There’s No Crying in Baseball: How to Keep from Crying at Work

how to keep from crying at work

2017 Update: We still stand by this discussion of how to keep from crying at work — you may also want to check out our recent discussion of how to get a poker face at work

Reader S has an interesting question about how to keep from crying at work…

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.)how to keep from crying at work - advice for career women

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? How do YOU keep from crying at work?

Pin image via Stencil.

Ever wondered how to keep from crying at work? A reader wrote in wondering if women who cried at work wouldn't get promotions -- and we shared some of our best advice on how to keep yourself from crying at work.


  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.

  41. Anonymous :

    As a former military officer and two-time combat veteran, IMO the only excuse for crying publicly is death. “Stress” is relative; so long as no one’s trying to bomb my office, I’ll get the report done just fine.

    I used to be a crier and all-round emotional and high-strung, but, well, the military is full of angry old men and that’d mean crying at least once a week. What got me over it? Utter shame, complete humiliation and the words of a tough-as-nails female mentor. The mentor told me two things I won’t ever forget: 1) Men immediately stop listening to high-pitched, squeaky women and 2) men immediately and permanently write off emotional women, so if you’re gonna lose it, lose it in the ladies room.

    I think it takes someone you have great respect for telling you you’re a screw-up to really change you LOL

  42. Ex-3L Sarah :

    I cried twice at the Clinic this past year (it’s on my resume, so I’m counting it at work, although I’ve never cried at work in an outside office and also consider it rather unprofessional save for the reasons highlighted above). Both times I received word of a grave injustice dealing with a grade and a professor. Both instances were so completely out of the blue, it was my first reaction. My friends all heard me and came into my office asking what was going on, etc etc. My supervisors also heard/saw me when they heard my friends talking about what happened. However, my supervisors broke down sometimes after a bad loss at court. They are also the Family Law and Children’s Advocacy supervisors, and so a couple times they cried for the little kid that’s now going to grow up in a broken/abusive home because of x or y. While that’s no excuse for my tears, the Clinic wasn’t exactly a place where we would get downgraded for our emotions, and I wasn’t. I suppose it’s better I got it all out there so I don’t have to deal with crying at a job.

  43. Random, but wasn’t there an episode of Sex and the City about this exact topic?

  44. I definitely think crying at work can make your co-workers think you’re overemotional or emotionally labile. That said, I also definitely don’t believe that crying at work will impede your progress up the ladder. Personally, I don’t see how crying at work is any more or less damaging than screaming at work (which many men do). There seems to be a double standard applied where women are looked down on for crying, but men are given a “pass” for screaming at opposing counsel, subordinate lawyers, and/or staff. In my opinion, screaming is much more unacceptable than crying.

    In my firm, I have definitely broken the “rules” as people posit them on this site. For example, I have not only cried in front of my immediate supervisor (for professional reasons), I have also shared personal information with him (relating to marriage issues). Amazingly, my supervising attorney does not treat me poorly, believe I am incompetent or unprofessional, and I am on track to make partner next year.

    The reason I specifically bring up the people on this blog is because I consistently see comments giving black and white rules for what you “should” and “should not” do. While I personally agree with many of the rules, I also think they’re guidelines and how you interact with your officemates and co-workers can change what’s right or wrong for your workplace. And all of these things are tied together: in some workplaces, crying may very well be the kiss of death. They may never view you in a positive light again. I certainly HOPE not, because crying can be unavoidable in some situations (and sometimes when we try to stop crying, we just cry harder, as Kat mentioned). In other workplaces, crying is just a blip on the radar and doesn’t mean much.

    In my opinion, follow the recommendations of the ladies on this site. But also follow your own knowledge of your workplace. If you cry, don’t immediately think your career is over, because I sincerely doubt that’s the case.

  45. Surprised Crying :

    I have cried once at work, while on the phone with someone I thought was my most sympathetic Board member. He shocked me by saying he thought I should run my nonprofit like a start-up tech company and do whatever it took to make it a success (totally dismissing my legitimate frustration about the org’s stunted growth and the limits of of being a one-woman shop despite having over $1 million in our bank account!). The shock of his words overwhelmed me. Luckily, since it was a one-woman shop, no one else saw me and I knew he was not the ally and mentor I thought he was.

    The second time I cried in a work-related setting was when I was at a podium making brief remarks at a farewell reception for an amazing boss and mentor. I was one of 3 speakers and I literally choked up and felt tears roll down my face. I collected myself, but I felt so vulnerable/embarrassed by the unexpected tears.

  46. I may be cold and hard, but I don’t think it’s OK to cry at work…unless it’s something like a death in the family or something to that effect. Case in point – at my last job, we had to fire someone. The direct supervisor of that person was a mess and my boss (the CFO), remarked that she couldn’t hold it together and that would hold her back. I made a mental note that day to NEVER cry in front of him and I never did…except once, when I had to call all the Executive on unethical behaviour to the point where I had to make a choice that if they didn’t fix it, I’d have to quit. I’d been through hell and back on that job and never cried so he was shocked and said that this must be a big deal if I was crying. So while I’ve done it, I really really try hard not to. If I had to cry, I’d cry in the bathroom or I had two other women that we’d commiserate together but I NEVER cried in front of men or my superiors.

