There’s No Crying in Baseball

crying at workReader S has an interesting question…

Recently, I posted to a so-called professional site discussing whether or not it was ok to cry at work. The person who started the thread claimed to be a Director who cried a lot at work. Since she cries at work, she wanted to know how other women felt about women crying at work. I shared that ironically, I had just returned from a recent Conference with 600 Attendees, where another attendee volunteered to help the Guest Speaker with a role playing exercise. And, how shocked and discomforted I was (as well as the Guest Speaker based on her initial reaction) when the volunteer started crying on stage during the second phase of the role playing exercise. Not only was the role playing exercise cut short as the Speaker attempted to comfort the volunteer, everyone present was left trying to determine what had happened to cause this woman to start crying. I responded that personally, I felt that crying in the work place was inappropriate as well as unprofessional. And, that women who cry at work, never make Partner, Attending, Director/CEO or get offered other advancement opportunities. Surprisingly, save for 2 males and 3 females including myself, most of the other repliers felt crying at work was ok. Even more surprising to me was the couple of responses which questioned whether or not I was female since they felt my reaction to the volunteer’s crying on stage in front of 600 other attendees was cold-hearted and unsympathetic because I termed it a “display”. One person snipped that just because she tended to cry at work, it did not mean she was not as capable as any man in her Department to which I responded that while crying was not indicative of ability, crying would prevent her from getting the opportunities to prove her ability. So, since we tend to discuss everything else that is work related here on, what are your opinions regard women crying in the workplace?

For the Corporette $.02: There really should not be crying in the office, unless it’s out of joy. If you’re frustrated, if you’re sad, if you’re angry — bottle it up until you can get to your office or, better yet, to your house.  (As Kelly Cutrone says, if you have to cry, go outside.)  (Pictured: Crying is okay here., originally uploaded to Flickr by A National Acrobat.)

That said: I’ve cried at work, and absolutely hated myself the few times I did. I felt like I lost points with my superiors, I felt like I looked weak, and I was disappointed with myself that I couldn’t keep my cool. Keeping cool is a big part of being professional. The most notable time I remember crying was in NYC  one Friday morning, several Augusts ago.  I remember the exact date because my best friend was married in London the next morning, and I missed it — I just couldn’t find a flight that would get me to London in time for her morning wedding but also allow me to meet a pressing work deadline (document production).  I had taken the news in stride at the time I’d asked my immediate boss and been denied — after all, my friend had thrown the wedding together quickly (a morning civil ceremony in London), and assured me that I didn’t need to attend, and the deadline WAS important — but as I sat in that meeting, the day before my best friend was married, and we talked about the deadline, I found my mind completely and utterly focused on the terrible work/life balance I had. I was furious with myself for, apparently, selling my soul for so cheap a price, and I wondered how I could live with myself for missing my. best. friend’s. wedding. For a document production.  And then, in the meeting, my boss’s boss asked if I’d managed to find a flight to London, and oh, what a pity.

And before I knew it — with such little prompting as that — tears were welling up in my eyes.  They were of fury and of self-pity and self-loathing — and the more I focused on keeping the tears at bay, the more they welled, and, finally, began spilling down my cheeks. I made no sound, and did my best to keep my head down and continue to take notes. And the meeting droned on, with no one saying a word. I wasn’t entirely sure if it was because the person leading the meeting had poor eyesight — maybe she just didn’t realize I was crying — or if she thought it best to carry on despite it — she was, after all, the one who had asked the question.  At one point, in a break in the meeting, I said, “I’m just going to pop up to the bathroom and get some tissue,” in a cheerful, I’m-trying-to-pull-myself-together-here-if-you-happened-to-have-noticed-that-I’m-silently-sobbing tone of voice, and the meeting leader said, in just as cheerful a voice, “Oh, I have some tissues here!” Great. GREAT. And the meeting went on, and we never spoke of it.

You may say that this — missing your best.friend’ for a work deadline — was an appropriate time to cry.  Yet it really, really wasn’t.  The drama got the better of me, I let myself feel sorry for myself, and I felt like a fool afterwards.

A good friend has since told me that the trick he uses, every time emotions threaten his control, is to sing the MacGyver theme song in his head.  For what it’s worth, once the crying is over and you’re trying to walk the halls without red-rimmed, swollen eyes, I’ve also found that Visine helps (it gets the red out), as does the cold-water-on-the-wrists trick I mentioned earlier today.  (And, of course, as the picture says, crying is always welcome here on this blog.)

