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?


  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.

  26. I’m going to break from the majority here and say “Screw it!” Women cry. I think all of this “don’t ever cry” b.s. should go right in the trash along with the advice that we should all act more like men if we want to get ahead. Men tend to yell and curse or–more likely–get defensive; women tend to cry. Obviously there are numerous exceptions to this–and I hate stereotypes–but our emotional response tends to be different and occasionally, we all get emotional at work.

    All that said, I will agree with most of the commenters that–in an ideal world, none of us would get (negatively) emotional at work and that we should all aim to avoid it. But, let’s stop apologizing for being women and start letting the other half know that this is the reality (as if they didn’t already know). It doesn’t make us weak and it doesn’t mean we want sympathy–it’s just a fact. Sometimes, I cry. I may apologize for losing my cool, but I am not apologizing for losing it by crying.

    • THANK YOU.

      • I think you have to play the game you’re in….not the game you want to be in.

        • If everyone thinks like that, we’ll never be in the game we want to be in. This thread proves the point–just about every women here cries at work occasionally, and yet so many of us judge each other for it. It’s ridiculous that we’re condemning our own natural reaction to circumstances yet trying to adopt men’s typical emotional reactions (ie: cursing).

    • I agree with you completely.

  27. Weepy in Washington :

    I admit it- I cry at work. And I agree with everyone that it is unprofessional, makes you look bat etc., But physically I cannot figure out how to stop tears once they start coming. I know my trigger- can’t stand people yelling at me- and I really try mental tricks (reminding myself its not about me, tuning out if I can) and physical ones (oh my, excuse me just a minute I must run to the ladiess’ room), but those just aren’t enough for me. I am also blessed with translucently pale skin, and blush frequently. Any other extremely tear prone women have tips for how they cure it?

    • I was always petrified of crying in public as a kid — never did it, no matter what, but always worried about it.
      My mom told me that she would do the flush/crazy tears her whole youth. She “cured” herself by telling herself, as soon as she started to feel the blush or tears coming, “C’mon, Rene, time to turn on the water works. Go ahead! Let em weep. Let’s start crying/blushing/whatever. . . ” etc., etc.. . . Basically by focusing on actually crying/blushing, she would become unable to do either & it more or less went away. Maybe some version of that could work for you. I generally just excuse myself if I can whenever I start to feel weepy, which luckily is very, very seldom.

    • I don’t know why, but whenever I want to start crying at work, I picture the Mary Tyler Moore episode about the death of a clown where Mary starts reciting, “A little song, a little dance, a little selzer down your pants…” and then cracks up. And then this leads to a string of other women-centered sitcom moments, like Lucy stuffing chocolates in her mouth as they come down the conveyor belt, and Carla on Cheers…and by that point, I’ve usually lost the string of the entire conversation anyway so I don’t feel like crying anymore. Maybe this is too specific to be helpful, but distraction is a great tool

    • I went to a military boarding school for high school, so I have had plenty of practice in how not to cry. The best trick for me is pressing my tongue as hard as possible against the roof of my mouth. it makes your face looked pinched, and it’s almost impossible to talk while doing this, but it might just get you down the hallway and into a restroom/office without releasing the flood.

  28. I curse instead. Seriously. I’d read years ago that cursing is a more male reaction and will get you a better response at work than crying, and though I thought it was stupid at the time, must have internalized it. Not that I go around cursing all the time, very rarely, but just redirecting the anger (which is why I cry – absolute fury) is helpful. That said, I have still cried a couple of times at work – but only with the office door firmly closed. I haven’t thought less of friends at work who have cried to me behind closed doors, in the least. If it happened in front of a client or partner – that would be uncomfortable and weird and yes, I’d wonder about the loss of control.

    That said, crying about work is in a completely different category than crying about a family member’s death or other horrible event while at work. Anyone thinking less of you for the latter, provided that you aren’t sobbing on the secretary’s carrel throwing papers into the air screaming “why?! why?!”, is a souless automaton with a heart of tar.

    • Interrobang :

      Sometimes I shut the door and pour a stiff drink.

    • Mid Level :

      This cursing idea is genius.