  47. I’ve been thinking a lot about this issue lately.

    Last week I managed a project at my office (I am the only woman on the team) and multiple team members acted incredibly disrespectful towards me and one just didn’t show up on the day of his presentation- leaving me scrambling.

    Our CEO called me into his office to ask what happened and I couldn’t hold back tears. I had felt so disrespected and had worked so hard- but was powerless in a situation where another employee didn’t even show up. Again, this is a male dominated office so I was sure that he would lose any respect he had for me because I cried.

    Well, two hours later I get called back into his office and was told I was getting a 10% raise. To him, my tears showed him how committed I was to this project.

    I still wish I hadn’t have cried but at the same time believe it secured me a raise I wasn’t even angling for.

    • I think this makes a good point. A lot turns on why you are crying. If you are crying because someone yelled at you, you run the risk of looking weak. If you are crying because you are frustrated or angry at less-committed co-workers (the only time I’ve teared up at work) or because of the failure of an important project, it is not necessarily perceived badly.

      • OMG I just read through all of the comments on here and I absolutely relate to many of you. I believe its important to have a thick skin at work.

        A few months back, I was extremely stressed and working long hours in a new position. I had just come back from vacation and my lead (& my backup) left for his 3 week vacation the day I returned (ie. extra catchup+my job+his job which I had never done).

        It was a Friday afternoon and my husband, who had been on International travel all week, was arriving at 5pm. It had been a long work week and everyone was still in the office working. I still had a ton of things to get done and before I knew it, I was almost an entire hour late to pickup my husband. I felt HORRIBLE that my husband was still at the airport and the tears started welling up..I tried to continue tying up loose ends until one of my developers (an older man who reports to me) told me to go and get my husband.

        I made it out of the building but I cried ALL the way to airport. My husband was very nice as he knew I had had a very rough week. After I got it out, I was still able to log on and work some more from home that night and was in the office bright in early the next day. I was so upset about breaking down and was really worried that I had lost alot of respect that day from my developers and my upper management.

        After our deadline had passed, I had a conversation with one of the upper managers about that day. He told me that he felt really bad for me that day but he also realized how committed I was to the project. I didn’t get a raise but I was glad to know that I wasn’t judged for crying that day.

  48. I’ve cried a few times in the office. Once was after being let go from my first “real” job out of college. The second time was when I got a call telling me my friend’s 8 month old baby boy died. The third time was August, 2001, I lost my job, my boyfriend of 3 years and my home (living w/ boyfriend) within a period of 3 weeks. Just too much for me to take.

  49. I think you should probably try as hard as you can not to let anyone at work see you cry. If you start to cry, excuse yourself and head to the restroom. I have the unfortunate complication of also not being able to talk much when I’m crying, so it’s probably better to just go to the bathroom and get it all out so I can get back to my day.

  50. To stop any tears that I feel building up, I bite down my front teeth on my tongue and focus on that sensation while BREATHING! It tends to work most times.

  51. I have always been the person to not cry at work and say that you shouldn’t ever cry at work. During the first trimester that I was pregnant, however, I could not stop from crying. I have never been so emotional, and have emotions that are so uncontrollable. It was one of the most frustrating things I’ve dealt with at work.

    That said, I think it was only 3 times – one of which was related to some blatent gender discrimination and another of which dealt with an extremely unethical team I’d been working with for 9 months. Two of these times were in front of my manager and she thankfully commented that this is when it’s beneficial to have a female manager. She also recognized that I was extremely embarassed and had already guessed that I was pregnant.

    One thing that I heard that was interesting was that there are two types of people who cry at work.
    1. People who are extremely embarassed about crying at work
    2. People who cry at work to try and manipulate others
    In both instances, it’s best to just ignore the tears and continue the conversation – those that are embarassed are grateful that you’re not making a big deal of it, and those that are attempting to manipulate you won’t be able to as you don’t acknowledge their attemps

  52. Eeep! Crying at work is def not acceptable, except in your office. Once you know you’re going to cry, you should leave the room ASAP. If you cannot exit, you hold back the tears by thinking of something funny or clearing your throat. No matter what the person is saying it’s ALWAYS better to laugh our cough than cry. Once I started coughing excessively and the person asked if I wanted to get a glass of water. Just enough time to recover and calm myself down. Ladies please don’t cry. If you do, try not to apologize too because it makes us look bad. Crying is normal, but for now it’s still not acceptable in the office without making women look weak. Sad but true.

  53. First I want to say that I think a man crying at work is JUST as bad, if not worse, as a woman crying. In either case it really undermines any professional image/authority/control, even if totally justified.

    That said, I cry about once every 2 years but when it comes, sometimes over something hurtful but minor, it takes everything have to keep it back. Luckily, it’s never been at work. But does anyone have any advice about how to maintain control over emotions like that – pinching oneself, positive imagery, etc?