Ladies — those of you who CAN keep your cool when emotions get the better of you — what are your tricks to keep your cool? What are your thoughts on crying in the office in the abstract?

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  1. I think excessive displays of emotion probably don’t help anyone at the office – FWIW, I’ve seen both men and women get visibly very angry in the middle of a deal negotiation, and everyone thinks less of them afterward. Crying probably falls in the same category.

    Having said that, I’ve cried at work (luckily alone in my office) in a similar “I can’t believe what I am giving up to do this stupid project” vein. Much as I’d like to control it, sometimes it just may not be possible.

    • Agree … The only time I’ve cried openly at work was when I got the news that a close relative had died. In that instance I think it would have made me look bad had I not been upset! (Not that I cried for appearance… grief/shock just overtook me)

      • I’m actually sitting at my desk fighting back tears for the same reason right now. I’m still trying to fight it because of these prevalent opinions that I’ll be judged. Even though the reason is absolutely not work related.

  2. naijamodel :

    I tend to tear up when I’m angry or frustrated, so I can empathize with someone crying at work. I still don’t think it’s a good idea though. I know my triggers so I know to exit or find a quiet place if I’m really about to go off. I can’t think of a time when anyone has actually seen me cry.

    Yawning helps, for some reason – but you can’t do that when a partner or boss is chewing you out. If you can, go somewhere and yawn. Hard. Over and over again. The tears kind of recede.

    • Thanks for this. I also cry when frustrated/angry… Last Friday a partner came into my office while I was having a moment, and there was no hiding the tears. I am mortified, and feel like I will be looked down on, especially if it happens again…I need to make sure that it doesn’t.

      • Had a shit week, month, year so I totally broke down today.

        I am totally happy it happened. I learned alot about myself and I do feel much better now.

        Well done me and kudos to anyone who has the power to cry.

        • I never comment on anything. But I appreciated your feedback on this article. I think you are stronger then the “I would never cry again” people

  3. My friends say that I’m a robot, but I really hate it when people cry at work. I have cried at home about things that happened at work or school, but never actually at one of those places.

    It makes me feel bad to say that because I know that sometimes you just can’t help it, but it really annoys me.

  4. I have cried a couple of times at work and always felt like I had lost my boss’s respect. Each time, I was angry, mad, hurt or upset about something work-related. As soon as I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to hold back the tears, I just said, “I think that I’m going to cry in couple of seconds, and I’m terribly embarrased. I would really appreciate it if you would just ignore it and talk to me like it’s not happening. I’ll do my best to get myself under control. But right now I think that this issue is important, and we need to discuss it.” Once, I actually said that I had alot of emotions about whatever was bothering me and that apparently some of those feelings were escaping out my eyes.
    My advice would be, try not to cry at work. If you can’t help it, don’t beat yourself up. You feel bad enough already.

    • I am an easy crier (usually when I feel slighted and am trying to advance my interests in front of a superior – precisely the WRONG time to cry). I have never thought about this strategy and I really like it – a professional way to remain on topic, acknowledge the tears, and move on without abandoning any progress you’ve made to run out of the room, sucking snot back through your nasal passages. (And before you flame me, I’ve only cried twice at work – but I think that’s two times too many and so I categorize myself as an easy crier.)

  5. I have cried at work on multiple occasions but I agree it’s unprofessional and makes you look bad. I’ve generally been successful at keeping it behind closed doors but not always. I try to focus on taking some deep breaths and excusing myself to go to the bathroom so I can find someplace to calm down. The best way to keep from crying for me is to get a good night’s sleep and regular exercise because I find that it’s when I’m exhausted that I have trouble keeping my cool.

    • Absolutely on the sleeping and exercise. Also, it helps to eat quality food – I am much more likely to break down when I am hungry or have been subsisting on junk food for too long.

  6. Oooof…..this is tough. I completely agree that it is inappropriate to cry in the office.

    That being said, it has happened to me before. I have managed to run to the bathroom just before the tears come bursting out and sit in a stall alone, the few times that it has happened to me. Once I missed almost half of a meeting, but I was too upset to attend the meeting and would rather have had my boss think that I was feeling sick than sit through the meeting with tears in my eyes. And that’s what I did.

    Sometimes you feel emotional or sometimes you cry from pure exhaustion, whatever the reason, it sucks.

