Black Magic–Part 2
He asked Lupe to relieve Amy of her hand-holding duty so Amy could return to her office where she and Jeff could talk. When Amy arrived, Jeff briefed her on the Santeria display and its meaning. "Look," Jeff said, "Conchita doesn't really know what all these symbols mean. I'm going to tell her human resources has much greater power than Santeria–that we can counteract any spells. But before I do, I'm going to need some supplies. Can you get me some Super Glue, red construction paper, a candle, and some sugar?" Jeff asked.
"Sure," Amy said. "I have some birthday candles from our last party, and I'll run down to the lobby drug store and get the rest."
"Great," Jeff said. "In the meantime, I'll tell Conchita we're working on our spell."
When Amy returned with the items, she said, "I got everything but the sugar. All I could find were five Equal packets by the coffee machine."
"That will work," Jeff said as he assembled his materials. "Can you cut out a red heart about one inch in diameter from this paper, Amy?"
Amy and Jeff conferred on a few other details and then walked into his office where Lupe sat with Conchita. Conchita cringed, hiding her head in Lupe's shoulder when she saw Jeff carry in the doll on the plate.
"Don't worry, Conchita, we're going to get everything all fixed up," Jeff promised, as Amy translated.
"First of all, we're going to fix your heart." He removed all the pins from the heart, made a circular motion with his arm, and dropped each one symbolically into the trash can. Then he held up the red heart made of construction paper. "Here is your new heart, Conchita. It's full of love and happiness," Jeff said, smiling. Then he glued the heart to the doll's chest.
Next, he picked up the bag of salt and spices. He held it about five feet above the trash can and emptied it slowly, allowing the white stream to fall into the waste basket as Conchita stared transfixed at the grainy powder.
"No more salt to sour your life," Jeff said with authority, dusting off his hands. Subsequently, he tore open each packet of Equal, taking great care as he poured the contents into the small brown bag. "Instead, Conchita," he said, "your life will be filled with sweetness and joy."
Then he picked up the mutilated arm and applied some glue. "With this glue, you will be stronger than before. You will be able to fight off anyone who wishes you harm," Jeff continued. He held the arm tightly against the doll's body and lifted it with both his hands above his head. Then he turned in a circle three times, waiting for the glue to set.
Now Jeff focused on the coins. With utter contempt, he spouted, "These three cents show the weakness of the enemy who cast the spell. Our company power is much stronger," he added, as he flipped a Kennedy half-dollar high in the air, catching it as it fell. He ceremonially shined the coin on his sleeve and placed it on the plate next to the doll.
Finally, Jeff lit the candle. He and Amy began to wave their hands over the flame as they chanted, "Hocus pocus, ishka pishka, kick this evil spell in the kishka!"
Then he told Amy to tell Conchita to blow out the candle. When she blew out the candle, Lupe, Amy, and Jeff clapped their hands and congratulated her. Relief washed across Conchita's entire body. She was all smiles and thanked them for helping rid her of the evil.
When Conchita returned to work that morning, she was completely productive. She remains a productive employee with the company and has experienced no further harassment. It seems that word quickly spread through the office that nobody better mess with human resources. They have some strong magic of their own!
Although we found this story amusing and initially applauded Jeff's creativity, on reflection we feel that he was very lucky, indeed. It may not have ended so happily.
Most of us view this incident through the cultural perspective of Judeo-Christian tradition and ascribe Conchita's beliefs to silly superstition. However, for her they are deeply felt beliefs about the nature of good and evil. A mistake in the use of symbols could have been damaging psychologically to her and perhaps would have made things worse.
Furthermore, if Conchita encountered bad fortune or if she experienced further harassment from the practitioner(s) of Santeria, the company might be exposed to liability. Conchita and others may accuse the company of misleading her into a false sense of security and well-being. It could be argued that the company failed to take direct, appropriate, and realistic actions to determine the source of the harassment and put a stop to it.
Moreover, if this case had taken place in an international branch of a company, there would be additional considerations. If other native employees learned about the incident, they might construe Jeff's actions as condescending and mocking traditional native beliefs.
Perhaps Jeff could have achieved the same results by suggesting alternatives to Conchita. She could consider getting an antidote for the evil spell from someone familiar with Santeria (such as Lupe or someone Lupe might recommend). Another somewhat unconventional approach might have been to call in a native shaman or priest to perform the exorcism. The company would then have been perceived by the employees as respecting traditional beliefs rather than demeaning them. We would still encourage Jeff and Amy to seek a resolution through more conventional means.
As most employers know, situations like this are not something to be dealt with in the future–their time has already arrived. Issues concerning diversity in the workplace will be an everyday challenge to today's human resources professional.
As time goes on, employers will be faced with different and unfamiliar cultural and religious practices of their employees. Human resources will need to develop heightened sensitivity to reduce the risks that they will inadvertently offend people and discriminate against them. However, while employers are obligated to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious needs, an employer is not required to permit an individual to utilize his/her religion to harass a co-worker.
Many companies have been providing or are considering diversity training for their employees. While these programs may have the positive benefits of improving teamwork and productivity, they are not without risks and must be done in a professional and expert manner. In at least one case, female employees successfully sued their employer partially based on statements their managers made at a diversity training session–which helped the women prove management bias!