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Unformatted text preview: GoAhead-- Cry at Work Corporate culture has long ignored the fact that we can't check our feelings at the office door. Why it's high time to get rational about emotions in the workplace BY ANNE KREAMER I WAS A 37-YEAR-OLD SENIOR VICE president in charge of the consumer- products-and-publishing division at Nickelodeon, the children's cable channel, in my office celebrating with a few colleagues the announcement of a huge, groundbreaking deal with Sony to create and market home videos of ourhit shows, such as Rugrats and Ren [j Stimpy. The phone rang. My assistant shouted, "Oh, man-it's Sumner! On Line I!" Sumner Redstone, i ; I that is, then as now the chairman and majority owner of Viacom Inc., the par- ent company of Nickelodeon. During my three years at the company, Redstone had rarely spoken to me and had never phoned. How generous of him, I thought, to take the time and make the effort to thank me personally. Now that's a good boss. This was it: my moment of glory. 52 I picked up the phone, anticipating a congratulatory exchange about what a great job my team had done. Instead, Red- stone, then nine days shy of 70, started screaming at me. "Do you know what you've done?" he raged. I was absolutely blindsided. I hunched over the telephone and turned away from my colleagues. In spite of healthy media coverage, including a positive article in the Wall Street Journal, the public announcement of the Sony deal had failed to move Via- com's stock price-and Redstone was livid about it. I could practically feel his spittle frothing out of my telephone receiver. I sat there, crushed at being so undervalued for my many months ofhard work, mortified to feel tears welling up while co-workers were in my office and angry at the injus- tice of being singled out for abuse. But I couldn't express what I was feeling. I be- lieved that to do so would have been pro- fessional suicide. Ninety seconds after I'd picked up the phone, Redstone, without a goodbye, hung up. The tears that had welled up during the call began spilling out as I tried to process theinformation. Fearing a total meltdown, I avoided saying anything about what had just happened, managing, perhaps, to force out an uninspired "Great job, everyone! I am suddenly so tired I can hardly keep my head up. How about we call it a day and all go home?" I stayed in that job for another 2'/2 years, but almost two decades later, I still smart at the memory of that moment. I have since learned from several former colleagues at Nickelodeon that I was not at all unique in being on the receiving end of the chairman's anger. Redstone got mad promiscuously-and almost indiscrimi- nately. I have also recently learned thatI too made a co-worker cry, when I shot down his presentation in a monthly strategy meet- ing. I'm not proud of that moment and wish I'd found a better way to get my criticism across. But the goal of organizations should not be to eliminate the expression of emo- tions at work, which is what our dominant...
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- Spring '07
- Organizational Communication