    For post-breakdowns – Visine is necessary for getting the red out of your eyes after crying (I find my eyes get red even if I only shed a few tears, and especially if I am trying to hold it all in). Keep some in your desk at all times. Also, keep extra makeup (foundation, concealer, especially) in your office with a mirror, so you can just shut your door and fix your face.

    Also, taking lots of deep breaths and close your eyes for a few minutes to help center yourself and get your feelings under control. If that doesn’t work – go for a walk!

  7. I don’t cry at work much, and less than I used to when I was 25, fresh out of graduate school, overwhelmed and emotional, but when I do, I’m a big proponent of getting to the bathroom before the waterworks break open.

    The only time I haven’t managed it is at my previous and first job, in my first year, during a particularly vicious conversation with my boss.

    • I would hate to cry at work, or be confronted by someone else doing this. Things usually don’t get that heated at work, or atleast not in my experience so far, thank god!

      That said, I have cried just once at work, when a boss chewed me out very nastily for something that was just not my fault and basically made me feel like s…t. I just said “I think we can resume this conversation when we’re both in a better frame of mind to be constructive” and rushed to a meeting room to be alone. I only had 1 colleague who saw and came to comfort me, so I was lucky!!

  8. As a surgeon in training, I have had all sorts of occaision to cry at work. I have seen truly tragic things happen to children and innocent people. In those situations, I think it’s really important for me to let my emotions out in a safe setting — usually in my car on the drive home. Several of my co (female) surgeons in training also allow themselves to cry in the car, but not in the hospital.

    When I feel like crying over a work related issue — deep down I’m still a six year old who doesn’t like to be yelled at — I just take deep breaths, and tell myself that the person who is yelling at me is not worth my tears. It actually works for me.

    When fellow residents cry? Yeah, have to admit I’m not very sympathetic. I take the probably overly critical view that crying detracts from patient care and shifts the focus from the patient to the physician, which is totally inappropriate. I want them to go cry in their cars too. I have a coworker who is a cryer (not once, but many many times) and we all talk about her behind her back. Not nice, but true.

    • E – please know it is ok to show the families of your patients emotion. A friend died in a tragic random murder and I know his family was touch that doctors cried, the police cried, and came to his funeral.

      • Ditto this. My father-in-law was killed in an accident nearly 10 years ago. His elderly father (my husband’s grandfather) was the one who was at the hospital when my FIL finally died after the ER doctors, and then the surgeons, had worked on him for about 8 hours. The one thing my GFIL always talked about – years after FIL’s death – was how when the surgeons came out to tell him that FIL was dead, they were crying. They had tried really hard to save him, or at least keep him alive long enough for my husband to get there, and it just didn’t happen. We were all so touched that the surgeons were that emotionally invested in my FIL, rather than just seeing him as one more guy who got hit while riding his motorcycle. It really can be something the family hangs onto later. We know you are human too.

      • Agreed. I have some friends who lost a baby, and it meant a lot to them that the nurses and doctors cried with them.

      • recent grad :

        I’m going to throw my ditto in as well. My mother passed away in a hospice facility after a 2 year battle with breast cancer. I was 22. I still remember one of the nurses coming up to me after my mom was prnounced dead and wrapping her arms around me, just letting me cry on her shoulder. The emotional response and outreach was greatly appreciated at that moment.

      • Sorry for the typos because I typed it really fast at work. Showing emotion shows that you really cared whether that patient lived or died. That means to the world to families.

        • Anonymous :

          So it ok to cry if you are a surgeon but not if someone treats you badly? It is weird what our culture does with crying. People should be free to cry if they are upset. I am not sure what in our culture says that successful people have to be unemotionless, but if you work with people as a doctor, then lack of tears could make you seem cold. What a bunch of weirdness. I will never get it. Having emotions does not make you weak, it makes you strong and willing to feel.

    • Little Lurker :

      E, it’s possible I misread your comment, but I’m a little concerned by the line “usually in my car on the drive home”.

      I hope you mean in the parking lot or driveway! If you’re a scrunched-eyes, snot-nosed crier like me (attractive, I know), driving home while crying would be impossible. Even if you are physically able to drive, I would be worried that any situation that causes you to cry would distract you from your task at hand: getting home safely!

  9. Anonymous :

    The only time I’ve cried in front of people at work was before two coworkers who were not supervisors. I had just started taking birth control pills and I had received a snotty email from a senior associate late at night that required me to stay even later, so my usual cool dissolved in a stormy, snot-filled sob session. I’m with Amber; I hate it when people cry at work, so I was terribly embarrassed (though my coworkers were very kind about it). Normally, if I feel like I’m going to cry, I excuse myself and go to the bathroom and cry a bit there, silently, in a stall. I agree with Emily — I do not think it professional to exhibit extreme forms of emotion at the office.