      • AnneCatherine :

        Well, careful—maybe it’s genius. Unless you work for a boss who judges women who curse as unladylike –probably the same type who prefers skirt suits? :-) Anyhow, I once worked for such a man; I actually don’t really curse, but, in advance, I was warned that he “doesn’t like women who curse.” Not that he liked them to cry, either, I’m sure, though I never received an advance warning either way on that. You just have to know who you are dealing with.

      • another S :

        Agreed! If I’m ever so angry or frustrated that I’m on the verge of crying at work, I plan to try this. Seriously. Cursing may not be the best or most evolved way of dealing with anger and frustration, but in my office, no one thinks twice about those who curse whereas they’d probably think differently about me if I ended up crying in front of anyone just because I was pissed off. (BTW, I’m relieved to learn there are others out there who cry out of anger/frustration even if I will forever attempt to hide the fact that I do.)

    • I’m a curse-er too, naturally, without having to try. Since most lawyers have filthy mouths, this hasn’t proved a problem for me. Crying would definitely be perceived as weakness in my workplace, but cursing is a-ok.

  29. I used to cry at work a lot more when I was younger. As I’ve gotten older, I have gained some perspective on what really is a big deal and what is not, and what will probably matter a week, month or year in the future and what will not. 90 percent of the minor dramas that happen in an office will have no affect on your future career or your long-term relationships in the office. But when I was younger, I was really bad about automatically leaping to conclusions about everything having this monumental, ongoing impact on my career. When you do that, you’re going to be a cryer.

    I am also one of those classic perfectionists who does not take criticism well and it used to be that any time I was criticized, I would feel like crying. Now, when I listen to criticism, I try to remember three things:
    – 90 times out of a hundred, the criticism is not personal. And 90 times out of a hundred, there is a genuine desire on the other person’s part to either help me improve, or help the business, and I should listen to what they’re saying.
    – How the criticism is delivered says way more about the deliverer than it does about me. There is a way to deliver criticism in a way that does not make the person feel bad. If someone is being a complete jerk, that’s unnecessary, and it has nothing to do with me.
    – A college professor told me this once, and it has turned out to be one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten: you never make good decisions when you’re reflexively reacting. Whatever’s being said, it is far, far better to take time to digest it and then come up with a response than it is to react without thinking things through. Crying is a reflexive reaction and while it’s hard to control it, it’s better not to do it in front of others if you can.

    That all being said, yes, sometimes I still do cry at work, although usually it’s over something that has nothing to do with work. I got the news that my best friend’s mother had died while I was at work and there was no way I was not going to cry over that. I told an office friend what had happened and everyone was very sympathetic and gave me as much space as I needed until the end of the day. Life happens and it happens concurrently with what’s going on in the office. And I’ve found sometimes support can come from unlikely corners, in those moments.

  30. I don’t think crying at work is really ever desirable, and I think it is particularly dangerous for women. I’ve heard/read/experienced that men believe that women lose the ability to think rationally when they are crying. Unfortunately, I am a person who cries out of anger or frustration (sadness, crisis, etc. I handle stoically – go figure). I have cried in front of my boss, and I still hate it. He was going through a personal issue and decided to start yelling personal insults at me during a conversation that did not warrant that. I wasn’t expecting it at all, and it was so inappropriate and I felt felt so helpless that I started to cry. Then he started asking me why I was crying. It was a very unpleasant encounter, but I don’t believe it has hurt his impression of me long term.

    I don’t know how judgmental I am about crying at work, but I do feel that it is something to be avoided. And I would be annoyed having to deal with it in some situations.

    • Well said. I think I’m more like you – cry when angry and clam up when sad.

      • Exactly. I can get through funerals and stressful situations without shedding a tear (provided they don’t involve my mother crying, which kills me every time), but piss me off and the tears start flowing!

    • Erin the second :

      Why are you negatively judging yourself for crying in response to personal insults from your boss? If I had witnessed that exchange, I would have put the fault on your boss – it is NEVER appropriate for your boss to intentionally insult you personally for any reason. I think your crying in that context is completely understandable, and not something you should have felt the need to defend. Is his defense that he was going through a personal issue really that defendable?

