David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Voodoo Doll Revolution

March 15, 2018

First we had "Voodoo Economics," then we had "Voodoo Science," and now we have "Voodoo Conflict Resolution."

In February, The Leadership Quarterly published "Righting a wrong: Retaliation on a voodoo doll symbolizing an abusive supervisor restores justice."  The title says pretty much all you need to know even if this link only gets you, let's face it, a rather sketchy abstract. Honestly, what are we supposed to do with the line "although retaliation is dysfunctional and should be discouraged, we examine the potential functional role retaliation plays in terms of alleviating the negative consequences of abusive supervision on subordinate justice perceptions?"  With that line, the door is open to so much research.  Hell, I have been wondering for years how to craft a research paper around "even though stealing is wrong and should be discouraged, that unattended Porsche running in front of your house demands to be stolen to prove the point of accountability."

Since we can't easily see the full study, I recommend interested readers see how The Telegraph covers the study.  I was disappointed they didn't infuse the story with some sense of whimsy.  The opportunity to set up voodoo doll sales and provide advice to first-time users doesn't come around twice:

  • Don't bother to stick pins in the doll's heart; remember, your jerk of a boss doesn't have a heart.
  • Told to stay late to finish a project?  Project that SOB into the wall.
  • Remember, it is a Voudou doll and is a religious artifact from your faith system.  HR has to let you keep it on your desk. When you have to work overtime, it will become your faith system.
  • Buy complete [insert your institution's name here] voodoo sets.  There are more jerks than just your boss.

I have to admit, though, that once I clicked on the link referencing the "voodoo programme created by dumb.com" used by the study to allow its participants to burn, prick or pinch their supervisor-named voodoo doll, I questioned my perspective here. Seriously, go to the dumb.com voodoo doll link and abuse the doll.  It's nothing short of sick.

The study's conclusion, at least as cited by The Telegraph, concerns me the most: “These findings suggest that retaliation not only benefits individual victims, but may also benefit the organization as a whole, given that justice perceptions is important for employee performance and well-being.”  We live in a time when people can be fired for having affairs with underlings, and they are the ones who feel moral outrage. Students protest gun violence in Florida and get death threats.  Even in university settings, revenge is a dangerous drug, as could be seen by the backlash by fervent Penn State backers after the Sandusky disaster. I am not so sure people with that much revenge in their hearts shouldn't, to paraphrase Elvis Costello, "tear off their own heads."

"You can pull and pinch him/
'Till he cries and squeals/
You can twist his body 'til it faces backwards/
Plastic features/
You could make somebody a pretty little wife/
But don't let anybody tell you how to live you life/
Broken pieces/

 * There's also a nice version of "Tear Off Your Own Head (It's A Doll Revolution)" by The Bangles, which goes to show they have a pretty good sense of humor themselves.