  10. I cried in the office once – I was being assigned a big project that didn’t fall anywhere within my job description (and specifically fell within someone else’s, who had proven to be rather incompetent) and I was already near the tipping point of being overwhelmed with my to-do list. I have several bosses (all of whom sit near each other in a trading floor setup) all talking to me about assigning me this major project, and I was obviously unenthusiastic. One boss asked me to come talk to him in his office, where he basically told me they didn’t trust the other guy with the project and he wanted to know how I was feeling about my workload. I was so upset about the whole thing, I just started crying. Hugely embarrassing and I still wish I hadn’t done it. I’ve vowed to myself never to cry in the office again, but sometimes it just feels impossible to stop.

  11. I’m presently in (as in, almost finished with) a year long clerkship, and (in case you haven’t noticed) the job market for new attorneys is really, really tough. Even with the clerkship, some pre-law school work experience, good reviews all over as far as I can tell, and a summa cum laude J.D., I’ve only gotten 2 interviews since fall, and only one offer (early in the fall, in a field that I really didn’t want to practice in, which I turned down on the assumption that with my qualifications, I should really be able to get something else- regretting that one, now!). It’s looking more and more like I won’t find a job before my clerkship ends next month. I went to law school a little bit later in life, with the plan that my husband would leave his job when we had kids, but it’s looking less and less like I’m going to establish a career and still have enough time left to fit that in.

    Anyway, it’s a small city, and I work at the trial court level, so I know most of the attorneys that come through, and they all know I’m job hunting (I’ve tried to make sure of that!), so I get asked how the search is going just about every day. I’m not quite to the point of bursting into tears at each of these questions, but I’m very, very close.

    I certainly agree that it is unprofessional, though, and I’m glad for these tips!

    • Bk foette :

      Oh Lyssa,
      I can relate, except I have had zero job offers thus far (but am in the “consideration” stage for 3 firms). I too have pre-law work experience and plan is to support a SAHD, but getting nervous about my job prospects — even in a field like bankruptcy which is booming right now.
      I hate hate hate the “what are you doing after” question from people just trying to make small take. It is rough. Good luck to you.

  12. I’ve cried two times at work- newly pregnant both times. Sometimes hormones get the best of you, what can I say. Still was extremely embarrassed though, because I think it’s completely unprofessional. So much for my veneer of perfection. :-)

    • It’s not just pregnancy that can trigger tears. For older women, the shifting hormones of peri-menopause can be devestating. I’m in the middle of that now, and it seems like any control I used to have over workplace tears is gone. I’ve just had to be upfront with my boss. I treated it like a medical issue – explained that because of changing hormones due to menopause, emotions like anger and frustration seem to result in tears more often than not. I asked him to just ignore the tears when they start – as if they were a hot flash or some other “standard” symptom of menopause. I also assured him that if I’m truly overwhelmed or in need of assistance, I will let him know, so he doesn’t have to guess about what the tears mean. He seems to have gotten used to it.

  13. I’m very emotional outside of the workplace (even some commercials can get me all teary-eyed), but I have never come close to crying in the workplace, even during the most trying situations and vicious conversations. I guess that’s one unexpected benefit from having a rough childhood with abusive parents. You just take it all in stride.

    • Legally Blonde :

      Same here. I was also raised in an abusive home with mentally unstable parents.

      Alone, in the privacy of my home, I cry very easily. Commercials, finding an old photo of a deceased relative, my husband says something that really doesn’t warrant tears but it does anyway, etc. But I am absolutely apalled at people who cry in public, work or not. Even in “cry friendly” situations such as funerals, etc., I think that crying should be confined to silent tears. Sobbing productions are unlikely to get sympathy from me. The few times I have been frustrated enough to cry at work, I close my office door, shed a tear or two, and go on with my day.

      Maybe our childhoods just messed us up emotionally? I think mine gave me the ability to bottle up emotions until I felt safe (away from my parents) so that probably has something to do with my feeling that emotions are okay in the safe zone of home, but nowhere else.

      • Me too, and I have been known to cry watching sappy commercials and even shed tears of happiness for the winner of, say, the spelling bee – but I almost never cry in real life, and not at all at work.