  54. I would never cry about a personal matter at work ( a break-up, etc.), and I would never cry at work because I was stressed or in trouble.
    However, I work in a criminal defense firm and when we lose, we lose big. I have seen many people go to prison for the rest of their life. Deserved or not, I often have emotional ties with the client and his/ her family. The few times that something has gone really bad (a guilty murder verdict that we weren’t expecting, or a ridiculously high sentence), I have gotten teary. I try to keep the tears under control in front of the client (nothing instills faith that everything will be okay like your attorney sobbing), but I have lost it back at the office. Based on the type of work I do, I don’t think that anyone -including my bosses- think less of me for tears in those circumstances.

    • I’m a public defender and I second Laurie’s comments about crying in the criminal defense context. I should note as an initial matter that I’m not a weepy person, and I maybe get my cry on once or twice a year, tops (period, not on the job). However, I do get emotionally involved in my cases – how can you not when you’re the only barrier between your incarcerated client and the awesome power of the state? And nevermind your importance to that one client, you also have 50-100 other clients who depend on you just as much, and who are all deserving of your very limited resources. I’ve definitely cried when sustaining big losses – but of course, time, place and context is key, and it’s never been in front of the client, opposing counsel, or certain co-workers, nor has it ever been anywhere that isn’t private. It’s not something to make a habit of, but it happens – and as long as it occurs rarely and as an appropriate reaction to a particularly devastating event, it doesn’t appear to be perceived negatively by others (it certainly hasn’t hurt my career, nor the careers of any of my female colleagues). As far as I’m concerned, if I can’t be bothered to share in the pain of my clients’ losses (in an appropriate and private manner), then I’m in need of a new career.

    • Interestingly enough, I am a prosecutor and deal with many of the same issues… I have been threatened, attacked (physically and verbally), dealt with emotionally devastated victims in moments of high emotion, publicly humiliated by judges and the like. And I have received terrible personal news at work as well.
      However, I have been told that my response to such situations is far more disconcerting than tears– I go sheet white, stiffen up, develop a pained yet neutral facial expression and speak in a monotone, sounding almost like I’m at the end of a tunnel. I just overload and shut down, like a circuit breaker.
      It freaks people out. My trial partner has begged me to practice crying in such moments, since I come off as cold or robotic. Or like someone who has just been hit over the head with a frying pan.

  55. I’ve got pretty bad allergies so I’m always sniffing and wiping my eyes anyway, if you find yourself on the verge of tears just start blowing your nose and moaning about pollen. That works for me, anyway.

    • L from Oz :

      Indeed – my eyes start to water in bright sunlight (also through a window), and I can’t do much about it!

  56. I’m not a particularly emotional person, but I have always cried easily. When I was a child and had done something wrong, my parents just had to look at my disapprovingly and I would start crying.

    The most bizarre thing though, is that I also often get teary when people praise me or say particularly nice things. Does anyone have any idea why? I obviously don’t start crying but my eyes fill with tears without any notice and it seems impossible to control. I can control the crying part, but not the teary eyes, if that makes sense. Any ideas/suggestions?

    • I do this too! I also get teary when talking to someone I respect in a situation that I’m nervous about, even if it’s not a situation which is at all emotional. Luckily, I have pretty bad allergies, so I usually just grab a tissue out of my purse and mutter something about allergies, but it’s still embarrassing.

    • This also happens to me when I’m embarrassed for someone else. It’s almost as if I’m internalizing it and I’m the one who’s both acting and responding – in embarrassment. LOL.

    • Me too. Sometimes unexpected kindness is touching and my eyes well up a bit.

      I’ll preface this by saying I’ve never cried at work, except once in a bathroom stall for a couple of minutes when I was angry and upset over something my then-boss had said. But never in front of anyone.

      My eyes tend to well up though sometimes when I’m talking to people about something emotional, and it gets worse if the person responds in a sympathetic way. I don’t have any suggestions except to look in the distance and try to blink it back (haven’t had a great success rate with this technique).

      • Marie, I think we are a praise-seeking, type-A bunch, but most of us rarely get much positive feedback. How many of you have taken that rare, complimentary email from a boss and dragged it to your “general” or “personal” email so you can go back and read it again on a bad day? I think when you hear someone say the words, well, it’s pretty easy to feel a bit choked up.

        • Thanks for the input – really glad to know I’m not the only one!

          I think you’re right, KD – I definitely a) care way too much what people think, and b) appreciate praise a little too much.

          Samantha – that sounds exactly the same as me. Sympathetic responses really get to me. My dad passed away a few years ago (I was 20) and although I can now (usually) talk about it without getting teary, when people respond very sympathetically I am often completely unable to stop my eyes welling up.

          Lynnet – I have bad allergies too. Think I’ll give your approach a try!

  57. When you feel ready to lose it, GET THEE TO THE BATHROOM! The only safe place to cry is locked away in a bathroom stall. No one will question if you say you’re really sorry but you’ve absolutely got to go to the bathroom and dash out.

  58. Most humiliating at-work cry ever: I was a legal intern at the prosecutor’s office, and there was this DPA whose sworn mission in life (I swear to God) was to make me miserable. One day in court she totally laid into me for this minor mistake I’d made (in the way that asshole lawyers do to OPPOSING counsel on the record sometimes) and I was so humiliated that I couldn’t stop the tears…so I started crying. ON. THE. RECORD. It was horrifying. Fortunately the judge was kind enough to decide that it was a good time to take a break…and then called that b!tch into chambers to lecture her on appropriate courtroom conduct.
    I’m a defense attorney now.