      I watched a friend and co-worker of mine cry once after learning that two of her colleagues had given her a really insulting nickname, and were using it on company emails with each other. Somehow these two accidentally added my friend to the email chain, leaving her confused enough to call me into her office to try to figure out what was going on. Once the reality sank in, she burst into tears. She was really embarrassed about it, but I certainly didn’t think any less of her because of that response. My feelings at the time were ones of anger towards the others for being that blatently unprofessional and disrespectful.

      It does bother me that our culture seems to support people who behave unprofessionally and make those who have an emotional response to that behavior have to defend themselves. But I think we have the power to change that perception by having discussions like these, and pushing to have conversations like these in our offices as well. My company recently started a mentoring program where we get to explore these kinds of issues with small groups, and I find the experience has really helped me feel more confident and comfortable with my at-work self.

      • “It does bother me that our culture seems to support people who behave unprofessionally and make those who have an emotional response to that behavior have to defend themselves. ”


      • Good point, and to be clear I am not making excuses for him at all. We spoke about it afterward, and I was able to calmly tell him that it was inappropriate for him to behave that way and explain how bad of a position it put me in because he was my boss and I couldn’t really defend myself in the same way I would otherwise. He has, over the years, been a good boss and mentor.

        I was still annoyed at myself for crying. I felt that I shouldn’t have let him get to me. Of course, I can’t see a scenario in which I could have gotten through that encounter without crying, but I’m still mad at myself. I probably shouldn’t be.

  31. I agree that there’s a huge difference between crying as a reaction to tragic news v. feeling overwhelmed by life/work/etc. I have a really hard time controlling my tears when I’m hormonal, which tends to make it worse–I hate knowing that the reason I am crying is intrinsically related to my gender. It makes me even angrier at myself and the world, which does not help. 26 days a month I’m stone cold, completely in control, and then 4 days a month I can not hold it together to save my life. And I HATE IT. But my friends say I can’t complain as I don’t get cramps.
    Anyway, I agree it’s never appropriate, and also that sometimes it’s uncontrollable.

    • Your comment makes me laugh.. it is exactly how I feel. But what make me laugh is to accept that in exchange of cramps during those hormonal days, I am more prone to crying, same with me

  32. I have cried at work four times. In less than a year. And this does not count previous jobs. Mostly this occurs behind closed doors, but one time was in a partner’s office. For me, tears are an uncontrollable physical reaction to various triggers, including exhaustion, stress, anger, and frustration. I have tried several mechanisms to control this reaction, but to no avail. I have also tried hating myself for this reaction, telling myself that other people who can control this reaction think of me as just not strong enough, and that this is unprofessional. But I realized pretty quickly that didn’t help and that this is just something about me I have to accept.
    I generally excuse myself if possible, but sometimes the person won’t let you leave because they want to comfort you. In two instances, sharing emotion with this type of person led to that person becoming my mentor. One was a male associate during a summer position who, since that day three years ago, has become a mentor who has helped me countless times. Another was a female partner who understood that the emotion of my client’s case (including extreme violence and assaults) combined with exhaustion provided too much. Since that afternoon she has taken more of an interest in my career and my success at this firm.
    So to those out there like me – some people will never understand, and some may think badly of you. But others won’t. Do your best, excuse yourself, and act professional while crying (including an explanation or an apology or whatever feels right to you in that moment) but my advice is don’t hate yourself or beat yourself up for being weak.

    • I had a similar experience, in that I cried in front of my supervising professor once in grad school and she seemed to take me more seriously after that – I think she was under the impression that I wasn’t very dedicated to my work, and crying about my work changed that impression. It’s not really a method I’d recommend, but it worked out okay.

      The other time I’ve cried in front of supervisors was when I was being fired, so, well, they could suck it up.

    • I’m about a month in at my first accounting firm, which hired me on F/T following my internship. Last Friday I became completely overwhelmed and frustrated and was letting the tears roll in my office just after 5. A partner happened to come by to check on a project’s status and there was no hiding the fact that I was a red-faced, teary mess. (In hindsight I should have gone to the restroom, but I didn’t expect a knock on the door.) He was very professional and handled the situation well. I was of course embarrassed and apologized for my unprofessionalism. I have been beating myself up for it, and feel like I will be looked down on in the future. I know that they like me and my work is good, but I know I will be talked about behind my back as the crier if I can’t learn to control myself. The tears always start when I am frustrated/exhausted/overwhelmed and I’m learning that those situations are (at least lately) a way of life. It also happened on my first audit, and although my team knew what was going on, I was able to excuse myself before any clients saw. I don’t want to be “that” girl, and two times in three months is way too many. I’m been telling myself that I’m ruining all my hard work by not being able to control my emotions. Obviously, it’s not helping the situation in the least. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one out there with this issue. I know this thread is old, but thank you all…you have helped me immensely.

  33. Delta Sierra :

    I’m finding this kind of a peculiar question. If you get terrible news at work, someone’s death, for instance, and you cry, that’s one thing, no one but a monster would down-mark you for it.

    But if it’s because of some upset during the course of business, well, crying isn’t something I can control. If tears come, they come. If I flee the room, everyone would know why, so that wouldn’t improve things much. I’d rather gulp, deploy a hankie, and get on with whatever.

    • The closest I came to crying in front of people at work was a trifecta situation. I was very sick (double ear infection so bad my face was swollen), I was working in a kitchen that was over 100 degrees, and was being yelled at by a person who was literally on drugs (fired soon after) off and on all night. Still managed to excuse myself before I cracked.

      It’s one thing to cry every once in a while, its quite another to let people see you. Yes, some people will realize thats what you were doing – buts its one thing to know someones crying and its quite another to see someone sobbing.

    • Anonymous :

      seriously….my boss gave me a lousy review because “you cried too much when your mother died” — who says that?…?

  34. I agree with @L. Women are so tough on each other and themselves. Seeing someone cry at work engenders concern and compassion from me. Maybe I’m the exception. Not once would I think: “You are so unprofessional, you whiny chick. Gah.” I think that partner who passed Kat the tissues needs her ass kicked. Sorry, worked up. We are NOT corporette automatons!

    • It depends on how much you cry. I work in a high stress job, with a group of 75 other people who do a similar high stress job. One person cries all. the. time. Assignment doesn’t go her way? Tears. Working really hard overnight? Weepy. Feeling too busy? Wet eyes. I’ve probably seen her cry 10 times, and we don’t work together on a daily basis. I’m sorry, am I supposed to comfort her every time? Am I supposed to stop what I’m doing and help her out?

      This is an extreme example, and clearly I’m not talking about someone who gets terrible news at work, or has a weak moment where they feel overwhelmed — I’ve been there. But at some point, we’re all expected to control our emotions. Just like we’re not supposed to scream at people, or curse etc. But being out of control emotionally is not a desirable quality in the professional realm, no matter how you manifest that.

  35. S in Chicago :

    I came into work directly from putting my 14-year-old dog down in the morning. That afternoon I was in a meeting and during a lull between presentations a coworker turned and asked me how he was doing (he had cancer that was being managed with chemo). Tears welled up and I know it was obvious. I was so angry at myself afterward. I honestly was just so taken off guard. Who asks that in a public setting though? I know she didn’t realize what had happened and that was The Day. But just a word of caution to think before you speak if it’s anything remotely sensitive.

    Although I will say, sometimes you can do your best and still step in it. Kind of reminds me of one of the weirdest meeting moments I ever had… A few years ago, our VP was trying to make small talk while waiting for the rest of our small (and interpersonally very close) group working on a particular project to arrive. He asked who had anything new going on with them. It went over like a lead balloon. He had no idea that of the four of us sitting there, one person’s husband just lost his job the day before, the other had filed for divorce the week before, and the other put her mom in a home over the weekend. As the only one drama-free , I nervously prattled on about anything and everything I could think of to break the mood. It was like five minutes of me just stammering while the others kind of hung their heads. The husband-losing-the-jober and I had a good laugh over coffee about it a few days later. I never mentioned it to the others, but I know they probably look back and see at least a little humor in it.

    • Oooh, I’d have taken at least a day off, possibly two or three days. My cat was very sick last year, and I had to take off a day and a half, not because I was physically with her at the animal hospital the whole time, but because I was an emotional wreck. This was more time than I took off when my grandmother died, fwiw. I was just so distraught about my poor little buddy, and I wanted to visit her as much as possible and give her snuggles. There was no way I’d have gotten any work done. My boss completely understood, too.