      • I second this. And also that emotions, particularly crying, were often used as manipulation so I’m automatically a little disgusted by people crying in inappropriate situations. And I also cry at commercials. Particularly ones with cute babies or animals for some reason. Oh and the ones for the organization that saves abused animals with that Sarah McClaughlin song in the background. Gets me every time!

        • UGH! I change the channel when that commercial comes on. If I can’t get it off by the second or third animal pic, it literally ruins my day.

        • I cry at the one investment commercial with the proud parents at their kid’s kindergarten graduation.

    • AnneCatherine :

      S, I am totally with you (well, no, luckily for me, I’m not, in that I did not by any means have abusive parents, and I had an almost-idyllic childhood)–but, while I cry very, very easily at home, like, if I think in the abstract about kids being sick, and cry at commercials all the time, I have never even come close to crying at work, or even wanting to or feeling like it (I know it’s not something anyone *wants* to do, but you know what I mean–I’ve never even felt the feeling at work). For this I do count myself very lucky.

      I have seen women cry at work (one attorney, and some staff) and while I do not judge the secretaries if, say, their boss was yelling at them, I have to say, a piece of me did judge the attorney, though she later explained to me that she cries when she is angry (not a response I have to anger; I cry when I am sad, but not angry). What was much, much worse, however, was that she cried in front of five male attorneys, including a partner who called her out on crying and said she had to be “tougher” and not be “hurt.” Even though she tried to explain that she wasn’t hurt, but was instead angry, she was unable to speak at the time, and I think it made people think “Geez, what if you get angry in court?”

    • Oh my! I am so glad I am not the only one blocking emotions.
      I do have a very messed up family (not abusive, but always absent and self-centered) I just wonder how I still turned out OK.. anyhow, I have developed the skill of showing contagious joy (as in my eyes will have that distinctive glow for the smallest things. But when I am upset, teh only thing that changes is that my voice is deeper and I am quiter; other than that I block any emotion

    • My dad yelled like a freaking CRAZY person all of the time–carrying on and throwing things, etc…. I didn’t realize how weird it was until I was an adult. I have literally no reaction for yelling, swearing, wall-punching, etc., which everyone views as extrememely odd (apparently “the last intern/associate used to cry all the time when they worked for this person…because this person is CRAZY”). I am great at dealing with nutjob “difficult” people (who are, oddly, often brilliant at whatever they do, so you do learn a lot). I get viscerally annoyed when new people come on board and act suprised with person x’s attitude/mild psychosis/etc.

      BUT, one “normal” item of constructive criticisim can, spoken in a normal tone of voice makes me kind of panicy and teary. maybe it’ s just not what we were expecting.

  14. I’ve never cried at work, not when I found out at work that I needed emergency surgery and I should have collapsed a while ago, or even when I found out (again, at work) that my mom needed an emergency blood transfusion because she was at risk of heart failure (we’re both fine now).

    Hmm, writing it out like that makes me seem so cold but I don’t know why I didn’t cry during those awful times. When I am personally upset at home or with friends, my anger is usually expressed in tears but for some reason, that didn’t happen in those specific scenarios. Perhaps those are isolated scenarios that caused me to go into shock. I do notice that when I recognize that I am starting to get angry at work, I force myself to calm down by thinking of other things. Dwelling on the object of anger just makes me angrier.

  15. Unfortunately, I have cried at the office more times than I would like to admit since coming back to work 12 weeks after having my son. (Crying, for many reasons, just seems to be a part of motherhood.) Luckily, I was alone in my office at my desk with tissue and a glass of water until the moment passed, but half of my office wall is glass and I’m sure someone probably noticed me unsuccessfully trying to hold it together. Even though it was understandable (and obvious) that I just missed my baby boy at home, I was completely mortified that I couldn’t keep from crying at my desk some days. (Other days I just made it to the ladies’ room before I started crying….)

    That being said, I would NEVER cry in front of my boss or coworkers. I think the appropriate thing to do is to (use your best efforts to) excuse yourself and go somewhere that you can be alone to pull it together – not just for your own sake, but for everyone else’s. Regardless of the reasoning behind the emotions, I don’t think it’s professional or courteous to cry in front of coworkers. It makes everyone uncomfortable and probably appears (even if it’s not the case) completely irrational.

  16. I hate crying at work. HATE. IT. However, I have gotten the news about 4 different deaths while I was at work and sometimes it’s really hard to keep it in. One time a co-worker got news about someone in her immediate family that died in a car accident and EVERYONE in the office started crying along with her.

