Playing with Tradition

Our 22nd annual Cubes of Abomination had an 80's vibe
In October of 1998, a co-worker and I had an unconventional idea to celebrate Halloween in the office. We encouraged everyone in our B-110 workspace to dress in costume and decorate their cubes. Then we invited peers from other departments to wander through this improvised, silly and disjointed maze. We did not know it at the time, but this spontaneous event which we playfully named Cubes of Abomination, would become the longest running cultural tradition within Universal’s Marketing & Sales division.

This year, Cubes (that’s what the cool kids call it) celebrated its 22nd annual performance. Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, a band of Team Members once again converged within a designated space, hang some tarp, dimmed the lights and brought the value of fun wildly to life for all to embrace. 

Organizational culture is defined by our shared behaviors in the workplace. Traditions are formed when the best of these behaviors are sustained and transmitted forward for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations at Universal Orlando

Traditions contribute to strengthening our culture by providing us moments to celebrate things that matter. They instill feelings of warmth, family and fun. The best traditions are those which are aligned with our purpose, mission and values. Beyond amplifying the fun, Cubes provides participants a "best-of-tour" of the values and behaviors we aspire to demonstrate; trust, collaboration, ownership, innovation – and in the end – winning (measured by the volume of laughter and screams produced). 

As I celebrate my 22nd anniversary with the company, it is my experience that most of our established and emerging traditions are built on the foundations of fun, celebration and community. It is through the heart of workplace traditions that we are given the permission to work, laugh and play together. 

While culture is created by groups of people over a long periods of time, traditions can be created by individuals; started immediately and by anybody. Here are some examples which might inspire you to start a new tradition of your own;

  • Every Friday, a communal breakfast buffet appears in the Trade Marketing area, organized by Team Members from different departments on a volunteer rotational basis.
  • Many teams have adopted a once quarterly cadence of volunteering in the community. The Destination Universal team takes it a step further and invites hotel clients to share in this activity to deepen connections.
  • The Sales Integration team has started a monthly Talk, Walk and Ride ritual where they gather and meet in motion while enjoying a ride or two in the parks.
  • When the black crow starts to squawk in the Event Sales work area, you know a big sale is being celebrated.
  • Monthly Mystery Coffee networking sessions and annual Mentoring programs are breathing life into all of our values.
  • The holidays have spawned conventional traditions like pot-luck luncheons, adopt-a-family drives and gift exchanges. One Sales leader invites her team to an annual holiday dinner party and white-elephant exchange within her home to underscore the sense of warmth and family.
At Universal, we promise our guests that they will deepen connections with the people they care most about by sharing immersive experiences within our theme parks. Traditions at work, both old and new, afford us the ability to realize that same promise with our coworkers by bonding us through memorable, sustainable and often playful activities. They provide a thread of continuity that connects our present culture to the best parts of our past while creating lasting value for the future.

Dan Donovan
Dan is a Sr. Director in Park Sales and will be celebrating his 22nd anniversary with Universal Orlando this year.  He is also a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach whose passion is to drive engagement by helping Team Members discover their natural talents and productively leverage them in the workplace.


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