    • Legally Brunette :

      That’s terrible! So glad that the judge called her out on that one. Disrespecting others in public is a HUGE peeve of mine, and unconscionable.

  59. There is a huge distinction between crying because someone has died (and, poster above, a dog is definitely “someone”), or crying because you’ve been reprimanded or feel you’ve been slighted. The latter type of tears aren’t appropriate. It may not be right or fair, but it is so. Alas, it makes us seem weak.

    Having said that, I did cry once, and it wasn’t just “at work.” It was worse. I was in federal court, and I began to weep as soon as I announced my name for the record. The elderly and kind judge was distressed and called immediately for a recess. He asked me back into chambers.

    The back story, the true story, is pretty grim. I didn’t tell the judge the truth. My (now ex-)husband was and still is an obstetrician. At that time, he was also a cocaine and prescription pill addict. He had promised me he’d quit and he had been in treatment. He’d spend a month in an inpatient program in a distant state, and I had taken a leave of absence I could ill afford to join him. It was a bad time for me to leave work.

    The morning of the Big Cry and concomitant lie, two things happened. I went down to the car before work and found a bag of cocaine and pills under the gas pedal, left there by his dealer.
    I brought it up stairs in tears, and our confrontation was awful. I realized our marriage had no future.

    Nonetheless, I am a trial lawyer, and I had a court hearing to attend.
    I drove to my office in tears. My secretary told me two DEA officers were in the lobby waiting to see me. It seems my husband had been buying prescription drugs in my name, and the agents wanted to know about it. I told them I knew nothing and I did not use drugs or pills. I have to go to court, I said. We’ll wait, they replied.

    So I went to court, throbbing with fear and shame and pain. I wept. In chambers, I lied. I could not tell the judge the truth. I said my mother had passed (and she had, six months previously), and that I was still grieving. He was so kind, and I felt all the more shades of miserable that I had to deceive him. But TMI is TMI.

    The hearing was rescheduled. And, I remember nothing else about it.

    I forgive myself for crying, and I hope you forgive me for telling such a long story. I guess a point to be pulled from this, is that you just can’t judge, until, as Paul Harvey used to say, you hear “the rest of the story.”

    • Wow – I am so impressed at how you pulled yourself together to even go in and speak with the judge. I don’t know if I could have been that strong in those circumstances. I think you did the right thing in showing up despite all the stress of the day and confronting the situation (agree that going into the real issue would have been TMI).

    • I’m so sorry you had to go through that. You were incredibly strong to make it to the court that day at all. So glad that you are no longer with your ex.

    • And only 6 months after losing your mother! You didn’t lie. Grieving is not over in 6 months, especially when you’ve had other harrowing incidents in your life since.

    • OMG. PJB, you should be very proud of yourself for handling yourself as well as you did. That is a truly awful situation.

  60. Liz (continental Europe) :

    I don’t tend to cry at all, I get angry instead. Really angry. Trust me, you don’t want that either.

  61. Biglaw Refugee :

    I cry when I’m angry. It’s embarrassing in confrontations with my spouse and family, and it’s even worse in the work context. So far, I have managed to avoid crying in front of my superiors. However, when I am involved in a confrontation with opposing counsel or other lawyers, my adrenaline starts pumping like crazy, and whether I am crying or not, I totally lose my cool and am unable to think straight. My voice sometimes shakes; I fail to think of obvious questions or responses to what they are saying, etc. I am hoping this will get better as I get more experience with this type of confrontation (just as my stage fright has gotten better as I’ve done more public speaking). However, if it doesn’t, I expect that I will end up crying in front of someone important in a professional setting at some point – I just can’t control that emotional reaction.

    So I don’t judge, but I also agree that crying in front of others is a really bad move. I was once on a call with a female partner and opposing counsel in which our team was being taken to task for failing to produce documents in a timely manner, which we considered an unjust criticism. In the process of responding to the criticisms, the female partner started crying. Going to the bathroom was really not an option for her; it was her job to respond (I was not yet senior enough to take over for her and since we weren’t in the same room, there was no way for her to suggest that I do so). Also, I don’t think she realized she was going to start crying until she had started the sentence (something that also happens to me when I’m involved in a spouse/family fight). Although I could easily see myself doing the same thing, I also thought less of her afterward, and I’m sure opposing counsel did.

    The one idea I have for people like her/me is to practice before going in to a performance review, court hearing, or meeting with opposing counsel. Ideally practice with a friend and have them say nasty things, but even just posing the questions to yourself mentally and rehearsing a response would probably be helpful. Try to anticipate what criticisms you might get and how you will respond (in a meeting with superiors, I’ve found that something like “I’m sorry I let you down. I was doing my best, but I can see there are some things I need to work on” is good – do NOT argue, even if they’re wrong – if you’re calm enough, you can ask them to let you know more specifically how you can improve; otherwise come back to them later and ask if you can discuss whether your performance has improved, or if they can clarify what specifically you should be doing differently – but do not argue in response to the initial criticism).

    I think that the surprise and feeling of being unprepared is a big part of why I get that adrenaline rush that makes it hard to keep my cool; by preparing for the worst case when I can, I hope that I’ll feel more in control and won’t have the same physical response.

