Avoiding the Dementor’s Kiss

Monday the Wall St. Journal dedicated an entire section of their paper to Leadership in Human Resources. There is a wealth of great information in this section, I would definitely encourage you to check it out.

One article in particular piqued my interest because it  confirmed some thoughts I’ve had for a long time now, but it’s nice to see an expert back me up.  In this article (found here), the researcher found that an employee’s mood at the start of their day can set the tone for the entire day and thus effect quality of work and productivity. Mood can be effected by any number of things: bad traffic, personal problems, pressure at work or at home.

The part I found most interesting was a call out about contagious emotions:

“You’re not the only one who feels better when you smile.  Research has found that when people display happiness, others also feel happy,  and when people display sadness,  others feel sad. In a classic study,  researchers showed Republicans and Democrats video of then-President Ronald Reagan speaking. They found that while both groups reported different conscious attitudes toward the speech,  their unconscious emotional responses were the same.  Supporters and critics unconsciously changed their facial expressions to mimic President Reagan’s facial expressions,  smiling when smiled,  frowning when he frowned. Moreover,  an analysis of physiological skin reactions showed that regardless of their attitudes toward Mr.  Reagan,  subjects were most relaxed during happiness displays and least relaxed during anger displays.”

I know everyone reading this has had a moment when their great mood or great idea was annihilated due to the nay saying, negative person on your team or in the office, if the person is a higher-up or manager in your organization the effect can be even worse. I’ve been part of  productive brainstorming sessions that rapidly change when the negative cynical person comes in the room; its like Dementor’s have come in and sucked all the happiness out of the room.

I’ve always felt these bad apples were some of the worst offenders in the office. They often leave a path of destruction that seems to go unnoticed for long periods of time.  If you are already having a bad day, dealing with one of these can seal it. So what can managers and HR do to help employee’s process the various negatives in a day and still be productive ?

A couple great suggestions from this article:

  • allowing people a few minutes of appropriate venting at the beginning of a meeting,
  • bringing slinky’s or stress balls to a meeting,
  • NOT jumping down the throat of someone who is late for a meeting- public humiliation doesn’t do much for the motivation muscle;  that’s shocking isn’t it?
  • Smile! Especially leadership, unless there is a dire situation where it would be inappropriate, a positive affect seems to work.

Few of us have the  influence to call out the bad apples we have to deal with on a daily basis but it’s good to know this can be combated with nothing more deadly then a smile or an aware manager that’s read this article.  After all, that’s better then the Expecto Patronum charm (sorry can’t embed):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1TEF1-i5iA

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