REVIEW: It’s Always Personal by Anne Kreamer

REVIEW: It’s Always Personal by Anne KreamerIt's Always Personal: Navigating Emotion in the New Workplace by Anne Kreamer
Published: Random House (2011), Paperback, 256pg
Source: Library
Genres: Business, Non-Fiction, Science

How often have we heard “It’s nothing against you, it’s not personal—it’s just business”? But in fact, at work it’s never just business—it’s always personal. In this groundbreaking look at what’s really going on from 9 to 5—the crying, yelling, and bullying, as well as the friendship and laughter borne of creative collaboration—journalist and former corporate executive Anne Kreamer shows us how to get rational about our emotions, and provides the necessary new tools to flourish in an emotionally charged workplace.

With women now the majority of the workforce and the lines between office and personal life blurring as never before, the dynamics of work have shifted profoundly. It’s Always Personal combines the latest information on the intricacies of the human brain, candid stories from employees, and the surprising results of two new national surveys, reported here for the first time, which reached out to workers from all walks of life about their emotions on the job.

What I thought this book was about: how to deal with you and your coworkers’ emotions in a professional way.

What it’s actually about: the science behind emotions and how we should be more forgiving when people turn out to be humans with feelings.

So it’s not all that good of a “how to” book. It IS good on figuring out the whys behind crying, anger, fear, and anxiety. Basically: it’s because of science.

An example! Men and women have differently-built brains/hormones which affect how they process emotions. For example, men tend to have more testosterone, which makes them aggressive and prone to expressing anger more often. Women, meanwhile, have more oxytocin which makes them tend to want to befriend those who’re yelling at them as a defense mechanism.

Also, when we bottle up emotions and can’t let them out physically (like running away or fighting a predator), they tend to erupt in ways that later become embarrassing (crying in the bathroom, for example1). This is because of more science.

It sounds kinda stupid as I’m paraphrasing it, but as I was reading the first three chapters, little pings of recognition kept firing. I recognized a lot of what was being talked about, both in myself and in people I’ve known at work. It’s great having a scientific (and sociological) reason behind certain aspects of my emotions. Makes me feel less weird for wanting to cry whenever somebody criticizes me now that I know it’s partly because of some brain chemical thing.

And although I said it’s not a very good how-to book, there ARE tips in here about how to deal with an overwhelming emotion. Most importantly, it emphasizes that if you’re in a job situation where you’re stressed out, crying and/or raging every week, it’s time to leave for greener pastures. But! Crying once or twice at work is no big deal, either, and it shouldn’t be made a big deal of.

Above all, It’s Always Personal advocates empathy in the workplace. Yes, please!

Read: January 19-21, 2015

  1. speaking of crying: women have higher levels of prolactin, the thing that produces tears. Also our tear ducts are shaped differently? So tears run down our faces, whereas men’s tears tend to stay up near their eyes? Science.

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