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?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

Understanding and Managing Other Personalities
Perfecting Public Speaking
Becoming the Boss: Advice for New Managers


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.
%d bloggers like this: