Alumna addresses the psychology of workplace satisfaction in newly released book

October 21, 2019

When something boosts your mood, your brain releases neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. Studies have shown the simple act of smiling can release some of those chemicals — and the feeling is contagious. Smile to a room full of coworkers, for example, and others will likely do the same. 

That’s an easy way to help create a happier workplace. But it’s not the only factor involved in building a fulfilling career. So what are the rest? Melanie Katzman graduated with a master's and doctoral degree from The College's Department of Psychology in 1982 and 1986. Melanie Katzman graduated with master's and doctoral degrees from The College's Department of Psychology in 1982 and 1986. Her book, “Connect First: 52 Simple Ways to Ignite Success, Meaning, and Joy at Work," was released this month. Download Full Image

That’s one question Arizona State University alumna Melanie Katzman addresses in her new book, “Connect First: 52 Simple Ways to Ignite Success, Meaning, and Joy at Work.” 

Katzman, who earned master’s and doctoral degrees from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology in 1982 and 1986, is used to breaking new ground and merging worlds. 

As a graduate student at The College, her trailblazing research into bulimia was one of the first studies to focus on the topic and led to the first treatment manual for professionals. 

She went on to build a clinical psychology practice of her own, and her passion for research also led her down another path as a consultant on workplace diversity and women in leadership. She founded Katzman Consulting in 1999 and has since worked with some of the largest companies and government institutions in the world. 

Katzman recently came back to ASU to talk with psychology students about that journey. Now she says her book, to be released Oct. 22 by McGraw-Hill, is the coalescence of her multifaceted career.

“I've had the unusual position of being a psychologist seeing people individually in my clinical practice, and often on the same day going across town to see people in their offices as a consultant,” she said. “The book is really a combination of my experience and insights operating in these two very different spheres — I really wanted to decode and help people understand what makes themselves and others tick at work.”

We caught up with Katzman to hear more about the psychology of satisfaction in the workplace and how her experience informed the book. 

Question: You have spent 30 years juggling psychology, research and consultancy roles. How did this unique combination lead to your writing about the workplace in this way?

Answer: I’ve spent a lot of time both working with individuals as a psychologist and working in offices with groups of employees and leaders as a consultant. One of the things that struck me is that people in my clinical office would talk about feeling devalued, unmotivated and detached at work. Then as a consultant, I’d hear the same kinds of things from people trying to manage and lead their organizations. 

I realized that the people who are concerned about not getting what they want out of work are often the same people who are in positions that could actually make a difference about how people feel about work. People weren’t realizing that there are often very simple things that can make a huge difference in their lives. I wanted this book to serve as a tool kit for how to do the right thing for yourself and others around you. 


Q: Dual careers in workplace consulting and clinical psychology might not seem like the most natural combination to some people. How did you end up becoming involved in both tracks?

A: From the very earliest stage of my work as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, I was in an experimental psychology lab looking at how control and predictability affected rat subjects. It was within that context that I realized that there was a problem called binge eating disorder and bulimia, and they weren’t in the diagnostic and statistical manual. I came to ASU to continue studying that illness and was part of the first group of researchers to document that bulimia existed. I was part of a field that was being created at the same time as the science was being discovered. So from a very early stage in my career, I was in an entrepreneurial space.

That research led me to look further into women’s roles in society and the pressures they face. Then I began working overseas as a researcher focused on changing gender roles and stress, which led me into a space where I became a diversity and female leadership consultant for corporations. 

Q: Fast-forward 30 years — how would you say the work you began as an undergraduate morphed into advising someone trying to figure out how to be happy in the workplace?

A: Years ago, I observed the occurrence of binge eating in the rat lab as a result of the animals being stressed about their lack of control. This book was meant to address that sense of not being in control for people in the workplace. So in that sense, there's a direct correlation to my years in the rat lab and the book you see now. 

There are many different books written about work culture and how to influence it, but most tend to be written for the manager or the company CEO. 

I wrote this book as a testament to the idea that people can regain agency over their own work experiences by changing simple things about the way they address relationships every day. All of the points I make are grounded in 30 years of academic research and clinical experience. And they apply to you whether you're at the low end of the workplace power continuum, or sitting in the corner office.

Q: You describe this book as a tactical resource outlining clear and actionable steps in 52 digestible chapters. What is the most important thing you hope readers can take away?

A: This is really a book that takes small behaviors and builds on them to give you a guide on how to create meaning and purpose for yourself and others at work.

I think some people look at it and think it’s just about smiling more and saying please and thank you. Those are the basics we start with, but they lay the foundation upon which the latter stages of the book are built. By the end, you are learning how to clear conflict and channel your own fear about the future to impact the greater good. 

The most important message to me is that everybody, no matter what position they hold in an organization, can play a role in creating meaning and joy, while also contributing to the success of the organization itself. It doesn't matter where you sit or the job title, we all have the power and the responsibility to make a difference, and you can achieve tremendous impact through the intentional use of small things. Simply put, connecting first at the human level doesn't cost anything and doesn't take a lot of time, but leads to more success and greater happiness. 

Video by the ASU Department of Psychology

Find more information about Katzman and her forthcoming book here. Robert Ewing contributed to this story.

Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


ASU choirs return for wide-ranging 2019-20 season

October 22, 2019

The Arizona State University School of Music’s 2019-20 choral season explores the power and subtlety of the human voice with music familiar to groundbreaking. This year’s season includes recent music by women and people of color alongside classic works by such composers as Brahms and Liszt, in alignment with the Herberger Institute for Design and the Art's Projecting All Voices initiative.

“If there is a theme for this year’s choral season, it is ‘breadth,’” said David Schildkret, professor in the School of Music and director of choral activities. "We are exploring as wide a variety of repertory as possible with the highest quality possible. We are creating community through song.” ASU choir singing ASU choir Download Full Image

Schildkret said that singers have long known that there is something special about singing in a choir. Recent scientific research shows that choral singing has measurable positive effects on the human body. And while there currently isn't research about a similar effect for listening, Schildkret believes that listeners experience similar benefits.

“Of all means of music-making, singing is the most elemental,” said Schildkret. “It requires no special equipment; our bodies themselves provide everything we need. An ensemble of singers is capable of the broadest range of nuance and subtlety. Singing has an immediacy that nothing else can match.”

The ASU choral program consists of seven ensembles for singers at a variety of skill levels and welcomes all students, faculty, staff and community members into its various choirs. 

ASU students receive free admission to all concerts with student ID. Contact the ASU Gammage box office, the Herberger Institute Box Office and the Tempe Center for the Arts box office for ticket prices at each individual performance venue.

Musica Sacra
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22 
ASU Gammage

Barrett Choir, Chamber Singers and Choral Union
David Schildkret, conductor

Works by Brahms, Liszt and Rutter, featuring Liszt’s "Missa choralis" and Rutter's "Gloria." 

Music of Brahms and Liszt
4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25
Organ Hall

Chamber Singers
David Schildkret, conductor

"Geistliches Lied," opus 30 and "Schaffe in mir, Gott," opus 29, No. 2, by Brahms and the "Missa choralis" by Liszt (performance for the American Liszt Society Festival).

Autumn Delights
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29
Tempe Center for the Arts

Arizona Statesmen, Concert Choir, Gospel Choir and Women’s Chorus
Bartlett Evans, Jason Thompson and Erica Glenn, conductors

ASU choirs present a varied program of music in their fall concert.

Mozart’s Kings Coronation Mass and Jupiter Symphony
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3
ASU Gammage

Chamber Singers and Choral Union, Chamber Orchestra
Jiji Kim, guitar
Jeffery Meyer, conductor

The choirs and orchestra present two of Mozart’s most celebrated masterworks. Guitar virtuoso and ASU faculty member Jiji Kim brings a slice of modernity to the concert, performing Hilary Purrington’s 2019 concerto "Harp of Nerves."

Holiday Choral Gala
7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6
ASU Gammage

Arizona Statesmen, Barrett Choir, Concert Choir, Gospel Choir and Women’s Chorus
Bartlett Evans, David Schildkret, Jason Thompson and Erica Glenn, conductors

Five ASU choral ensembles offer a festive program of seasonal music.

Barrett Pops
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25
ASU Gammage

Barrett Choir
David Schildkret, conductor

The Barrett Choir presents their annual pops concert on a theme chosen by the students. The program features solo and small group performances prepared by the students along with selections performed by the full choir.

Spring Fling
7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 21
ASU Gammage

Arizona Statesmen, Concert Choir, Gospel Choir and Women’s Chorus
Bartlett Evans, Jason Thompson and Kiernan Steiner, conductors

Celebrate spring with the ASU choirs.

Many Voices
7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 28
ASU Gammage

Chamber Singers and Choral Union
Kimberly Marshall, organ
David Schildkret, conductor

The program includes works by living women composers and Kodály’s "Missa brevis," featuring faculty organist Kimberly Marshall.

April Showers
7:30 p.m. Monday, April 27
ASU Gammage

Arizona Statesmen, Barrett Choir, Gospel Choir and Women’s Chorus
Bartlett Evans, Jason Thompson and Kiernan Steiner, conductors

ASU choirs shower you with music to end the 2019-20 school year.

Mahler: Symphony No. 2
7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 30
ASU Gammage

Chamber Singers, Choral Union, Concert Choir and Symphony Orchestra
Carole FitzPatrick, soprano
Stephanie Weiss, mezzo-soprano
Jeffery Meyer, conductor

The ASU Symphony Orchestra, faculty artists Carole FitzPatrick and Stephanie Weiss and the ASU choirs end the 2019-20 season with Mahler’s epic "Symphony No. 2."

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music