    • That is an excellent suggestion on how to deal with a negative constructive criticism. I am practicing it right now.

      Sometimes I get upset to get criticism, even if it’s totally CONSTRUCTIVE, because I’ve never NOT been a rock star at things that I’m involved in. I feel like law school was WOEFULLY INADEQUATE in teaching me legitimate things, and I get so simultaneously 1) shocked–I am not used to negatives and 2) PISSED that I’m $100K in debt from listening to “academics” debate the relative merits of tort reform in Argentina, but was not informed about how to designate evidence– that I get tears. It’s loathsome and I hate myself for it, and then once I get tears, I want to cry even MORE because I feel like I am REAFFIRMING my incompetence.

      vicious circle. I will rehearse these words whilst watching “Marley and Me” to try to master them without tears!

    • Your suggestions are ones that I will use, to be honest this is my first time visiting this site, and I am so glad that I did. I cry when I get angry too, and all of those same reactions, happen to me. It is freeing to know that I am not alone, and we all have to grow and constantly work on our self improvement. Thanks again!

  62. I think crying is totally inappropriate. However, I cried once in a DEPOSITION. I was so humiliated. I do not cry all that easily, but this third-party’s lawyer had been beating me down ALL DAY LONG. Just a complete a-hole. I mean, you can’t even imagine what a jerk he was being. Even my opposing counsel apologized to me that he has such an a$$ to me. At one point, it was too much, and I could tell I was about to cry. I was taking the questions, so I called for a break “We’re taking a break!” I shouted angrily and ran to the bathroom and cried and calmed down. I was so incredibly embarrassed and have sworn to never cry again at work. That was probably 6 years ago. So far, so good.
    (I have cried in my private office, doors closed, over a personal matter or two w/ no one knowing. I wasn’t worried anyone would ever find out so it didn’t bother me at all.)

  63. First, I do believe that crying should typically be a private event, or shared only with a close friend or family member. I also love reading this blog for the fashion ideas and shopping tips, but this kind of thread that reinforces the notions of having a thick skin, not showing your emotions, working a bazillion hours important projects like document production, etc. make me sad.

    I’ve recently decided to leave Corporate America precisely because I am tired of having my career, and by extension, other parts of my life controlled by others. My emotional self has all but dried up and shriveled away, and I want it back, because frankly, I like that person much better than the person I have become. I am taking some time off to flush out the toxic kool-aid and just let myself be emotional for awhile. And I might even have myself a good cry.

  64. This thread makes me want to cry. Kind of.

    Women cry. We do. We have hormonal cycles that make us prone to emotion, we are socialized to express our feelings this way, and generally we are sensitive caring individuals that are deeply invested in our relationships and work.

    Why is that SO bad? Because it makes men uncomfortable? Because it is “unprofessional” to care about your work and want to succeed to your core? Because it shows weakness? These are male norms — these are not truths. Few question that it is OK to express emotions or frustrations the way men do (or don’t). But in this male-dominated workplace, what is seen as feminine is seen as unprofessional and weak. We, as women in the modern work force, cannot buy wholeheartedly into this. It’s a form of misogyny that we need not endorse.

    Now, sure, I HATE crying in the office. I, too, want to be seen as in control and even keeled. I don’t want to mess up my make-up and I don’t want to tip my cards and show that something upsets me. But I will not get on this bandwagon that treats women who cry as if they are second-class citizens or bad workers or weak people. I know that the times I’ve cried [luckily, in my office with the door closed] have been because I just cared so much (about the client, about the work product, about my reputation). These are GOOD traits that make women better counselors and dedicated workers. And with the good, we must accept the bad — if you want me to care so much I stay here until midnight and triple check every detail, accept that I care enough that when I mess up it hurts.

    I love the fashion on this site. And I enjoy the “work-appropriate police” comments with which I often disagree (especially when they are about completely masking all sexuality and womanhood in order to fit in with the boys). But sometimes I feel like the threads suggest that women should not be ourselves in order to fit into this male-dominated workplace. That may have been necessary years ago, but in this modern age, I want and expect more.

    Please just give this issue deeper thought before we all agree that, essentially, being a woman in the workplace is bad.

    • Women cry. Men punch walls. Both demonstrate a loss of selfcontrol. Both are inappropriate in the work place.

      • PurpleViolet :

        Word. I was alone in an elevator with my boss who was well over six feet when he punched the wall so hard that I was in tears by the time I got to court. And he was not angry with me: he was venting about something in the office.

        We are all human and we get angry and sad. While we must keep the display of these emotions to a minimum, it is part of life.

    • Walking Barefoot :


      Might it be that the workplace became a better place if people were able to bring their whole human selves, including their (responsibly expressed) emotions, to work?

      A number of the leading business thinkers have been suggesting just this for at least a decade.

    • The fairly large litigation group I joined recently is made up of more women than men, which has a much different dynamic than where I worked before. I was meeting with a more senior female associate about a project recently, was running on fumes, and started to buckle — the tears just seeped out. She said, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried at this job. Do you need to take a moment? I laughed at myself good naturedly, fanned my face with my papers and kept on going. I was embarrassed because, like anyone, I want to keep my cool at work as much as possible. But I wasn’t embarrassed in the sense that my behavior would hurt my chances of success. Being looked down on for crying is, in large part, a function of a male-dominated work environment.

