The question should be, is it ever okay to cry at work? I won’t lie, I’ve shed quite a few tears at work. There are days when you feel as if the odds are not in your favour; nasty emails from clients, harsh words from your boss, careless mistakes in documents sent to clients, and so on and so forth. All these issues are enough to get you teary-eyed.
We’ve all been there. Yes, even the men. Although, I’m yet to see a man crying at work.
Most of us tend to see crying at work as embarrassing, awkward, and a sign of weakness. Workplace weeping has long been labelled a sign of unprofessionalism, a move that reveals you as unprepared to maturely deal with the power struggles and disputes of office life. And it can be particularly unnerving for professional women, who worry that showing they’re hurt, frustrated, or upset will confirm negative stereotypes that many women already face in the workplace.
The stress of work environment can often times leave you feeling joy, sadness, frustration, and disappointment. Now, imagine dealing with these feelings on a daily basis. Although it’s always uncomfortable, the reasons why you cry at work vary, and may include:
We all have that boss that can bring you down with a few cutting words. Even if you have the nicest of all bosses, there are days when a critique of your work delivered in harsh tones by the same nice boss will make you burst into tears. This actually happened once in my office. My colleague burst into tears so much so that the partner couldn’t even continue with his reprimand.
A friend once told me that she did the same thing when one of the partners in her firm (thoroughly disliked by all) flew into a rage and called my friend all manner of unprintable names. Her offence: she forgot to include a new case in the firm’s matters list so nobody represented the client in court. My friend said as her boss was decimating her with words, she just started crying. Huge, uncontrollable, bone wracking sobs. It was mortifying. She agrees that she deserved the verbal lashing but not in the manner it was delivered.
I remember when I lost someone dear to me. It was so heartbreaking. I came to work the next day and behaved like a zombie. People noticed and asked “Onyinye, are you okay“? My response to all the questions was “I’m fine“. I kept saying I was fine, till I sent the wrong email to the wrong client. My boss flipped and yelled at me. After he was done, I got to my seat, placed my head on my desk and let loose. I cried and cried till one of my close friends came and took me away from there.
People don’t always reveal at work the challenges they’re facing in their lives outside of work. The person who started to cry when you mentioned that their work was shoddy may have felt that everything in his or her life was currently going awry.
In the workplace, there are people with different cultures and background. All these people have to adapt to the workplace culture and expectations of behaviour. In some companies, an interaction with some edge to it is seen as the norm, and people rarely take offence. In another company, the expectation is that a critique will be voiced with sensitivity and compassion.
There are so many diverse opinion on this topic. A lot of people think that it’s a sign of immaturity and inability to deal with the workplace, while some think its therapeutic and healthy to show emotions at work.
According to Mika Brzezinski, co-host of “Morning Joe” on MSNBC, “Every time I have cried at work I have regretted it. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened — in fact, it has happened at the most inopportune moments. But as I get older I have realized it is simply not worth it.
I cried when I was fired from CBS, right there in front of the president of CBS News. It was a mixture of shock and deep sadness, because I loved working there so much and I was also full of feelings about disappointing my family — especially my two young girls. But there was no place for those tears in that moment. If anything, when you cry, you give away power.
When you are in control of your emotions, you are communicating that you are in control. Being in control of your emotions gives you much more power at work … much more control over any situation … and much more dignity. I suggest never, ever, ever crying at work.”
For Vanessa Loder, founder and CEO, Akoya Power, “When I worked in finance, especially on Wall Street, I never wanted to be “that woman,” you know, the one who cries during her review. I would clench my fists under the table and take a deep breath trying to avoid any emotional reactions. And yet, sometimes it would happen anyway. I remember one time when I was really upset and tried to walk out of my manager’s office so he wouldn’t see me cry, but he called me back in and kept prodding me until I really broke down. I was so embarrassed. And I was concerned that it diminished my power or caused him to view me as some irrational, emotional mess.
If you feel safe, I think it can be very powerful to cry and let people see how you really feel. And when you’re home alone that night, spend some time really allowing yourself to feel your feelings and see what’s underneath all that emotion. It’s not your job to make sure everyone around you feels comfortable all the time. It’s your job to take care of you.”
a. When you feel the need to cry, just take a moment. Excuse yourself and head to a private corner (I prefer the restrooms), and take a deep breath. In your privacy, shed your tears and then, get it under control before heading back to work.
b. Get plenty of rest. Researchers have found that people who do not get enough rest tend to react more emotional to stress. Learn to know when your body needs a break.
c. Listen to uplifting music. I listed some of my favourite songs in my post on Having Frown Lines? Top Signs that You’re Worrying Too Much + A Peek At My Calming Playlist
d. When it becomes so unbearable, take an excuse and go home. If its not possible for you to do that, take a walk during your lunch break. My friend uses her lunch break to watch funny YouTube videos and it helps relax her mind.
Have you ever had to cry at work? How did you deal with it?