How to handle your office’s Dementors

13th November 2012

In the Harry Potter books, Dementors are creatures who suck the happiness out of the room. Where people previously felt warm and positive, Dementors instantly sap their energy and optimism.

Every business has Dementors. They can be

  • people – the ones who make a room sadder when they enter it
  • conversation topics – those which bring everyone down when they discuss them
  • projects – “I love my job… except when I have to work on X, which I hate

Recognise these? They’re such a drain on everyone’s productivity, aren’t they? They sure can turn a good day into a bad one very quickly.

So, what would make it better?

The key with Dementors is to look to the future, not past; the solution, not the problem. The better people are able to focus on improving the situation, the less they get embroiled in the things that bring them down.

Very often, a simple technique is to ask “so, what would make it better?” Sometimes this works first time:

Them: “Our update meetings are tedious”

You: “So, what would make it better?”

Them: “Well, we could shorten them, have them less often, limit how many people attend, limit how long people speak for, do some of the detail by email…”

Or sometimes, you might need to repeat it:

Them: “Our update meetings are tedious”

You: “So, what would make it better?”

Them: “Nothing. They’re rubbish.”

You: “I know you don’t like them. But there must be something we could do to improve things? So, what would make it better?”

Them: “Well, we could …”

Asking this simple question helps change people’s focus. It also works on you: when you’re having a Dementor Moment, ask yourself “so, what would make it better?”

This simple phrase can often act like a light switch that instantly turns dark to light.

Did you notice how the top three paragraphs of this Tip were negative? Paragraph Four then asked “so, what would make it better?”, and things changed immediately.

Action Point

The next time you/your colleagues are feeling negative about something, ask “so, what would make it better?” to identify how to improve things.

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