    • It’s not bad to be emotional…

      but when people CRY, it’s like everyone must stop speaking logically and that someone else has to pick up her slack, becuase giving her more work or additional [necessary] criticism when she’s in tears makes YOU look like the asshole. I think that women miss out on the “important” criticism (often sandwiched in between two minor issues) because the reviewee starts to cry. This is not the case with dudes, who hear, learn, and change, all without tears or making the important person asking them do to things feel like a bad person.

  65. I’ve cried twice at my big firm job in front of superiors – once when I was under a lot of stress and a close friend had passed away suddenly the day before and I’d not had time to process it yet (this was over the phone, so I am not sure if the partner knew I was in tears) and once when a partner was being a total asshole to me about “my priorities” because I’d been working on another case as well as his – after I’d spent the last 6 months billing 250+ hours and had not (and he admitted it) missed anything or messed up anything on the case I worked on with him. As embarrassing as it was the second time, I was exhausted, burnt out, and incredibly frustrated that my hard work and dedication was somehow being viewed as having “bad priorities.” Also, I was doing a really good job of holding it together until he looked at me and said “don’t cry!” which, of course, brought on the waterworks. That said, I’ve been sort of glad I did cry until I read this post. Said partner apologized profusely; admitted that he’d been out of line; and praised my work and told me that he knew that this treatment was what forced good associates to leave, and they needed good associates like me to stay, and that he hoped I would want to work with him in the future. Since that day, he’s been much easier to work with and, if anything, I’ve taken on more responsibility on the case rather than less. Even other associates have commented on how much nicer he is.

    This post, however, is making me question my reaction – now I feel like I’ve screwed myself over by showing some (much needed) pent up emotion. Also, since we were in a private meeting in his office, running out to go to the bathroom would have been just as embarrassing. I don’t think claiming you have a restroom emergency and jetting out is any more professional than tears, honestly.

    • As someone commented further up the thread, the reactions of others and consequences of crying in front of a colleague are situation- and person-specific. It sounds like it did not hurt you in this case, so I would not worry about it. I don’t see what else you could have done either.

  66. Three years ago, a very good friend and colleague died unexpectedly. She was 42 years old and had 2 young children. On Saturday she wasn’t feeling well, on Sunday she went into the hospital and on Thursday she was dead. I cannot tell you the pain and grief that I, and others in our close knit company, felt (I’m crying as I type this, when we found out in the middle of the workday.

    Unfortunately we had just gone through a merger and the new co-CEO of our company came into my office and watched me basically fall apart, sobbing uncontrollably. I don’t think I’ve ever recovered from this display in front of him and I resent the fact that he stood in my office and watched. My reaction was appropriate and I still wish that I had found a private place to handle my grief.

  67. I cried once very early on in my career where I had been ambushed by the partner I was working with about what the hearing was about and was completely unprepared for what it actually was about. The hearing started off with the hearing officer taking me into another room and chewing me out because the partner had not bothered to show up. It went downhill from there. I had to excuse myself to walk into another room and bawl my eyes out. It taught me a lot about not relying on others, even those whom you are working for, to get your footings.

    I also cried one other time when I was overworked and trying to keep up with two cases that were full time on fire. A parter got on me about a nit picky thing and I lost it. I think that time, it was exhaustion above anything else.

    I’m an emotional person and I’m not going to change who I am. I can try to control it and to handle it privately, but I don’t think that I should feel guilty about it if it happens. And I am not going to look down on a female collegue if one of them cries (as long as she’s not doing it to manipulate). It’s just like pouring salt into a wound. Women are too critical of themselves and each other. It’s a fact that women are more often emotional and prone to crying. It doesn’t mean that we’re not tough enough for business.

  68. Good grief (pun intended), I agree with the commenters who say that it is a sad, sad state we have degenerated to in work, when crying over death, failed marriages, being treated abusively, and the like, in RARE instances, is seen as inappropriate or weak.

    Of course being the person to cry waterfalls over losing a pencil is one thing, and of course these dramatic reactions are awkward, unprofessional, and unnecessary, but it really seems like these are not the kinds of tears we’re talking about here. Most posters seem to be recalling very particular and rare circumstances bringing on their tears.

    And that’s just what they are, chance, extenuating circumstances that warrant more extreme reactions, which there should be nothing wrong with. Crying is a part of life, it sometimes happens, and it is a natural human emotion response to extreme pain or distress, which it sounds like a lot of posters here describe. What ever happened to managers with empathy? Compassion? Understanding of the fact that sometimes things just happen that can’t be avoided, that they aren’t meant purposefully, that they in no way necessarily reflect badly on a person when they happen sporadically in response to extreme stress?

    Sorry, but I do not and would nto fault any woman OR man who cried, randomly, in response to any one of the horrific and/or extenuating circumstances described here. I would , however, fault a manager or supervisor, who treated employees in these circumstances with such calousness and harsh judgement, when really, what those employees probably needed, was kindness, understanding, assurance of the recognition that ‘it’s okay’ and there is nothing to worry about for exerting a natural, human, emotive reaction in response to an extenuating occaision.

