To Cry Or Not To Cry At Work, Is That The Question?

Most women will admit they’ve cried at the office – even a few men will, too. But is it ever acceptable behavior?

I have cried at almost every job I’ve had. Sometimes I’ve been able to make it out the door to the bathroom, but other times, the tears just flowed while I sat at my desk. Then my boss yelled at me for doing so and made it even worse.

Although a few times it was because of something that was going on with me personally – unprofessional, I know, but sometimes you just don’t have control. The majority of the time it was over something that had happened in the office. Whether you’ve been passed over for a promotion, reprimanded or treated in a way you felt was unfair, sometimes it’s hard to keep your emotions in check – even in the workplace where professionalism is key.

Even the notoriously strong Samantha Jones from Sex and the City actually shed a tear as she made a beeline for the elevator before her soon-to-be boss/lover Richard Wright could catch her having a weak moment. But is it weak to cry at work or just human?

With more and more women joining the workforce, author Anne Kreamer tackles the topic in her new book, It’s Always Personal. If more women are out there working, will this lead to more in-office tears? Kreamer’s research found that while men got angry, women, although they “actually wanted to get angry, do the more socially acceptable thing, which is cry.” Yes, crying is more socially acceptable than picking up an office chair and hurling it across the room.

But while Kreamer condones crying , or at least being honest about it as a human trait that is sometimes unavoidable, author Roxanne Rivera feels differently. In her book, There’s No Crying in Business: How Women Can Succeed in Male-Dominated Industries, she says that crying at the office is the “ultimate  no-no. Nothing will destroy your credibility faster.” Especially in a male-dominated office where men are more likely to suck it up than cry over a situation. Rivera suggests leaving the office before the crying starts. But, to be honest, sometimes in the fumbling to get out the door and gain composure, a few tears get lost along the way.

As women, some will say we’re just wired to be more in touch with our emotions – and scientists will even confirm it. But what it really comes down to is whether or not our tears say something about our ability to perform in the workplace. According to Kreamer “Crying can be good for business. If everyone feels repressed, that hampers innovation and creativity, which are really what drive revenues… crying humanizes them. People connect with empathy and compassion.” I’m not sure I agree.

I haven’t cried at a job in over two years. I’ll admit that I’ve gotten teary eyed, but as far as full on bawling goes, I like to think those days are behind me. But in this unpredictable world and unstable economy, no one can say for sure that I won’t be crying my eyes out in the office bathroom next week, or that anyone of my female coworkers won’t be doing the same. Only time will tell, but let’s hope not.

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You can reach this post's author, Amanda Chatel, on twitter.
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    • rachelkramerbussel

      I almost cried today, and save for once at an evil job where I got in trouble for things like wearing sneakers (which my coworkers did) and talking on the phone too loudly (when I was talking more quietly than my coworkers), usually it’s more like today: all me. Or all my period. I think hormonal crying is the worst because it literally feels like I can’t control it. I like Kelly Cutrone’s take in If You Have to Cry, Go Outside, and I also think going outside, even for a short walk, can help you figure out if you need to cry or not. Sometimes it’s better to just take a few minutes, cry, and feel better, than hover on the edge of feeling like you’re going to cry. To me, that is almost worst than actual tears.