Very Superstitious

Dear, Anita,

I manage the business development team, and I have one otherwise stellar sales rep who is superstitious to a fault. Just this week, he refused to book a flight back from a client presentation on Friday, the 13th and cost the company an extra $120 for an alternate flight on Saturday. What recourse do I have?

SuperstitionsDear, Stevie Wondering,

The writing’s on the wall – and there’s probably not much you can do to erase this grown man’s irrational fears. Heck, as many as 85% of buildings skip from the 12th to the 14th floor. Triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13) coupled with an ages-old notion that Friday is an unlucky day to begin a journey or project lead to this superstition that survives to this day for 17-21 million people.

Friday the 13th is known as Black Friday in some countries – but not in the out-of-the-red-and-into-profitability denoted by the retail industry in the United States. American businesses actually lose $800-$900 million on Fridays that fall on the 13th, according to Donald Dossey, founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina.

Depending on the stringency of your company’s travel policy, you could require your employee to reimburse you for the difference in airfare. Since you mention that this salesperson is otherwise superior, I would cut him a little slack. We all have our idiosyncrasies. Who hasn’t crossed our fingers to wish for little good fortune? A ladder is much easier to walk around than under – just in case. A coworker may comment that we shouldn’t “jinx” a project by saying how smoothly it’s going. Maybe you have your own “power suit” or lucky tie that you always wear to interviews or important meetings.  Some of the most successful professional athletes have their own superstitious rituals that their managers indulge, and fans celebrate.

Unfortunately, there are two more Friday the 13ths this year – in March and November. So stock up on four-leaf clovers and rabbits’ feet and hope your rainmaker’s sales can weather 2015. Knock on wood.

Readers: What are you superstitious about that might affect your job performance?

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. gary
    Feb 13, 2015 @ 10:13:28

    I had a supervisor at my internship whom, I was told, took every Friday 13th off sick. Does the company have an Employee Assistance Program? Will the company pay for therapy i.e. alcohol/drug addiction and fear? My own curiosity discovered fears can be transmitted from parent to child. My ex was afraid of birds due to her family farm experience with chickens. My daughter picked it up. Personally, I concurred my fear of snakes.


  2. Patrick
    Feb 10, 2015 @ 16:41:43

    I am disappointed but not surprised by the writer’s ending question. It seems to me that his knee-jerk reaction is to find a way to punish or take umbrage with his employee, even in light of the salesperson’s top production. I have worked for far too many bosses whose immediate reaction to someone who doesn’t meet (oftentimes unspoken) expectations is to find a way to punish. It’s too bad; apparently there are a lot of companies being run by people whose idea of being a boss is to keep people in line or to punish, rather than finding ways to celebrate what people accomplish. Taking the high road seems like such a better option.


  3. joe
    Feb 10, 2015 @ 10:04:49

    I was fired after reporting racism in my work. I emailed the company after i tried twice to my boss for it to stop. The final straw they called my future wife slant eye and ask why would i wanna marry one of them. I wrote the company but instead if them having a investigation on that they spent 5 hours trying to find a reason to fire me. They fired me day after I called the EO office. Week earlier i was demoted for sane reason the fired me. I have a lot of the comments on tap including my sales manager threatening me with an aggressive stance. No one from hr would speak with me. My boss said I should of went to her first but the problem is I did. She laughed and said its ok he uses slant eye all the time do not be offended. What should I do.


    • anitaclew
      Feb 10, 2015 @ 15:00:06

      Joe, Here is information from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) about what constitutes harassment or discrimination based on ethnicity: There is a link on the page to file a charge, which must be done within 180 days of the incident. I hope you have a copy of your email to your company, as well as your own documentation of dates of the harassment as well as the dates you spoke about the issue with your boss. You may wish to enlist the aid of an employment attorney.


      • joe
        Feb 10, 2015 @ 15:18:59

        I did notify the EO. Waiting on paperwork from them. I also have copies of the email and recorded them at work. My understanding of voice recording under kentucky law i can. Hope the EO lets me get an attorney. I am highly upset. They even paying my replacement more money and back paid days i work changed the amount i made. I am praying hard. Feels like our life is ruined.


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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