our failure to acknowledge demise and disaster in the same way we recognize new initiatives and triumphs silently takes its toll.

"Even further outside our conscious awareness are programs or practices that have died on the vine. Every organization has its share of new starts that didn't pan out or old tradition s that fell by the wayside having outlived their usefulness, left behind in a parade of innovation and technical progress. These often decay unburied in the corporate graveyard, universally known but rarely acknowledged. Without any collective ritual to help them grieve, let go, heal, and move on, people often feel a deep sense of loss.

"Historically, human beings have convened ritual and ceremony at life's darkest, as well as its brightest, moments. For individuals facing terminal illness, hospice associations provide rituals of comfort and support. As we lose loved ones or cherished possessions, society dictates transition rites: wakes, funerals, mourning periods, and acts of commemoration and remembrance.

"Yet disaster, demise, and death receive little official recognition in the workplace. Ritual and ceremony are typically reserved for moments of victory or joyous occasions. At such events, the human spirit soars to accentuate a positive moment. But spirit is also a comforting and healing balm. Especially in a world of rapid change, we need to pay as much attention to loss as to gain, to demise as to growth, to disaster as to triumph. Otherwise, people are deprived of the ceremonial support of letting go, reaching closure, maintaining hope, and moving on."

I remember when I transferred from the Comptroller Department to the PAL Development Center. I was ready to simply leave quietly anyway it is still the same company and I will be meeting these same colleagues a lot when they attend my workshops. But I was pleasantly surprised by a lavish farewell lunch tendered for me. Actually, it was their last chance to hear my jokes and roll on the floor with laughter continuously for two hours, non-stop. It was my pleasure to have such an appreciative audience. To this day, I am out of Philippine Airlines, but I have continued to nurture the tie that binds me to my friends who opted to stay.

Letting go made easy with effortless ritual and ceremony.

(Moje consults on business excellence, corporate celebrations and talent management. Her email is

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