It’s Always Personal: A book review by Bob Morris

It's Always PersonalIt’s Always Personal: Navigating Emotion in the New Workplace
Anne Kreamer
Random House (2012)

How and why “expression of emotion in the workplace will become more acceptable”

The title of this review was excerpted from one of Daniel Goleman’s most important books, Emotional Intelligence, in which he observes, “What’s changing is how we are socialized in emotion, which traits are valued or devalued because cultural norms shift with historic trends. And because do experience and express emotions more freely, it makes sense that as women occupy more positions of power the expression of emotion in the workplace will become more acceptable.”

What we have in Anne Kreamer’s book is a rigorously rational as well as heartfelt and sensitive examination of one of the most powerful – and least understood – paradigm shifts in the U.S. workplace: As the nature and extent of women’s authority in the business world increases (albeit slowly), so will the nature and extent of acceptance of authentic emotion also increase. For as long as I can remember, one of the several double-standards in the gender/blender has been that which tolerates (thereby condones) workplace certain values, attitudes, and behaviors by men but not by women. Worse yet, women who aspire to hold C-level positions have adopted many of those values, attitudes, and behaviors to achieve their career goals. Big mistake.

Early on in her book, Kreamer reminds us, “Darwin and James understood that our emotions, far from being irrational or unimportant, are universal tools that help us read cues [if we are alert] that allow us to successfully navigate our environment. They established, in other words, the oft forgotten notion that emotional fluency can mean the difference between survival and death, or success and failure, and that it therefore figures importantly in evolution.”

Kreamer identifies and discusses several emotional types (Spouter, Accepter, Believer, Solver) and provides several sets if tools that can help readers manage their emotions more effectively. She also includes material about map-making for those struggling to “navigate” their emotions in the “new workplace.” To paraphrase Leo Tolstoy, all workplaces and their workers are unhappy in their own way. That said, many (if not most) workplaces could – and would – be much happier if everyone involved could express honest, sincere, and authentic emotion without fear or even concern.

According to Kreamer, her book “explores these differences in our individual emotional wiring and through a deeper understanding of the six primary workplace emotional flashpoints – anger, fear, anxiety, empathy, happiness, and crying – offers a blueprint for how each of us can remain true to our individual temperament while nevertheless developing the means to be more effective within the social context of work.” I agree with her that we [begin italics] can [end italics] rational about our emotions, “especially at work.”

These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye, also listed to suggest the scope of Kreamer’s coverage.

o The History of Emotion, and, So What Is Emotion? (Pages 23-30)
o So What IS Anger? (51-56)
o It’s Not Me, It’s You (58-61)
o From Bad to Better (63-66)
o What Is Fear? (74-75)
o Real and Present Danger (80-82)
o What Is Anxiety? (95-98)
o Second-Guessing Yourself (100-104)
o The Power of Positive Thinking (106-108)
o What Is Compassion? (115-118)
o Why Being Honest About Compassion Is Good for You and for Business (126-128)
o The Four Profiles — Which One Are You? (157-164)
o Learn to Objectify Your Emotions (173-174)
o Laugh and the World Laughs with You (191-193)
o The Next Wave (208-211)

Before concluding her brilliant book, Kreamer shares a compelling vision with a hope I share: “If we can openly acknowledge our gender-based biological and neurological differences, we can feel free to tackle whatever challenges we face at full capacity…Both genders can win by granting the other — and, for women, fellow females — a greater range of expressiveness on the job. And women and men can both be freed to bring their full, true selves to the game. Isn’t it time for us all to get a lot more rational about emotion? The prospect of that happening makes me so happy I could cry.”

I realize that no brief commentary such as mine can do full justice to the material that Kreamer provides in this volume but I hope that I have at least suggested why I think so highly of it. Also, I hope that those who read this commentary will be better prepared to determine whether or not they wish to read the book and, in that event, will have at least some idea of how to establish and then sustain a pursuit of improvement that is constant, tenacious, and collaborative, at all levels and in all areas of operation. These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye, also listed to suggest the scope of Kreamer’s coverage.

TAGs: It’s Always Personal: Navigating Emotion in the New Workplace, Anne Kreamer, Random House, How and why “expression of emotion in the workplace will become more acceptable”, Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence, paradigm shifts in the U.S. workplace, Spouter, Accepter, Believer, Solver

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