Is It OK to Cry at Work?

This week, a lot to my embarrassment, I burst into tears throughout an workplace Zoom name. A much-loved co-worker introduced she is leaving. When I attempted to say a number of phrases, I used to be stunned to hear my voice break, after which …. cue the waterworks.

My response to my tears was one in every of remorse and embarrassment. I anxious I had made my co-workers uncomfortable and wished I might flip again the clock.

But then it occurred to me that folks at work, together with a few of my firm’s most valued prime managers, exhibit a spread of feelings — each constructive and destructive — like enthusiasm, pleasure, frustration, concern and anger. Why is it that crying will get such a foul rap?

A survey of three,200 staff and executives by Accountemps, a brief staffing company, discovered that 52 p.c of respondents had misplaced their mood at work, suggesting that greater than half of these interviewed thought it was acceptable to present anger within the workplace. Yet 70 p.c of the group held destructive views about crying at work, starting from “It’s never OK” to “It’s OK sometimes, but doing it too often will undermine your career prospects.” Only 30 p.c felt that crying has no destructive impact and exhibits you’re human.

Research means that the results of crying at work are sometimes worse for girls. Kimberly D. Elsbach, professor within the graduate faculty of administration at the University of California, Davis, mentioned her analysis has proven that girls who cry at work could also be perceived as “weak,” “unprofessional” and “manipulative.”

“If they cried repeatedly at work, they became labeled as a ‘crier’ and were often not seen as promotable,” Dr. Elsbach mentioned. “Observers overwhelmingly report feeling uncomfortable when women cry at work.”

Dr. Elsbach famous that she had collected fewer examples of males crying at work, however she did discover a double customary. “These observations suggested that men are not perceived as negatively as women if they cry at work,” she mentioned. “Observers of men who cry at work often remarked: ‘Something really bad must have happened to make him cry.’ Thus, the attribution was that external factors cause men to cry, while internal weaknesses cause women to cry.”

Just a few years in the past I spoke with Michelle Lam, founding father of the bra retailer True & Co., about an article she had written referred to as When It’s Okay to Cry at Work (And When It Isn’t). Ms. Lam had a extra constructive tackle what it means when somebody cries at work.

“Work can be doubly and triply frustrating for women for all the reasons we know, particularly in Silicon Valley,” Ms. Lam mentioned. “There are definitely days when an authentic and confident woman is going to have a reason to cry. Why should she feel ashamed if that emotion comes out?”

Ms. Lam famous that crying at work can construct a measure of belief between co-workers, however it may well additionally make these round you uncomfortable. It’s OK to strive to ease their discomfort by saying, “pardon my tears,” she mentioned.

Dr. Elsbach informed me that she doesn’t assume it’s “right or justified” that folks decide co-workers and ladies particularly for crying within the office. “I believe that crying is a normal behavior that should not be perceived negatively at work,” she mentioned.

But because it typically is, she has recommendation, based mostly on her analysis, for the way to mitigate any destructive results of an workplace cry. It might be useful to depart the state of affairs, she mentioned, or simply make a visual try to get your tears beneath management. Try to make certain your cry doesn’t disrupt the work of others. And in case your cry does distract others from their work, simply apologize. She additionally famous that the workplace going-away social gathering is one state of affairs the place crying at work is extra accepted.

“There is a double standard for the expression of emotion through crying vs. the expression of emotion through other behaviors,” Dr. Elsbach mentioned. “If you cry because you are frustrated, you are perceived much more negatively than if you raise your voice or pound a table if you are frustrated.”

Alison Green, creator of the Ask a Manager podcast and web site, mentioned that when an individual cries at work, it’s additionally price reflecting on what prompted the emotional response.

I took her recommendation and mirrored on the explanations behind my tears. The co-worker is an editor with whom I’ve labored for a number of years, however the previous 15 months have been unusually intense. At the peak of the pandemic, she and one other colleague and I had been working collectively across the clock to produce a voluminous variety of tales associated to serving to readers keep protected and keep away from Covid-19. We had a real sense of goal and mission, and he or she is a considerate and cautious editor who made my work higher. I don’t assume I might have gotten by way of 2020 with out her.

I shared this context with Ms. Green, who mentioned that 2020 was an uncommon yr for staff. “I sort of throw everything out the window when it comes to emotional reactions for things related to the past year!” she informed me. “People have been under so much stress, and so many emotions are so close to the surface. That context makes a difference.”

Whether you’re the one crying at work or a witness to it, my finest recommendation is to simply speak about it. Own your cry. I shared my embarrassment with a co-worker, who supplied these great phrases of reassurance.

“Your tears expressed friendship and love, and that’s what we all saw,” she informed me. “Your emotions made it OK for us to have ours.”

[This article is available as a newsletter. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox.]