Voodoo dolls of boss help de­flate anger

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - WORLD - Sarah Knap­ton

AL­LOW­ING dis­grun­tled staff to stab voodoo dolls of their boss could help them feel less re­sent­ful and im­prove the qual­ity of their work, a new study has sug­gested.

Rather than al­low­ing staff to brood over mis­treat­ment by over­bear­ing or abu­sive man­agers, which can be detri­men­tal to work, busi­ness ex­perts have sug­gested they should be al­lowed to take out their anger on voodoo dolls.

A study of 229 work­ers in the US and Canada found that en­gag­ing in sym­bolic re­tal­i­a­tion low­ered feel­ings of in­jus­tice by a third.

Al­though re­venge is of­ten viewed neg­a­tively, the re­searchers say the find­ings high­light “the largely over­looked ben­e­fit of re­tal­i­a­tion from the vic­tim’s per­spec­tive”.

As­sis­tant Pro­fes­sor Dr Lindie Liang, of Lazaridis School of Busi­ness and Eco­nomics at Wil­frid Lau­rier Univer­sity in On­tario, Canada, said voodoo dolls could help staff

“As weird as it sounds, yes,” she said “We found a sim­ple and harm­less sym­bolic act of re­tal­i­a­tion can make peo­ple feel like they're get­ting even and restor­ing their sense of fair­ness.

“It may not have to be a voodoo doll per se: the­o­ret­i­cally any­thing that serves as a sym­bolic act of re­tal­i­a­tion, like throw­ing darts at a pic­ture of your boss, might work.

“Sym­bol­i­cally re­tal­i­at­ing against an abu­sive boss can ben­e­fit em­ploy­ees psy­cho­log­i­cally by al­low­ing them to re­store their sense of jus­tice.”

The par­tic­i­pants in the study used an on­line voodoo doll pro­gramme cre­ated by Dumb.com, which al­lows users to name the ef­figy after their boss, and stick­ing pins into it, burn­ing it with a can­dle, and pinch­ing it with pli­ers.

Al­though voodoo dolls are of­ten linked to Africa and the Amer­i­cas in pop­u­lar fic­tion, early records sug­gest they have their ori­gins in the Bri­tish me­dieval pe­riod, when peo­ple would make rag dolls or sculp­tures of witches – called pop­petts – and pierce them with pins to in­flict harm or break an en­chant­ment.

The dolls were later mis­tak­enly linked with Afro-Caribbean Voodoo, or Vodou.

The re­port au­thors de­cided to em­bark on the study be­cause pre­vi­ous re­search sug­gested that peo­ple who felt they had been treated un­fairly would lash out at their abuser, but it could spark a spi­ral of re­tal­i­a­tion and counter-re­tal­i­a­tion which is detri­men­tal in the long term.

In a pa­per in the jour­nal The Lead­er­ship Quar­terly, the au­thors con­clude: “[The] find­ings sug­gest that re­tal­i­a­tion not only ben­e­fits in­di­vid­ual vic­tims, but may also ben­e­fit the or­gan­i­sa­tion as a whole, given that jus­tice per­cep­tions are im­por­tant for em­ployee per­for­mance and well-be­ing.”

TAKE THAT!: A sym­bolic act of re­tal­i­a­tion against a boss can be good for your work

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