Sheryl Sandberg Says Crying At Work Helps You Be A Better Leader

In the Class Day speech for at Harvard Business School last week, alumnus and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg told the class of 2012 that she has cried at work and doesn’t see anything wrong with it.

In her speech she said:

“I’ve cried at work. I’ve told people I’ve cried at work. And it’s been reported in the press that Sheryl Sandberg cried on Mark Zuckerberg’s shoulder, which is not exactly what happened. I talk about my hopes and fears and ask people about theirs. I try to be myself. Honest about my strengths and weaknesses and I encourage others to do the same. It is all professional and it is all personal, all at the very same time.”

I, personally, would love to see Mark Zuckerberg’s reaction to a crying woman. But anyway, I think Sheryl makes a really interesting point here. Maybe the best kind of work environment is one in which you are just honest. Even if that means showing your emotion some time. Sheryl also said the only way to get employees motivated is to lead with your heart and mind. ” I don’t believe we have a professional self from Mondays through Fridays and a real self for the rest of the time. That kind of division probably never worked, but in today’s world, with a real voice, an authentic voice, it makes even less sense,” she said.

In Anne Kreamer’s new book It’s Always Personal: Emotion In The New Workplace, she looked at 700 Americans and found that women cried a lot more than men but claimed this was not viewed by others as a bad thing. Specifically, 41% of women had shed tears at work, compared with 9% of men. Both genders said the most common reason for tears was stress from home spilling over into work. “People at all levels of management had cried at work, dispelling the notion it’s career suicide,” says Anne. Another surprise was that men were more sympathetic to the idea of crying at work than women.

People work more than they used to.The lines between work and a personal life are very blurry. There is bound to be some overlap. Plus, companies are starting to look at Emotional Intelligence as an asset. A new survey by CareerBuilder conducted of 2,662 private sector U.S. hiring managers, found that EQ is starting to be seen as more of an asset as opposed to a hindrance in the work environment. Granted, crying during a job interview might be a bit much, but if you can show your EI (emotional intelligence) in a way that makes you seem calm, stable and productive it really might play in your favor.

In the speech Sheryl also talked about having the courage to talk about the challenges women face in the workplace. It took her a few years to be able to feel like she could talk openly about them. She said:

“Before this, I did my career like everyone else does it. I never told anyone I was a girl. Don’t tell. I left the lights on when I went home to do something for my kids. I locked my office door and pumped milk for my babies while I was on a conference call. People would say, what’s that sound. I would say, ‘What sound? I hear a beep. It’s a fire truck.’”

She remarked on how a few weeks ago she said she left work at 5:30 everyday and how she had been afraid to admit it for a few years. The press jumped on this fact and Sheryl was shocked at the coverage. “One of my friends said I couldn’t get more headlines if I had murdered someone with an ax!” she said. This showed her that work flexibility is an extremely important issue, not just to women but men as well.

She encouraged the graduates to start talking about why women don’t have the top jobs? What is holding them back? Sheryl said:

“We need more women not just to sit at the table, but as President Obama said a few weeks ago at Barnard, to take their rightful seats at the head of the table. One of the reasons I was so excited to be here today is that Dean Nohria told me that this is the 50th anniversary of letting women into this school…Your dean is so passionate about getting more women into leadership positions and he told me he wanted me to speak this year for that reason. I met a woman from that first class once. She told me that when they first came in, they took a men’s room and converted it to a woman’s room. But they left the urinals in. The urinals are long gone. Let’s make sure that no one ever misses them.”

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