Monday, May 16, 2011

Anne Kreamer

In the 1990s Anne Kreamer was worldwide creative director for Nickelodeon and Nick at Night. Her new book is It's Always Personal: Emotion in the New Workplace.

From her Q & A with Carolyn Kellogg at the Los Angeles Times:

Jacket Copy: Your book looks at the emotion of the workplace by combining statistical research with what we know about the chemistry of the human brain and body. That seems very... unemotional. Can you tell us a little bit about your approach?

Anne Kreamer: My interest in the subject of emotion in the workplace crept up on me, starting from a very personal point of view, then growing in gradual concentric circles to include statistical research and neuroscience. A few years ago I was chatting with my former colleague, Sara Levinson, who has been a top executive within both deeply male (MTV, the NFL) and deeply female (ClubMom, the women’s group at Rodale publishing) professional environments. She asked me a funny question: Did I know any woman who had never cried at work? While I’d obviously never conducted a crying-on-the-job poll of my friends, I realized that no, I probably didn’t. And certainly I had cried, years earlier, when I was a senior vice president at Viacom’s Nickelodeon and my uber-boss, Sumner Redstone, called me for the first time -- and screamed at me.

With that one cocktail-party question, I set off on a two-year journey exploring emotion – negative emotions, positive emotions, all emotions -- in the modern workplace. I started by conducting informal interviews with former colleagues and friends, which then led me to widen my scope to include hundreds of working Americans on a cross-country tour. I talked to neuroscientists and psychiatrists and psychologists and organizational scholars, but I realized that I also wanted some kind of quantitative baseline, a statistically valid national portrait of emotion on the job, to provide a context for my one-on-one interview findings.

After delving deeper into the relevant literature, I discovered that while there are myriad studies looking at emotion, nearly all were conducted by psychologists or neurobiologists in small, controlled laboratory experiments. Conversely, there were broad anecdotal digests compiled by consultants or social scientists that focused primarily on the skills that might help people to control their problematic emotions. The experimental studies were limited and highly artificial, removed from the multidimensional complexity of actual life at work. And the anecdotal studies tended to lack useful depth. There was nothing I could find that really nailed a basic question: How do Americans experience and express emotions at work these days?

I knew that the kind of research I was interested in would require a substantial commitment of resources, both human and financial, and it occurred to me that one logical place to turn for help would be an advertising agency. After all, agencies and their research departments are in the business of gathering information about regular people’s attitudes and behaviors, and then microscopically dissecting that data to make it illuminating and useful -- which seemed similar to what I was hoping to do with people’s real-life experiences of emotions at work. So I convinced the giant ad agency J. Walter Thompson to partner with me and conduct two national surveys.

Grounding myself in the statistical and scientific allowed me to toggle back and forth between the insights I gained from my own professional experiences and individual interviews and establish fresh connections and understandings of how emotions drive work and vice-versa.

JC: Is it really all right to cry at work?

AK: The short answer is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue