About Kathleen

Kathleen Kelley Reardon is Phi Beta Kappa and professor emerita of management at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.

Kathleen earned her Ph.D. summa cum laude and with distinction at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and won the National Communication Association’s Gerald R. Miller Outstanding Dissertation of the Year award.  She received her BA degree with honors from the University of Connecticut at Storrs.  She was also elected to the honors societies of Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi and Mortar Board.  She also received the 2013 University of Connecticut alumni  Humanitarian Award.

Her primary areas of scholarly interest have been communication, persuasion, politics in the workplace, leadership, and negotiation.  Public Opinion Quarterly described her first book, Persuasion in Practice, as ”a landmark contribution to the field.”

At The Marshall School, Kathleen has taught negotiation in the MBA, Executive MBA and International MBA programs.  For 15 years, she served on the Preventive Medicine faculty where, as a National Cancer Institute postdoctoral fellow and as a professor, developed interventions aimed at changing  dangerous health habits among high-risk populations.  She has been principle and co-principle investigator on federal and private grants supporting this work. She also served as director of USC’s Sample Presidential Fellows Program and of the USC Leadership Institute.

Kathleen was the first woman to rise through the ranks to tenure and then promotion to full professor at the USC Marshall School of Business.  Before joining USC, she was associate professor of communication sciences at The University of Connecticut.  She was also a visiting scholar at Stanford University, University College and Trinity College in Dublin and Distinguished Research Scholar at the Irish Management Institute.

Kathleen’s work includes influencing the careers of women  through her research and writing, such as the Harvard Business Review case reprint bestseller, “The Memo Every Woman Keeps in Her Desk.”   This led to her book, They Don’t Get It, Do They?  Communication in the Workplace — Closing the Gap Between Women and Men, which explored how women and men don’t “get it” when conversing and working with each other.  It was recently rereleased as an e-book.

She and Betty Friedan developed and team-taught  “Leadership Diversity” at USC.  Together they developed conferences focused on improving women’s representation at higher levels of business, education and government.

Kathleen was invited to join The Huffington Post as a featured blogger in August 2005, two months after its founding by Arianna Huffington and now contributes to Thrive Global.

Early in her career, Dr. Reardon’s seminal research on the role of gift giving in international negotiation resulted in International Business Gift-Giving: A Guide for American Executives (1981) sponsored by Parker Pen Co. and later published as Gift-giving Around The World (Passepartout, 1985).  During the Reagan Administration she was consulted by the U.S. Chief of Protocol office, and later spoke to U.S. protocol officers at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.  The book has served as a primary source for the selection of State Department and Presidential gifts to visiting dignitaries and for official visits to other countries.  It has influenced all subsequent work on international gift protocol and legalities.

Kathleen was a founding board member and Distinguished Fellow of First Star, a Washington DC-based nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of America’s abused and neglected children. While researching and writing Childhood Denied, she originated the concept of university campus-based residential academies for high school foster children, to help raise their acceptance and graduation from college above the current and unacceptable 3 percent rate.  She has been instrumental in establishing foster youth academies at UCLA, the University of Connecticut, the University of Rhode Island, and George Washington University, with more academies in development.

Earlier she was co-principal investigator of the feasibility study for the Starbright Foundation.  Her work in communication led to the design and development of a computerized, long-distance social network linking together terminally and seriously ill children to help them cope (years before the advent of facebook!).  Starbright was initially chaired by Steven Spielberg, with the late Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf as campaign chair, and is now The Starlight Children’s Foundation.

Kathleen also developed, produced and wrote the award-winning documentary “How Will I Survive?” along with Academy Award winning executive producer Mark Harris.  The documentary followed five women with breast cancer as they coped in different ways with this challenging disease. ‘How Will I Survive?’ was aired on PBS stations in the United States and on NHK, Japan’s national public broadcasting organization.

Her research and books have resulted in Kathleen appearing on The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America, Bloomberg TV, National Public Radio and many other electronic media. Her work also has been covered by The London Times, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Delhi Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, The Miami Herald and hundreds of newspapers and magazines throughout the world.

Kathleen has served as a consultant, a speaker and an executive coach for numerous private individuals and such enterprises as Siemens, News Corp., CIGNA, Loewe of Madrid, Epson, IBM, Pfizer, Toyota, Moog Aircraft, Sony Entertainment, The Conference Board, Hewlett-Packard and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs.

She has authored 10 books and numerous articles, including three for The Harvard Business Review and is an HBR blogger.  Her 2001 book The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of the Business Inner Circle (Currency, Doubleday) became an Amazon.com nonfiction and business best seller.  It was followed by The Skilled Negotiator (Jossey-Bass, 2004), It’s All Politics: Winning in a World Where Hard Work and Talent Aren’t Enough (Currency, Doubleday, 2005), Childhood Denied: Ending the Nightmare of Child Abuse and Neglect (Sage, 2008), and Comebacks at Work: Using Conversation to Master Confrontation (Harper Business, 2010).

