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Work/Life: Friday the 13th: When Work Superstitions Attack!

With the aid of a little Googling, it wasn’t hard to find references to superstitions in the workplace. There was a guy who claimed his whole day went wrong after he broke his lucky mug. Another woman said was nearly fired after misplacing her magic ballpoint pen. Still another man has aced every interview he has ever had while wearing a tie bearing the logo of his favorite baseball team.

With the aid of a little Googling, it wasn’t hard to find references to superstitions in the workplace. There was a guy who claimed his whole day went wrong after he broke his lucky mug. Another woman said was nearly fired after misplacing her magic ballpoint pen. Still another man has aced every interview he has ever had while wearing a tie bearing the logo of his favorite baseball team.

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The medical profession has its own walking-under-ladders moments (apparently, hospital staff are not allowed to say that things are looking “quiet,” or “slow,” for this will guarantee an onslaught of major trauma cases), but only the acting profession has thought to devise different ways of saying the things you are not supposed to say. Some of you may be familiar with the fact that it is bad luck to utter the title of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and that it must only be referred to in the theater as “the Scottish play” or “the Scottish tragedy.” And I’ll bet most of us make use of a very common acting term “break a leg” to mean “good luck,” a phrase that is, apparently, bad luck for the acting profession.

While it’s a slippery slope to claim that we have anything to learn from actors, I would suggest that they might be onto something with this substitute-phrasing thing. To that end, here are a few suggestions, for both work and life that might take the jinx out of certain things we say:

IN THE WORKPLACE

“How was your weekend?” only opens up the possibility that one’s weekend was actually lousy, or that none of the exciting things one had wanted to do with their time off were accomplished. To take the edge off, this phrase will be replaced with “I see you’re still alive!”

“Can I see you in my office?” Taking a cue from the “break a leg” lesson, which puts a bad spin on a positive phrase to reverse the curse, all requests for time alone in the boss’s office will be requested with the words “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here.”

Starting today, the words “productivity,” “synergy” and the phrase “outside the box” will be replaced with the single term “bull.”

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AT HOME

“Have you seen the remote?” should make the swift transition to “try not to hate me.”

“You can watch TV when you’ve finished your homework” is too direct for the confrontational mind of the adolescent. Again, using the reverse effect, try “Life is a beautiful flowing river with bouncing happy bunnies all along its banks.” With luck, the child will be so confused that they will bend to your will.

Finally, as Macbeth is to be called “the Scottish tragedy,” the phrase “quality time” must not be spoken. Instead, you can say, “you’re in my Blackberry, baby.”

Anyone else got some little-known workplace superstitions, or suggestions for taking the curse off other common phrases?

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