08/10/2012 02:25 pm ET Updated Aug 10, 2012

Crane, Yammer Emotion Tracker, Could Make Your Bad Boss Even More Aloof

Is your boss as cold and calculating as, well, a computer? Well, now your manager can buy the computer program that's suppose to do what he or she can't: Have some damn empathy.

It's called Crane. Developed by the startup Kanjoya, its name conjures up the image of a boss craning his or her neck to see if subordinates look happy or sad -- and that's essentially what Crane does.

Kanjoya partnered with Yammer, the intra-office social network recently bought by Microsoft, to develop the program. It works like this: Crane reads employees messages on Yammer, analyzes for emotional sentiment, and displays the prevailing mood around the office on various topics to managers right on their computer screen, as IDG News describes it.

Potentially gone are the days of bosses sauntering up to the water cooler (do offices still have those?) and asking how everyone's doing. Managers with Crane just need to open a web browser to learn which of 85 emotions are "trending" at the office. (Thankfully, groups of workers, not individuals, are tracked.)

Of course, the success of something like Crane is predicated on a lot of things. Does the staff use Yammer? Will they continue to, knowing their messages are being monitored?

But there is potential for this service, given what testers of Crane have said. Mashable reports on one such success story:

One of those companies used it to monitor reaction to a new email system.

“They were able to see not only that people were unhappy but that it was causing annoyance and that people were being made to feel stupid by this new system,” says An Le, VP of business development at Yammer.

This allowed the company’s IT department to address the problem more quickly than it otherwise would have, says Le.

Apparently business-oriented social networks are having a bit of a moment. Those of us annoyed by LinkedIn's stale and cumbersome interface still have a hard time believing that it's the 13th most popular website on the entire Internet. And more importantly for shareholders, it's one of the few social startups thriving from the public trading of its stock.

LinkedIn's fastest-growing revenue streaming is opening its 161-million-person network to corporate recruiters looking to fill jobs, according to Forbes. Similarly, Crane might useful for HR departments culling LinkedIn for applicants: first to hire then, then to make sure they're happy.

Our one worry, though, is how such a program could widen the gulf between hands-off bosses and their employees. We're not talking about our bosses, of course. But we've heard that there are managers out there capable of being callous. And something like Crane could only justify such bosses locking themselves in their office for even longer periods of time.

We've talked about how Facebook, a network that connects us to friends, can make us more distant from them. Now Yammer, a network that keeps us connected to coworkers, has the potential to make managers more aloof.

Crane could be a valuable tool for executives. Only if it's that: just one tool, of many hopefully.



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