Her most recent work is the debut novel, Shadow Campus.  Kathleen is also a watercolor and oil artist and some of  her work can be found on the Artwork page of this site and on Facebook.


26 Responses to About Kathleen

  1. I have read Secret Handshakes, It’s All Politics, and I have Comebacks waiting for me on my shelf. I’m a HUGE fan, Dr. Reardon. Very useful for those without any corporate background entering the workplace.

    Thank you.

    • admin says:

      So glad to hear the books are making a difference for you. Let me know if Comebacks proves useful too. Best, Kathleen

  2. Kati says:

    Dear Kathleen. Wouuld you please contact me to arrange for a speaking engagement in RI on March 14, 2013. We would love to learn about “Comebacks at Work” at our conference.

  3. Brian Jones says:

    Hi Kathleen, I found your 7 step method on page 50 of “It’s All Politics” to be quite useful for difficult decisions. I call the method GOATHRD:


    It maps to your steps this way:

    Goals – Identify your primary goals
    Highlight – Pick the goals most pressing or most important to you
    Options – Develop a set of options
    Analysis – Go over each option, considering the political upsides and downsides
    Timing – Consider whether you might wait to respond (if there are political downsides)
    Hearing – Discuss your options with a mentor or coach familiar with the political climate
    Revision – Revise your options
    Decision – Select the one that will most likely help you achieve your primary goals

  4. Arnold Blair says:

    Hello Kathleen,
    I just discovered your writing in the Harvard Business Review and love your insights. Thanks for reminding me what I thought I learned previously, but sometimes forget to employ. This is useful in life and personal relationships, not only in business. I look forward to read more of your writing.

  5. Conrad says:

    I have red your article at hbr.org of this may.
    With the seven Strategies how to make a good conversation.
    I am interested in that.
    If I want to learn more about it.
    Which of your books is then best for me?

    • admin says:

      I’d say Comebacks at Work. All are about conversation and politics, and The Secret Handshake has been on bestseller lists for quite a while as it gets behind the scenes of politics, but Comebacks at Work is most relevant to the article and provides many examples of what to say in difficult situations. Kathleen

  6. Conrad says:

    Hi kathleen
    Thank you for your quick answer.
    I will buy your book.

  7. Dear Professor Reardon,
    Hello. I’m Pat, a recent graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno. For my master’s project in journalism I created a website with written and audio pieces about workplace topics. It was so fulfilling, I want to keep up the site and one of the next articles I’m researching is about office politics.
    Your HBR article, “Office Politics Isn’t Something You Can Sit Out,” is so good. I have a question for which I’m hoping you can help me.
    Most of the work that I read before 2005 discuss office politics as a destructive happening. Many of the pieces written later explain “positive office politics” listing benefits of promoting oneself and playing political games. I was wondering if this is a true trend, or if I’m interpreting wrongly. Would you kindly let me know your thoughts or comments about this?
    I thank you for your time and expertise! Sincerely, Pat

    • admin says:

      There is increasing awareness about the positive and negative aspects of politics. In The Secret Handshake and It’s All Politics, I focused on both. Politics is an aspect of the way we relate to one another and is not about to become more positive as a rule unless organizations turn in that direction and stay there. So, I’d say it’s best to know about the whole range — being prepared in case your department or organization moves into the highly or pathologically political range. Fortunately, pathologically political arenas tend to self-destruct. That can take a while, though. A lot of good people can get hurt in the process. If there is a trend, Pat, I’d say it’s toward greater awareness rather than toward greater or lesser positivity. Best, Kathleen

  8. Would like to communicate re permission to use LSI in seminar.

  9. UofA Student says:

    Good morning, Dr. Reardon. I came across a book from University of Arizona professors that looks unacceptably close to The Secret Handshake. Is this partial plagiarism?


  10. Matt Paine says:


    I have recently discovered you and you absolutely rock! I have always been a bit shy and after 57 years have observed that I do fall into patterns that sometimes work against me and make me wish I had said or not said something or said something different. I am definitely going to buy your books and learn how to be a better me! One thing that I have trouble with is talking with people that I have a strong emotional connection to. I have a lady friend that I was in love with in college 40 years ago that I met recently at a college reunion. It was like reliving the past. I had such a hard time speaking to her and never got the chance to tell her how I felt about her and to learn more about the things that have gone on in her life. How does one overcome this? Do you have a book or books you could recommend that could help me here? I really want to reconnect with her and be her friend but am finding it difficult to express myself and afraid that I will say something to mess it up. Any advise would be appreciated. If you can contact me at my email it would be helpful as this is something very sensitive and emotional for me. Thanks! 🙂

    • Matt Paine says:

