Stabbing a voodoo doll of your boss can reduce work stress, study finds

Stabbing a voodoo doll that represents your boss can be a good way to blow off steam and improve your work performance, an Ontario study has found.
A voodoo doll is tied to the front gate in celebration of the American Horror Story: Coven Blu-Ray and DVD release at Buckner Mansion on Oct. 11, 2014, in New Orleans. A new study suggests voodoo dolls can be an effective tool for boosting workplace morale and productivity. (Skip Bolen/Getty Images for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)
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Stabbing a voodoo doll that represents your boss can be a good way to blow off steam and reduce work-related stress, an Ontario study has found.

The study was led by Lindie Liang of the School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University, in Waterloo, Ont., and published in the journal The Leadership Quarter.

People who had the opportunity to retaliate, to harm the voodoo doll that symbolized their boss, they actually showed restored justice perception.- Lindie Liang, business professor 

"I wasn't even thinking about voodoo dolls and one day my co-author came into my office," Liang told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

"[He] said, 'Hey, maybe because people retaliate all the time even though they know it's bad for them, maybe we can come up with a way, a harmless way, for them to retaliate."

Liang's study asked 229 full-time employees in Canada and the U.S. to recall a time they felt mistreated by their boss.

Lindie Liang is assistant professor at the School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University. ( Wilfrid Laurier University)

"We asked employees to recall a time when their supervisors abused them in the workplace," Liang said.

Some were then given a full minute to take exercise their emotions on a virtual voodoo doll in an online program by stabbing it with pins, burning with a candle or pinching it with pliers.

The study emphasizes that actual retaliation against a person is dysfunctional and should be discouraged. 

It was a way, Liang said, for participants to feel like they had gotten revenge, "without actually murdering their supervisor."

Afterwards, all the study's participants were asked to complete a fill-in-the-blank word exercise.

"What we found, across several studies, people who had the opportunity to retaliate, to harm the voodoo doll that symbolized their boss, they actually showed restored justice perception," Liang said.

Participants in a control group were not given the virtual voodoo doll to torture and continued to feel that their supervisor was being unfair to them. 

"By harming the doll, they feel their sense of justice is being restored," Lian said.

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