      • s in Chicago :

        I had put him down after spending the whole week before working from home (he was in the hospital for half of that week while they did a blood transfusion and tried another type of chemo and the visiting hours were very limited). The meeting was important and I felt like I had already taken more time than most people would understand (not everyone gets the pet thing). I also felt like being alone at the house would be unbearable.

        Maybe some of it was guilt. I had taken a couple of vac days earlier during a busy time (my boss didn’t know that it wasn’t for a family trip, but because he had been diagnosed). I know not many people would would get this, but I’d take those precious days of just the two of us by ourselves lounging around the house while husband and kid were away before extra time at the beach any day.

        • I’m totally with you. My dog is healthy as can be, and I am tearing up right now just imagining if she had to be put to sleep. It’s just something about those beautiful sad doggy eyes that gets me.

        • I get it.

        • I would have cried with you. We had to put a dog to sleep after a sudden illness recently (fine Friday night, put to sleep on Monday). Even knowing how much he meant to us, I was still surprised by how hard it was and how devastated we were. I’m sorry for your loss.

        • puppy lover :

          i am getting all weepy right now just reading about your sweet pup. thank goodness i work for myself- i can cry all i want!

          • Well…this is my theory. It has been a man’s world. They have yelled and screamed and cursed at each other in the past. “Boys don’t Cry”, now enters woman. What is healthier? Crying quietly in the corner or when given difficult to swallow news is bad. That is what your are all saying. Isn’t crying the best and healthiest reaction. It’s not my father’s way or my bosses way of of expressing their feelings. They get all pissed off and start yelling. This emotion is still tolerated in most work places. My father get pissed of at me for crying at work? I should say that I have an extremely stressful job with no one taking accoutablility aside from my position within the company. I would say that it is alot self pity, frustration or just not enought sleep. I have seen every woman in my office in tears, sometimes just due to me telling the story of my life. I should say also that my husband is in pain through his right shoulder and arm for the past 2 years. He has had 2 surguries on the right carpal tunnel and one on the left. His left is weak. He has hypothyroidism and experiences all the possible side effects of having hypothyroidism and some of the symptoms of hyperthroidism but his thryoid levels are within normal range. No sex, no family walks, no second child (at least I have my beautiful girl, we got pregnant before we took him to see a doctor), no throwing his girl in the air. I really believe you will see a shift as it become more of a “our” world instead of a “men’s world”. I would say, if the crying interfers with your work…you need to actively be seeking help from a doctor who will give you drugs and a head shrinker to help you keep life in perspective. Life isn’t easy for most of us.

  36. Mid Level :

    This topic is very timely for me. I have cried twice at work . Both times were alone, in my office, with the door closed. The second time was last week…and it was very nearly in front of my department chair.

    The trigger: I made a mistake, a very big and costly mistake, and I had to relay my blunder to Partner X, department chair, a less than sympathetic audience. Generally, I do not have a problem with crying because I use certain tricks–pinch the skin between my thumb and forefinger, press my tongue against the roof of my mouth, work through the multiplication tables, and (if possible) stare at a light–the combination of which prevent any chance of waterworks. But this time I had to do the talking so half of my tricks were out. Despite the fact that I practiced my soliloquy multiple times (preparedness is another tip for preventing tears), I became overwhelmed and emotional mid-speech. A few things prevented me from crying in front of him:

    1) When I felt like I was going to cry–i.e., the tears were welling up and were about to spill over–I politely (and calmly) said “I’m sorry, just a moment,” then I stopped talking, starred up at the overhead lights, and took three deep, counted breaths (in through the nose, out through the mouth).
    2) I noticed that the thought of me crying brought me even closer to perpetrating the act. However, visualizing the words coming out of my mouth (actually seeing the letters come out and form words on Partner X’s forehead) allowed me to focus on what I was saying and not think about crying.
    3) I pinched my hand’s pressure point very, very hard.
    4) And when I was able to finish my prepared lines, I apologized for becoming emotional (because I knew he had seen the tears welling up in my eyes), reminded him that I took this job personally (which usually serves my clients and the firm well) and then let him say his part.

    He, of course, yelled at me for a few minutes while I went through multiplication tables. Afterward, I went back to my office and cried for ten minutes (door closed).