      You have written 4 articles in the past week, would you be so kind to please reply to my post? I have been reading your books and find them insightful for communications. I would be very interested in your response to my dilemma as none of what I have read seems to cover this situation. Thank you! 🙂

      • admin says:

        Matt: Thank you for your well-reasoned comment. I actually agree with you on much of what you wrote. I do not see issues affecting women in the workplace as a men vs. women thing. Although, writing or talking about these topics can lead to that impression. I’m married with two sons of three children and worked my entire career mostly with men. My male colleagues supported my promotions with rare exception. They taught me a lot and I believe many of them would say that being a woman in a number of fields poses challenges they don’t face. You might look at Deborah Tannen’s work on women’s action being “marked.” I fully agree that we need a president who is capable of effectively leading and I would not support Hillary Clinton if I doubted that she could fill that role better than any other candidate. Thanks for commenting Matt. You are clearly a very astute person. All the best, Kathleen

    • admin says:

      Matt: I’ve been away as one of my children had a baby this summer and we spent a lot of time awaiting the baby and helping. My site administrator pointed out that you’ve written a few responses. Sorry for the delay. I do not write about personal relationships, except in my novel, Shadow Campus and an upcoming one. Is your friend on Facebook. You might connect and see if some conversation might emerge from there. Many people are finding school friends on FB after years of not being connected, so it shouldn’t seem odd to her. Best,Kathleen

  11. Matt Paine says:

    Thanks for you response. I have six kids myself from 27-14. Four are girls and two are boys, so I understand. Oldest is a molecular biologist who specializes in animal brain surgery and a model in New York. She has had some great opportunities at such at young age. Sure wish my oldest would find a guy and have a kid so I could be grandfather but I guess all in its own good time.

    Unfortunately, my lady friend is not on face book so I have no avenue there. Putting aside the personal aspect of what I was looking for, how does one in general overcome things that may intimidate them when communicating? Example, you are placed before a committee of major managers for something that may make or break your career, and stumble over your tongue during your presentation and Q/A. Other than practicing a lot in front of a mirror, how does one learn to get comfortable with these types of situations so that it does not become an obstacle when you communicate in a business setting? One on one in a business setting I usually do well, but sometimes I really get nervous when speaking in a group setting like this. While knowing what to say and how is important, I am sure that are lots of people like me who get this way. Any suggestions as to how to over come it?

    • admin says:

      First, it’s good to realize that even the best speakers have these times. I have never stopped being at least somewhat nervous before speaking, especially to large groups. I’ve learned to take that energy and move it into my presentation. This means, whenever possible, being able to move around. I rarely speak at podiums. I much prefer a lavalier microphone. Make sure the first part of your presentation grabs interest. Sometimes asking a question or rhetorical question helps. You might also create a scenario for them to consider. “Let’s imagine for a moment that our division was up for an award. What would be the attributes we’d want to emphasize?” is and example. The main thing is to get past the first few minutes — for most people. Put some of your best material early on to enhance your confidence and to draw their attention. Try to not talk AT them, but WITH them. Easier said than done, you might be thinking. By bringing in something someone in the group said that day, for example, you make the presentation a bit more conversational. Linking to other people’s ideas also tends to increase their interest. Then they provide positive feedback and you notice and relax more. Of course, this does take practice so it doesn’t sound forced or phony. Usually there are things that people have said that link in some way or support what we have to say. Mentioning these things can also show those people that you were paying attention. You have to be sure it really does connect. “Earlier, Bill, you mentioned x. What if we borrow from your idea for a moment and relate it to y” is the kind of phrase you might use. Using this technique once or twice in a short presentation can be very useful in terms of helping you, the speaker, relax. Try to make your presentation as much like a conversation as possible. These are just a few thoughts. There are many more techniques. See if these help. Or maybe your own version of them. Kathleen

  12. Matt Paine says:

    Thanks! 🙂 I had not thought of that before. Speaking as if you were having a simple conversation is brilliant. I am going to give it a try. Thanks again! BTW – love your books. Very insightful. One day if I am ever your way, I would like to take you to lunch or coffee or something as a way of saying thanks. You a very interesting person! 🙂

    • admin says:

      Thanks, Matt. Let me know how it goes. If you like art too, there’s an art page on this blog. Right under the Kathleen Kelley Reardon heading is “Artwork.” Also, at http://www.facebook.com/kathleenkelleyreardon is a page that I should post on more often that has some art from a current exhibit and other thoughts if you’re interested. Sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day!

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  14. Rob Severson says:

    I loved your article on women and their answers to men who bug them. I hope you take it on the road soon, women need to hear it. We are close to men ostracizing women from their inner circles for fear they will say something dumb and get in trouble. That won’t help women move up the ladder

    • admin says:

      Thank you, Rob. There is that danger. We need to be able to differentiate between minor offenses and serious ones and learn to talk to each other. I’m talking with TedX people. We’ll see if I take it on the road that way. Best, Kathleen

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