  69. Tough Associate :

    I cried at work a bit this past Monday (silently and under my desk for 5 minutes, arising only to resume work) out of sheer rage, homicidal levels of anger, disgust, misery and frustration. First time I’ve had the urge in a year or so but God help me, it was either show some feelings under my desk or fricking murder a partner in his loafers (and they don’t like it when I throw phones or treatises, which I did last year when I was also fricking ready to murder a male attorney in his loafers).

    I just remind myself that it is unacceptable and “girly.” God forbid we be female in the workplace…

    I was a happier, healthier person who didn’t want to kill people with my highlighters before I went into law. F this.

    • You can walk away. You can.

    • Wow, that’s tough. I hope you find a way to make things better for yourself.

      • No, no, no. Please don’t throw things! Maybe a job change or move to another department.

        The crying thing is tough, because I think women are genetically/hormonally more likely to manifest it as a physical response to a trying circumstance. But SES has it right. Except for the emergency personal crisis (death/hospitalization of a loved one), crying at work – in front of other people – is definitely not good. And men don’t do it, but they do occasionally throw things (and generally don’t get called out on it the way women do for crying).

        But, crying does happen. I’ve hightailed it to the ladies’ room or my closed door more than a few times after some horrible confrontation or mistake discovery/call out . Once, after a particularly bad year (got divorced, kids acting out everywhere, work dried up, big client moved to another firm), the partner in charge of my dept. basically stuck his neck out for me and made sure I was ‘spared’ and not ‘compensation punished.’ During the review, I burst into tears of gratitude (he pretended it wasn’t happening, I thanked him, we never spoke of it again, and years later, we still work together). But that crying wasn’t attributable to *work* per se, it was just an emotionally exhausted response to an emotionally exhausting year, and luckily the witness had the grace to treat it as such. And even that situation could have gone either way, I was just fortunate. I know that if I *ever* cried in front of him (or just about any other co-worker) over a frustrating, exhausting, just plain horrible work situation, the reaction would be baaaad.

        The key is to get cover quickly (ideally, BEFORE you cry) because the crying is perceived as a loss of control and we are expected to remain in control. Bottom line – that’s why we have the big job – expectation is if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Tough, but true.

  70. I agree with the posters who have commented that crying at work ** is only appropriate in response to a death, personal tragedy, or the like.

    ** By crying at work, I mean openly, where people can see and/or hear you, and will be talking about it. If you are in your office, you didn’t have to rush out of a meeting to get there, the door is closed, no glass walls, and no one could see or hear your silent tears, and your face is back to normal before you re-emerge, then that is different.

    But crying because you’re stressed, or frustrated, or overworked, or your boss is a giant a**hole? No. It’s not appropriate to throw things, scream, stomp your feet, punch the wall, or start crying. Man or woman – doesn’t matter.

    Keep Calm and Carry On :)

    • To all the lucky ladies who have actual offices to lock themselves in and cry when necessary, be thankful for it. I am a professional — have a masters degree from a great school, work in a respected role for a respected company — but because of the nature of my job, I do not have an office. Just a cubicle, and one without high walls. Everyone can see me and hear me all the time.

      I chose this job, so I’m not blaming anyone. I’m just saying, those lucky enough to have real offices with doors that close are lucky indeed. For general privacy purposes, like phone calls, and the luxury of shutting everything off to focus and churn out work. Not just for crying.

      End of my soapbox.

      I cried once in a former job (again, cubicle life) when a superior made me do something I considered unethical — and made me miss a trip to see my college roommate to stay and do it. I felt the tears coming and excused myself for the bathroom. I am sure he knew what was up, but it wasn’t really a situation where I could choose to hold back the tears. Just frustration that boiled instantaneously. I don’t know how I could’ve handled that differently because it didn’t seem like a decision to cry or not … it just happened.

  71. It's OK to Cry!! :

    I love the comments where ladies had positive outcomes after crying. A few years ago my own boss (small office, only women, we talked about everything) noticed I was tearing up quite frequently over pretty tiny things, along with being exhausted all the time. She thought I might be pregnant, but after a negative test she asked her own therapist about my symptoms. The therapist then suggested I get my thyroid checked. It was extremely under-active, which made me not only extraordinarily tired but very emotional, along with a whole list of other symptoms that were also affecting me. I feel so much better now that my meds are handling my thyroid levels- and I am much better able to control my tear-ducts now!

  72. I’m not a cryer and crying makes me uncomfortable. Always has. In a perfect world, no one would cry at work. As a litigator, I think it would be tough to be a cryer — so many truly asinine and cruel things happen that someone prone to crying likely would be crying everyday. Like a previous poster, my reaction tends towards anger, not crying. That said, I understand that it does happen in the workplace, especially with support staff. I’ve let the folks I work with know that I’m lousy at “comforting” and that in the event there is a crying incident, I’m likely to handle it in a way that many would perceive as uncaring. It doesn’t mean I don’t have sympathy for whatever trauma has caused the waterworks to start, it just means I tend to shut down when faced with so much emotion at once.