  37. Preventative measure:

    If you know you are an easy crier – or if an issue has arisen that encourages such crying (prescriptions, death/illness in family, pregnancy, etc) – give a professional and calm warning to your supervisor and other colleagues who might see (or put) you in such a situation. I would also compensate by being tough as nails otherwise. If you are an intense and serious person but your boss knows you might need to step out during a high pressure meeting, at least it won’t catch him off guard. Also, let him know there is a solution. So “(1) In some situations I get very emotional (2) this is a reaction to a prescription I take (3) when it happens I will step out of the room and be ready to continue within 10 minutes.” The more clinical it is, the less scary. If a person starts tearing up and I know he/she will be okay in 10 minutes, that’s not a big deal – if that person tears up without warning, I could be looking at a tear/snot-fest/meltdown lasting several hours, and that’s annoying.

  38. “Are you crying? Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There’s no crying! THERE’S NO CRYING IN [LAW]!” — A League of Their Own as retold by my judge father upon my entry to law school.

    IMO, there is a difference between crying at work because you are sad (okay) and because you are shamed/frustrated (not okay). The former shows that you are human. The latter shows weakness.

    • When I was in law school, a girl cried in class after being skewered for being totally unprepared when she got called on. This is essentially what the professor said, too. And it’s true – what if she’d come to court unprepared and cried in front of the judge? I think the number one way not to cry is to prevent situations that might make you cry.

    • I imagine nearly all women make an effort not to cry in the office for the latter “not okay” reasons – the fact that they don’t always succeed, in my opinion, also makes them human. And frankly I don’t think it’s at all productive to point out when it’s okay vs. not when for the vast majority of people who find themselves in this position, it’s not a choice. Suggestions for minimizing the damage are helpful, but these sorts of declarations do more harm than good, in my opinion.

      I’ve become much more critical of the people around me since I started reading this blog, and I think strongly worded declarations of what’s okay and what’s not have really colored my view for the worse of the people around me. Not good.

  39. North Shore :

    I don’t know if this would work in the workplace, but before my wedding, I guess I looked like I was going to cry and my father told me to think about my car. Things like: I need to get the oil changed, I need to get the car to the shop, I need to have the mechanic take a look at the battery, etc., those sort of mundane list-type things that can occupy your brain. I still use that trick when I feel emotional.

    I’ve never cried at work and never seen a colleague cry, either. We do wrongful death litigation and see lots of crying witnesses — maybe that helps keep things in perspective.

    • This kind of thing helps me too. When my dog died after a horrible bout with cancer, for a while I would find myself in my office welling up. Thinking about the most mundane, simple things and actually saying them in my head (“the sky is blue today” “my plant is very green” “that box is REALLY full”) would stop it in an instant.

      • That’s a great trick. I have heard of men using it to prevent other . . . reactions . . . prematurely :)

    • My best friend uses this technique. When she feels like she is going to cry, she starts running through the list of her pending home repairs in her head. She said it works really well when she is in a situation where the other person is going on and on, she is about to lose it, and there’s no way out of the situation.

      • The thought of all my pending home repairs makes me want to cry lol.

      • Funny – reading this made me realize that often in stressful situations I find myself mentally balancing my checkbook. It’s not intentional, but maybe it’s a subconscious coping mechanism. Luckily my finances are in good order, or this might not work so well!

        • I find biting my lip and COUNTING “one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi…” helps.

  40. I have cried several times at work, although I’m not proud of it. I have usually been alone in my office. One of the times that I was alone in the office, a partner barged in without knocking. We had a brief conversation while I tried to pull myself together and then he quickly backed out of the room — and I heard later that he had inquired with one of my co-workers (who he knows is also a good friend) as to whether or not I was okay. I think that he mostly felt bad for barging in on me.

    I whole-heartidly agree that it’s best to avoid crying.

    However, it really annoys me that crying is treated so differently than other “extreme” showings of emotion. For example, when the boss enters a fit of rage over something that his secretary did, I don’t know that anyone thinks that he is incapable of doing his job (they just think he’s a jerk). But if someone cries, that’s a show of weakness. In my mind, both or situations where a person could not control their emotions, and I wish that they had the same stigma.

    • Absolutely agree. I think the reason why crying = weakness is because mostly women do it and men don’t “suffer” from it (as a group). So it’s back to the women = weak thing.

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