Employee Happiness? Try a Voodoo Doll
By Gene Marks
Special To The Washington Post
Health insurance? Paid time off? Bonuses? Retirement plans? These all seem like good employee benefits that matter, don’t they? But as it turns out another very inexpensive employee benefit may matter just as much: a voodoo doll of the boss.
Some 229 employees who participated in a recent study were asked to think of a workplace interaction that involved “abuse” from a supervisor or boss. As part of the study, some were then allowed to take out their job frustrations on a makeshift voodoo doll carrying their boss’s name by sticking pins, burning it with candles and pinching it with pliers. OK ... now I’m starting to get a little nervous.
The theory is that people (i.e. employees) who feel wronged sometimes wish they could lash out at their abuser (i.e. their boss . . . now just hold on a minute!). The study wanted to prove that giving employees the opportunity to take this anger out on an inanimate object is therapeutic for them - and potentially less painful for employers like me.
And you know what? It worked. A third of the study’s participants reported “lower feelings of injustice” and said they were “far less likely to still feel bitter” about their supervisor. Not only that but they performed better on cognitive tests as well.
So should I be handing out voodoo dolls to my employees?
“As weird as it sounds, yes,” Lindie Liang, an assistant professor of Lazaridis School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada, and one of the study’s authors told the Telegraph. “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.”
What a pain in the neck.