Marijane Funess October 7, 2011 | 09:17:57

How Workplace Superstitions Can Boost Business

The quarterback of my alma mater played every game wearing the same socks.  Ernest Hemingway always wrote standing up. Matthew Weiner, creator of “Mad Men,” claims all of these superstitions in this recent NY Times article:

“No hat on the bed. No shoes on the bed. Do not step over people on the floor. Put a piece of thread in your mouth if someone is doing anything to your clothing. When I am leaving a room where something important has happened, I will back out.”

A recent conversation with colleagues revealed some interesting rituals and superstitions in the PR workplace. Don’t ask me why, but I always use the same highlighter to illuminate my assigned portion of a presentation. Dorothy never puts company budgets in a red folder, fearing the deeper implications of being “in the red.” (Green or black are far better.) She also likes to sit facing the door during a high-stakes meeting. Briana always distributes her news releases at the same time of day. I had a colleague who responded to new business defeat by never wearing the same outfit to a similar meeting. (You could run out of clothing quickly during a busy period by adopting this practice!)

If you’re in PR, I bet you knocked wood before calling a difficult media contact, or maybe you “crossed all body parts” awaiting client approval on a big idea. Now these may all seem ridiculous, even illogical. Yet “lucky” rituals can be cultural, part of team cohesiveness, or just an attempt to repeat successes of the past.

The next time someone in your office asks you to change the date of a huge new business presentation from Friday the 13th, remember these observations from the business experts at American Express, who believe some superstitions can have the following positive results in the workplace:

Focus – Superstitions can increase focus on a business outcome (as long as the superstitious behavior isn’t too distracting!)

Relaxation – Rituals help to increase familiarity and ease anxiety. We can’t control everything, but we can feel more in charge by focusing on certain elements, like using our lucky pen.

Placebo effect – People may perform better simply because they believe they will.

So, ‘fess up. What are some of your superstitions?

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