Friday the 13th: A Rational Fear for Business?
Ah, once again, the 13th of the month has fallen on a Friday, making it…dun dun dunnnn…Friday the 13th. This unlucky pairing is going to happen twice in 2017, once in January and again in October.
The fear of Friday the 13th, unlike many other superstitions, is unsurprisingly rooted in religion, namely Christianity. For starters, it is believed that both the Fall of Man and the crucifixion of Jesus both happened on a Friday. Go figure. Furthermore, it is believed that Cain killed his brother Abel on Friday the 13th. Then last but not least, Judas, the apostle said to have betrayed Jesus, was the unlucky thirteenth guest at the Last Supper. Numerology is largely at play here as well, since the number 13 comes after the beloved number 12. Not only is 12 considered a “complete number” from a numerological standpoint, but it appears everywhere in mythology and our daily life. Twelve months on the solar calendar, 12 Greek gods of Olympus, 12 hours on a clock, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 zodiac signs, 12 apostles of Jesus…the list goes on. So the question is: is 13 really unlucky in essence or just in placement after lucky number 12?
Harmful Side Effects for Business
Whether or not you personally suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia (say that five times fast), this irrational fear is actually a rational one for businesses! During the last five years, the FTSE 100 has closed lower on eight of the 10 Friday the 13ths. The Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in North Carolina estimates that businesses lose up to USD$800M in sales and productivity when the 13th of the month unfortunately happens to fall on a Friday. This monetary loss is largely due to employees and customers subliminally or intentionally acting nervously, but the trends show that people also refuse to buy property, get married, fly, ride the train, or even in extreme cases, leave their house at all. While extremely bad for business, this trepidation ironically makes Friday the 13th slightly less dangerous. The Dutch Center for Insurance Statistics claims that fewer traffic accidents, reports of fire and theft occurred on Friday the 13th in comparison to other Fridays.
In conclusion, the more you can encourage your employees and customers to conduct business as usual in the face of irrational fears, the less your operations will suffer. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously put it: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Good luck out there!