    But when I feel a non-death related cry coming on, I try to take short walk, go to a bathroom not on my floor, and just try to get control of myself. As cliche as it sounds, giving myself a few slaps on the cheeks helps.

  17. Interrobang :

    Don’t cry at work.

    This is one issue with (go ahead, pile on) no sex or gender double standard, despite stereotypes of women as irrational, emotional, and hysterical.

    Mr. Interrobang’s [male] boss routinely cries in front of his inferiors. Dude has a serious case of Glenn Beck, in many ways. Anyhow, equally unprofessional and unbecoming when a man does it.

    • Is he Mormon? I ask because in Mormon culture (at least out west) crying is encouraged and actually considered a good masculine quality.

      • Interrobang :

        I wasn’t going to say it, but yes.

        • I think I’d just let this slide, then. It’s hard to think of other Americans as being culturally different, but in this case it is a cultural difference and I’d have to remind myself of that every time he turns on the waterworks.

          • Interrobang :

            I’m trying, but in my culture, it’s immature and unprofessional.

            The struggle continues!

    • Little Lurker :

      Interrupting here to say that “Mr. Interrobang” is an AWESOME name.

      Carry on!

    • This would make me so uncomfortable mostly because I wouldn’t know what to do but also because it does seem unprofessional to me (barring the death of a loved one of course). Especially since he’s your boss – ugh. I guess if it happens pretty often and stays inside your office (versus in front of clients) you would get used to it and just know to expect it in certain situations.

  18. I haven’t cried at work, although I have had to excuse myself to do so. I also generally don’t deal well with people crying, and I would prefer they excuse themselves as well. Would I think less of people who cried in front of me in a professional situation? Not sure. I really think it depends on the situation. If you just found out someone close to you died, I wouldn’t dream of it. If you didn’t get the assignment you wanted, perhaps. Something in between, depends. I would hope that so long as the person wasn’t making a “show” of the crying, I wouldn’t let it affect my opinion of them much.

    However, I am rather apalled by the way that we are speaking about other people (mostly women) crying at work, and the obvious judgments that we are acknowledging making. It seems like just about everyone who’s commented so far has been in a situation in which they either could not control the tears or barely did so, and given that we spend so much time at work and that stress/lack of sleep/pressure are so present in most of our lives, it is only natural (and IMO healthy) that we will have these emotions. Couple this with the new design trend of clear-glass walls in offices and you’ve got this idea that we have to bottle ourselves up until it’s convenient and to save it to the 10 or 12 hours we get to ourselves instead of at work. I don’t know what the answer is, but it bothers me.

    • However, I am rather apalled by the way that we are speaking about other people (mostly women) crying at work, and the obvious judgments that we are acknowledging making.

      That’s exactly why I feel bad that it annoys me so much. I really try not to judge based on other things (hair length, clothing style, area of town where someone lives), so I don’t know why crying is something that makes me roll my eyes and think that a person is behaving unprofessionally.

      Having said that, I agree that if someone has just gotten traumatic news like a death in the family, I would not think twice about some tears.

      • AnneCatherine :

        “we spend so much time at work and that stress/lack of sleep/pressure are so present in most of our lives”

        I think that’s the reason we DO judge, a bit. We all have those stressors, yet not everyone cries. Like, I’ve never seen a man cry at work. Not that that is the gold standard, but clearly, it is possible to NOT cry at work, is what that implies . . . . I don’t know. Like (almost) everyone else, I will admit I feel bad about judging a bit.

        • AnneCatherine, I’ve never seen a man cry. But I have seen a man be so frustrated that he screams at and demeans his secretary. Same thing, IMO, and if you’re going to judge a woman for crying I sure hope you’d judge a man for screaming at someone. At least the crying doesn’t demean anyone.

          • AnneCatherine :

            Ariella, good point. Yes, I would judge a man or woman who lost control to the point of screaming. A quick rebuke, by either a man or a woman, maybe not. And to clarify, I’d judge a man who cried at work IF the crying was because he was stressed out/frustrated/angry, just as much as I’d judge a woman (and see, I’m not even sure “judge” is the correct word; I used it initially, I’ll admit, but it’s something less than “judge” that I mean, and more akin to “look askance at”). As many others have stated, if someone dies, and you receive news at work, no, of course, I would not find it odd for a woman, man, or anyone to cry. Or even to cry a week later over the death of a parent, etc. It is more the “I am crying because I can’t express/articulate my anger in words,” or “I am crying because I’m stressed out [instead of dealing with the issue that is stressing me out]” that would just make me wonder, becuase while I realize it is a common reaction, it is not one I have, and so, while I’d like to empathize with it, my kneejerk reaction is to find it odd.

