Book Review: It’s Always Personal
Balancing the competing tugs of the head and heart has been a challenge since the days of the great thinkers of ancient Rome and Greece.
There are so many books on the subject that one is reminded of the phrase that “everything has been said, but not everyone has said it.”
While It’s Always Personal: Emotion in the New Workplace (Random House, 234 pp., $25.00) doesn’t break a great deal of new ground, it is a helpful synthesis of the existing research on the differences in male and female brain chemistry and how they affect workplace behavior.
Author and former media executive Anne Kreamer became interested in the subject in part by observing the different ways her colleagues reacted to stressful situations.
Kreamer writes that she is quite emotional. However, the book isn’t a confessional or a one-sided justification for her actions.
She contends that all the recent research on cognition shows that “without the tempering common sense efforts of emotions, it is literally impossible to make everyday decisions.”
And while her forays into cognitive science are interesting for those who want to know why people do what they do, the best parts of her book are the findings of her own research and the practical advice she gives as a result of her findings.
Her research took the form of a survey she worked on with a major advertising agency that asked 701 people how often they showed emotion in the workplace and what the reaction was. The survey found that more women than men reported feeling anger at work. However, considerably more women than men (41% to 9%) reported that they had cried at work in the last year. For both genders, whether or not they cried at work wasn’t correlated to how much they liked their job.
Kreamer also argues that expressions of anger, if they aren’t done in a way that attacks someone else, are healthier for people’s emotional and physical well being than keeping those sentiments bottled up. But she advises that if you fly off the handle and get too nasty be sure to apologize the right way.
She argues that an apology won’t work “if is accompanied by a self-reverential caveat” and make sure that your apology is genuine.
While that’s good advice, in the heat of the moment it is all-too-often easier said than done.
Her better advice for managing emotions includes taking a semiannual situational awareness analysis, don’t be afraid to ask for help and take steps to build your self confidence so you won’t be overwhelmed as often.
She suggests women take a self defense course, which not only makes them physically stronger but can help overcome certain fears. You can also build your self confidence–and better handle your emotions–by learning new skills.
The advice isn’t terribly radical nor is it much different than what you find in many management books. But Kreamer presents her research and recommends in a an engaging manner, and, therefore, It’s Always Personal is eminently worth reading.