Many professionals are extremely superstitious, doing things they believe will grant them that extra bit of good luck. Mithila Mehta traces the superstitions followed at workplace!
You’d imagine working professionals to be a fairly rational lot, but apparently not. Even in the world of ties and corporate suits, superstitions are rife. Interestingly, certain organisation as a whole also subscribe to various superstitions—it is not uncommon to walk into the foyer of a large corporate office and find the lucky ‘money’ plant occupying a place of pride.
Understanding the ‘why’
“Human beings are deeply superstitious by nature—and the workplace is no different. The fact is that no one wants to take a chance. What may start off as coincidence or a random pattern can very quickly be set as a belief, a superstition. The intrinsic basis of superstition is the idea of fear and the future unknown. Why tempt fate? Superstitions give people the false confidence that they can do little things to beneficially impact their future,” explains psychologist Ruchira Krishna Kumar.
The cut-throat nature of the professional world seems to foster superstitious routines. Explains Samarjit Ghose, HR Manager for learning and development at a consumer durables organisation, “It is a commonly accepted fact that in today’s corporate world, it isn’t enough to be extremely skilled at your job. Everyone is professionally capable. To excel, you need to have that little bit extra luck that will help you do better, meet the right people and ensure that opportunities come your way. To my mind, this motivates superstitions at the workplace.”
India is a country deeply seeped in beliefs and faith. Most individuals have been brought up in a socio-cultural environment where following superstitions was an accepted norm. Even as adults, we follow countless rituals and routines in a bid for good luck. This attitude towards superstitions continues even at the workplace—whether on a subconscious or conscious level. Eventually, these superstitions become a source of mental and emotional reassurance. Account planner Disha Gandhi, who works at an advertising agency says, “I follow quite a few superstitions at work. I do so for personal reasons. Following a superstition gives me comfort and peace of mind, especially before a big meeting or day. In fact, these superstitions have become so closely integrated in my life that I don’t even give them a second thought anymore!”
Workplace superstitions range from the ordinary to the downright obscure. Brand manager Araati Singh’s work station at a leading FMCG company is cluttered with a variety of ‘lucky’ objects—including a dancing bamboo plant, a string of Buddhist flags, a small money plant and a deity gifted to her by her parents. “Everyone wants good luck, and I’d say my desk is living testimony to that fact! There is no harm in keeping these objects around really. Looking at them gives me a sense of quiet reassurance that things will go fine,” she explains. Others are superstitious about their clothing, especially on days that matter. “I have a particular pair of formal pants I wear for every important meeting. I wore this pair of pants for a big meeting a year ago, and it went fabulously. The few times I didn’t wear these pants, the meeting didn’t go too well. Sometimes I feel really silly about my so-called ‘lucky pants,’ but they seem to work for me!” says chartered account Rahul Sehgal. Adds Sakshi Brahme, production manager at a news channel, “I make it a point to not wear black on important days. I’ve been brought up believing that black is an unlucky colour and subconsciously continue to subscribe to that belief.”
The truly obscure superstitions can be both, funny and worrying. “A few years ago, I got fired. I was eating an orange when I was called into my boss’s cabin and fired. Now, whenever I eat an orange at the workplace, I eat a pinch of salt as well and make a silent prayer to the universe,” admits Girish Sampat, who works with an automotive company.
The larger picture
How acceptable is it to follow superstitions at the workplace? “It is perfectly fine to follow superstitions at the workplace as long as your superstition does not inconvenience or offend your colleagues in anyway. Be as discreet as possible. Also, the day your superstition starts weighing down on your mind and affecting performance or efficiency, drop it immediately,” advices Ghose. Do keep a sight on the team and manager you work with as well. For example, if you have an extremely rational manager who doesn’t take too kindly to superstitions, hide those dancing bamboos really quickly!
With superstitions, there is no good or bad—it’s all about how it works for you. While over reliance or belief in a superstition is ill-advised, those little, harmless superstitions can actually make you feel better and do better at the workplace.