Thursday, October 07, 2004

Ask the Professor V

Just when I was ready to retire Ask the Professor, I received a package that, like all good mail, both intrigued and disturbed me. It was an unmarked brown padded envelope that contained a small voodoo doll, complete with pins and an instruction booklet.

Also enclosed was a typewritten letter with the following request for Professor Plum (Note: I had to edit the letter because it rambled on for two pages, named names, and was clearly the product of a slightly unstable individual):

Dear Professor Plum:

I left a very unpleasant work environment earlier this year, and although I have come to terms with my anger through meditation and aromatherapy, several of my co-workers who also left have not been able to overcome their feelings of hatred toward our former employer. I want to help them out, but I’m not sure of the best way to do that.

I came across this voodoo kit and am wondering if you think it would be a healthy way for them to deal with the anger they feel. I would hate to inadvertently contribute to the rage they already harbor. I have enclosed a sample kit so that you can get a real feel for what they would be using. I look forward to your response.

- Wanting to Help, Cambridge, MA

Dear Wanting to Help

Although mildly disturbed by the fact that you somehow discovered my home address, I am glad that you decided to write in. But before I get to the question of your former coworkers, I want to back up a bit. Although you say that you have come to terms with your anger, the fact that you’re sending voodoo dolls to strangers tells me that you might have a little self-exploration to do.

As you know, I have a PhD in jobology, not to mention over 48 years of management experience. So with that sort of résumé, you didn’t really think I would fall for the, “my friend has a problem” routine, did you? Let’s just call a spade a spade: by "friend," you mean you; by "meditation," you mean vodka-induced blackouts; and by "aromatherapy," you mean recreational drugs. Am I right?

Look, I’m here to help, but don’t yank my chain. Professor Plum has been around the block a few times in her day.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, you definitely came to the right person with this problem. So you want to relieve some of your pent up rage by stabbing sharp pins into an effigy of your old boss. But you’re also afraid that if you allow yourself to actually focus some of these violent emotions outward into the universe, they may consume your life, and you might end up on the ten o’clock news wearing fatigues and camped out in a clock tower somewhere near Lubbock, TX. Sound pretty close?

Well let me calm those fears once and for all. There is no better way to deal with rage – particularly corporate rage – than to release it out onto others. Keeping anger deep inside you is highly counterproductive and can be very damaging to the stomach lining. Once you let it out, a sense of peace and resolve will immediately pass over you. Trust me on this one.

So in short, releasing your anger is good, but I’m not sure you’ve got the right tools for the task at hand. In the immortal words of former president Ben Franklin, “A job worth doing is worth doing right.” Anyone smart enough to discover electrolysis is smart enough to dish out job advice, I always say. So if you are going to open up your hate valves, which, incidentally, are located slightly below your pituitary glands, you need to have the right tools. And trust me, no mass-produced voodoo kit made by Hasbro is going to do the job.

I’m not saying that I have any first-hand experience in this area, but I guess if I wanted to make my former boss feel some of the pain he/she inflicted upon me for so many years, I might first book a ticket to New Orleans under an assumed name. Then I might go to a taxidermist at 167 Bourbon Street. Once I found the shop, I might want to wander over to the back entrance, knock on the door four times quickly, and say “I'm here to have my gator stuffed” to the woman who answered the door. Her name might be Madame LeChevre. If you happen to have a lock of your former boss’ hair, I’d suggest bringing it along. For a small fee, my guess is that Madame LeChevre might be inclined to stitch you up a real special voodoo doll that could actually do some damage.

That’s just something I might try if I were you. Hope all works out well for “your friends” – I’ll be waiting on pins and needles to hear the outcome. Pins and needles! Get it? And to think I almost retired!

[And if you have a work-related question for the Professor, please email it to My old heart can't take much more anonymous mail, and I don't want to have to file a restraining order. Again. You know who you are.]