            Also, I realized I have to issue a partial retraction. I nearly cried at a trial two times (tears came into my eyes, but did not spill over). Once was when the plaintiff’s mother (and I was on the defense side) starting talking about rushing to the hospital after the accident in question, praying that her son (a teenager) would be fine (he was not, to put it very mildly). As she spoke, and her voice cracked, tears just came into my eyes, and the jury foreman looked at me like, “are you crazy, lady? You do know she’s on the other side, right?” The other time was when a co-defendant (in another trial) took the stand and started talking about her husband, who had died. When she broke down talking about him, again, tears came into my eyes, and I had to swallow the lump in my throat. The jury did not see me that time (though that time, it would not have hurt our side, I guess, if they had).

    • I was just about to say the same thing — 95% of these comments have been “I hate seeing people cry at the office. Once when I cried at work…”

      There is a big difference between crying in the office once in 10 years and being an inappropriate/unprofessional crier — why can’t we be more forgiving of the former, especially since it seems like all of our turns will come eventually? We spend a huge percentage of our waking lives at the office. It hasn’t happened to me yet, but I think I can muster up some sympathy for a colleague who may be juggling a breakup/pregnancy/illness/crushing sleep-deprived deadline with an ever-ringing phone and not let 2 minutes of crying change my opinion of his/her work.

      • I’m in the Kelly Cutrone camp on this one. If you have to cry, go outside. However, this provides for the occasion when you really can’t hold it in.

        IMO, get. out. of. the. building. Swallow it down if at all possible, and get out to your car before you let loose. The bathroom is NOT private enough and should only be used as a last resort.

        I’ve never cried at work, but that comes from knowing my own tendencies — once the waterworks start, it is almost impossible to shut them down, so they can’t start, at all costs.

        If I have to cry, I cry when I get home. At least get your butt to the parking lot, locked safely inside your car. If you don’t drive yourself to work, see below.

        This may sound terribly cold — but when you find yourself overtired / stressed / sleep deprived / unhealthy / whatever, sometimes it helps to schedule yourself a good cry. If you bottle up your emotions (as I am apparently advocating), know that you have to let them out sometime, or they will force themselves out at the worst possible time. So take an evening by yourself, and let it loose, or put on a sappy movie or commercial or read a sad book if you need some help getting started. And then let it run its course. (Then apply cold washcloths, drink a gallon of water, and sleep for 12+ hours if you possible can. )

        It’s almost like getting a cry reset — give yourself a good cry every six months or so, and you’re less likely to blow your stack at work.

        In a way, I think you should avoid crying at work if possible, but the harshness above only applies to cries resulting from frustration/anger/being yelled at/something work related/personal life related. Deaths are the exception. Try to go home if it is at all possible, and lean on your non-work friends, just to protect yourself from the subconscious judgment — but few people are going to consciously judge you for crying when you find out about a death / life-threatening injury / diagnosis.

        • I have to agree with the “give yourself a good cry” idea. I know that there are certain times when I am more likely to cry than other (damn hormones), so it’s easier to plan on letting it out when convenient (at home, alone, etc) than waiting until you just can’t stop it. Of course, this doesn’t work for extreme cases (death, illness, etc) or even all the time (once again, damn hormones), but it can help.

        • I can’t believe the number of people here who say that walking away to cry is a good option. I’ve seen a number of people do that and if you think that your peers will think more of you for doing so then you are wrong. You are seen as running away from the issue/confrontation. You are considered weaker than those who may have gotten teary but stuck it out. You also provide your witnesses with an opportunity to discuss your emotional meltdown because you left.

  19. I have cried at work twice, but both times it was in my office after just being fired, after having shut the door. Luckily I haven’t been yelled at at work such that it made me cry.

    I have heard that swallowing also helps you not to cry, but haven’t tried it.

    • EPALawyer :

      Swallowing the lump in your throat makes you feel like you’re going to choke, I think because your neck gets tense.

    • Yeah, I think I would cry if I got fired. Luckily, by that point, your professionalism at that particular job no longer matters.

  20. Crying is not appropriate at the office in front of others. You HAVE to excuse yourself, shut your door, etc. Once at my clerkship I had to tell the judge that I was sick and go home. My ex-boyfriend of five years had just told me that his new girlfriend was pregnant and that they were getting married. It was only about six months after I broke up with him so it was a bit of a shocker.

