Welcome all you friggatriskaidekaphobians. We feel your pain, even if we don’t share your fear of Friday the 13th.
Most of us, of course, note it just as we might Groundhog Day, except that Friday the 13th, always falling on a Friday (duh!) means the weekend is just hours away. So that makes it a good thing.
Alas, for HR professionals and supervisors with superstitious staffers, when the 13th falls on a Friday, it can mean more absenteeism and less productivity. An estimate in 2004 put the business loss at $800-$900 million. If that estimate still holds up, then the superstition will cost U.S. business almost $3 billion this year, since there are three months when the 13th falls on a Friday: today, then in April and July.
As silly as it may for some, for perhaps as many as 21 million Americans, the day holds special fears. This could mean anything from exercising more care than usual, to a compulsive, even pathological inability to function.
Many date the fear back to antiquity, never mind that the researchers who have looked into friggatriskaidekaphobia find no reference to it before the 1800s. On the other hand, triskaidekaphobia — fear of things 13 — has historical antecedents going back centuries. Today it holds sway today in such subtle ways as omitting the 13th floor of buildings and hospital and hotel rooms, and airline flight numbers.
In Thirteen: the story of the world’s most popular superstition, author Nathaniel Lachenmeyer cites a Texas Instruments decision to offer an early retirement plan with a Monday retirement date, rather than the more traditional Friday. Why? Because the Friday would have been the 13th explained the HR department.
There’s not much written about the HR implications of workers with superstitious beliefs about Friday the 13th specifically. An article about the issue in the United Kingdom on HR Review suggests advising fearful workers to obtain treatment. There’s also a four step self-help list in the article.
In the States, it’s a little dicier a situation. keep reading…