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Lucky charm

The New York Daily News has a series titled “Best onscreen underwear moments”. These are shots from well-known movies so they should not be confused with upskirts, another category very popular amongst voyeurs on the Net. Upskirts may have underwear as target, but they prefer a better view.

Underwear gets into an article on Jobs because it is one of the things that is seen as a lucky charm. In the movie Bill Durham, Nuke LaLoosh finally resorted to wearing women’s underwear to try turn his luck.

This may be a bit bizarre for the Indian workplace. But a recent study by Bangalore-based staffing firm TeamLease shows that superstition at work is alive and kicking (). The headline findings of this survey:

Faith in personal belief or superstition is quite high (62%)

Dependence on superstitious practices is higher in Bangalore and New Delhi as compared to other cities

In the modern workplace, employees enjoy the liberty of following their personal beliefs, with no resistance from management

Chennai reflects a high optimism on the influence of superstitious practices on their work front (72%), whereas Mumbai disagreed dramatically (22%)

These columns have earlier written on how witchdoctors have invaded African offices. When jobs are scarce, you must humour the Gods so that they can come and fight by your side. Superstition is a way of paying homage to the household Gods. Over the years, however, they mutate. The origin is forgotten. What remains is the Cheshire Cat smile.

Vaastu has quite a following in India. Some look upon it as just so much nonsense; how does it matter whether the entrance to the house is on the east or the west. The origins of these beliefs lie in the sun and the wind. The room that requires more sunlight should ideally face the east. Over the centuries, however, charlatans have made this into a farce. Vaastu made eminent sense before artificial lighting came on the scene.

In the West, black cats are regarded as bad luck. This is because in the Middle Ages old women used to take care of cats. Some cats were black. Some women were witches. The black cats were tarred by association. A broken mirror is bad luck because the reflection was supposed to be your soul. If you break a mirror, your soul is locked up forever. Walking under a ladder is taboo because a ladder leaning against a wall is a triangle, which represents the trinity. And the father, the son and the holy ghost will get angry if you get between them. It is more likely, however, that a hammer or a tin of paint must have fallen on someone’s head as he took a shortcut under the ladder.

You won’t find ladders or black cats in Indian offices. (Black cats actually mean good luck in India.) More common are money plants and laughing Buddhas. The country where many believe in Buddha — China — has, however, superstitions of its own. In the Year of the Rat, for instance, you have to put away your books, run after everything red (though not debt), and give up cleaning on New Year’s Day.

Does all this serve any business purpose? Yes, says a posting by PR agency Crenshaw Communications. They help through:

Focus — Superstitions can increase focus on a business outcome.

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.

The TeamLease report on superstition in the Indian workplace doesn’t have any recommendations. It concludes that most people are happy with superstition and the tolerance level for superstition in the workplace. Women outnumber men. So take that horseshoe or wishbone to office. It should be fine unless you take the horse and the big fat hen too.

SUPER WORKPLACES

The top five superstitions followed in offices in India

Vaastu Shastra
Seating arrangement
Keeping Feng Shui items on desk
Specific direction to place the temple /statue/sticker
Money tree/tulsi/bamboo plant

Top 5 personal beliefs people follow at the workplace

Vaastu Shastra
Prayers
Seating arrangement
Pyramids/Laxmi yantra

Source: TeamLease survey