    • Yeah, that is definitely a situation where it’s definitely better to fake an illness and go home. While it is perfectly reasonable to be very upset about something like that, first – would someone want everyone they work with to know about their personal business to that degree? Second, people will have one of three reactions: genuine sympathy, pity masked as sympathy (which I really hate) and eye-rolling over how “silly” the whole thing is. And anyone mean-spirited would have a field day, did you hear about so-and-so sobbing about her ex-boyfriend in the hallway? Ugh.

      Deaths are one thing – but I really think crying about relationship issues, while perfectly understandable and natural, is best kept out of the office at all costs. The last thing any professional woman needs is a perception that her personal life is a mess, or that she’s an object of pity. That’s not going to help anyone get anywhere.

  21. If you are able to walk away and go to a bathroom, do it.

    I haven’t tried this, but this would be my theoretical strategy if I were about to burst into tears in a situation where walking away was not easily accomplished – e.g. boss yelling at me – I would say interrupt with something like “I know this is important, I want to listen to you, but I am feeling a bit nauseous and I need to take a break.” Stomach troubles could explain all of the about-to-cry symptoms and I feel like it’s somehow better than crying, which maybe says a lot about the world we live in. Of course I would eventually give a cool-as-ice apology and try to blame stress-induced tummy-upset.

    • Oh, that’s a good one. Nobody ever questions stomach issues or asks for any additional/follow up information. Any mention of tummy distress is sure to get you a free pass out of the room for a few minutes, if not out of the office for the rest of the day.

  22. I also fake some sneezes when I start w/ the watery eyes and then blame my allergies.

  23. Outbursts of any sort are usually unprofessional, whether it’s crying, shouting, ranting, or jumping up and down and cheering. Fairly or unfairly, crying is often perceived as a form of manipulation, as though women turn the tears on to try to get their way or to get people to be nice to them. So to the extent possible, I think you should avoid crying, and if you can’t control it, excuse yourself and cry in private.

    Of course, there are exceptions to the rule – crying in front of your two closest “work friends” about something that’s really upsetting is unlikely to hurt you, just like ranting in front of them is unlikely to hurt you. And if there’s some incredibly extenuating personal circumstance – your parent died, for instance, and you found out at work – of course no one’s going to blame you for having a total blubbery meltdown. Context is everything.

    • Erin the second :

      This is a great summary – better than my wordier one right afterwards!

  24. I really don’t agree that crying at work is never appropriate. I completely agree that there are times when it is less appropriate, just as there are times when showing anger is also not appropriate.

    I have cried at work for a few different reasons. The times when it was related to work-related stresses happened earlier in my career, and were ones that I group into the “less appropriate at work” category. The manager I had at the time did develop an impression that I was less capable because of my crying. Over time, I learned to better control my emotional responses to stress and was able to face work-stress situations without crying. At the same time, my manager changed his perspective of me, telling me later that he was impressed with my persistance with improving my control over the emotional behavior, and that it showed my strength. He even reinterpreted the crying responses I had earlier in my career as being a sign of my passion for my work, which I suppose in some ways is true but isn’t exactly how I interpret them today.

    There have been other times that I have cried at work and received nothing but support from colleagues at all levels. Once I received news that my grandmother had died suddenly. I was working in a cubicle at the time, which made it hard to get somewhere more private before the tears started. The other time (the most recent) that I cried was when I was leaving my last job. I had worked with the same group of people for nine years, and I felt deeply connected to them. So when I told them I was leaving the tears just came. Both times my colleagues were nothing but supportive, and I’ve never felt held back in any way in my career as a result.

    • Erin from comment 35 :

      Whoa, hello other Erin.

      • Erin the second :

        Yeah – I just caught that – what great timing we have!

        I also love that our posts both center on the same point – context is everything when it comes to judging behavior.

  25. Paralegal :

    I have hormonal issues after chemo that basically make me cry at everything. Add in the birth control they put me on to fix other issues and I’m a mess. Luckily (ha!) I also have IBS as a result of chemo/cancer stress from those years ago so often when I need to cry I need to run to the bathroom for other reasons and I can at least attempt to cover it up that way.

    I’ve also never used it as an excuse and I tend to hold others to those same standards. If someone cries, I get it and I sympathize but they need to be willing to come back and talk it out when they’ve calmed down. That’s my only standard for crying. Don’t use it as an evasive technique and I won’t hate you for it.

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