  73. Anonymous :

    I think the point of this blog is mostly moot. Short of the manipulators mentioned above, nobody actually goes out of their way to cry at work. Everybody tries to avoid it but sometimes it happens. Maybe you’re angry, maybe you’re sad, there are a million reasons why people cry. I’ve cried at work twice. It wasn’t fun but I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I seriously doubt that 3 minutes of tears undid the exceptional professional reputation I built over years. Stuff happens and it happens a lot more often when you’re emotionally invested in your job and you’re working 12-14 hour days. If you sense that you’re going to cry, then yes, get some place alone. On the other hand, if you’re stuck and it happens, just move on. If you’ve cried, don’t stress about it. You are a human being, not a machine. Pick your chin up, hold your head high and go forth and conquer the world!

  74. There is a secretary in my office who routinely cries. All the time. Over everything. The problem is that she has a cubicle and therefore chooses to do her crying in the bathroom. But she doesn’t go sit in an a stall and cry. No. Course not. Instead, she hangs out at the counter by the sink starting at herself in the mirror while crying and blotting her eyes and blowing her nose and apologizing to everyone who walks in. It’s extraordinarily uncomfortable! Any suggestions?

    • Ignore her. If she’s crying all the time over everything and nothing, and she’s standing at the mirror, she’s doing it to get attention.

    • She may be clinically depressed if she is really crying all the time. I’m not sure how you would approach her about this, other than to gently suggest that you’ve noticed that she cries a lot, that you’re concerned, and that she should talk to her doctor.

  75. There’s a big difference between crying for attention and crying (as I once did) because you’re getting hammered in a performance review for not billing enough hours — and the guy hammering you is the partner responsible for assigning you work. He and I both knew that he was only being such a jerk because another senior partner was in the room and he didn’t want it known that he wasn’t the brilliant rainmaker he claimed to be. I couldn’t call him a liar if I wanted to keep the job, I couldn’t leave the room because it would have been incredibly rude … I needed the job, and my only real choice (given the skill set I had at the time) was to remain silent, but the frustration just built up and, rather than exploding with anger, I burst out in tears. Of course, these days, I wouldn’t let a superior get away with that kind of bad behavior, but that’s said with 10 years of accumulated experience and wisdom. I still think that I had no other options back then, and I certainly wouldn’t judge anyone else for crying with frustration in that situation.

  76. I had an intern two summers ago who could barely hold back tears when I gave some negative feedback. This was followed by two days of sulking, short, sullen answers and avoiding looking at my face during conversations! My coworkers commented that it felt like we were getting divorced or something.

    And oh, did I mention that this was a *male* intern? Seriously honey, I have enough drama at home with my man – so do not need this at work.

  77. happened to me just once and i was horrified. boss had given me a truly unfair review based on some maniacal tendencies he was taking out on staff that year. i was responding and telling him i’d had two offers to leave but hadn’t wanted to desert him and couldn’t believe this was the result. suddenly got wet eyes. tried to get him out of there asap, and said something about allergies. it was horrible, but given the emotion in that situation not sure what i could have done to prevent it. luckily have since moved on to dream job with fabulous boss and the jerk looked bad for losing a top performer (people knew how he was treating me) so it all worked out just fine:)

  78. I believe that crying as a coping method for stress is healthy and necessary in moderation. However, in the work environment, it can become a Scarlet Letter. Corporate America is still largely a man’s world, and as women our ladders are much taller to climb than theirs. When I was younger I had a few episodes of crying, the reason why is not as important as the effect, my crying had on me. I believe that most people by nature act out inappropriately as a learned behavior, directly related to the outcome of their personal display. For instance, crying can be use as a good Manipulation tactic, or Aggressive behavior is a way to intimidate, basically another way to get what you want. So I say all of that to point out that crying in the workplace sends out signals that are mixed, your superiors that are watching you, may not look to you for the next big project or client due to your raw display of emotional weakness. They may also view you as being manipulative, or someone that is unstable. You get the picture. It is not advisable to do this frequently if ever in my opinion. Take it from me it is hard to control your emotions as a woman, and especially one that is as Empathic as I am. When I am at work and the lines between stress from home and the stress from work gets to me, I force myself to breathe. Point blank, BREEEAAAATHE, slow, deep, intentional and focused. Get my head back in the game, finish the day out and when I get to a safe zone, Let it out, work it out, and get right, so I can move forward. Amen

  79. Joy Sargent-Smith :

    I hate it when I’ve cried in the office and believe that while no one ever says so it is noted as a sign of weakness or instability. The times when it’s happened to me usually involved a struggle to keep my composure about something personally upsetting or disappointing, and then has someone ask me about it or give sympathy. It is very difficult to respond without opening the floodgates. I think this can be related to hormonal changes. I’ve noticed that post-menopause, I cry about absolutely nothing . It’s maddening.

  80. After being at a new job for 6 months I attended an end of the year dinner (after an exhausting and stressful end of the year week) sitting next to my bosses wife. I ended up spilling an entire glass of red wine on her skirt before dinner had even begun. I was horrified and immediately starting apologizing and she didn’t even look at me– Just turned toward my boss and said “WELL I guess I have to go get RED WINE out of my skirt”, as he gave me a pity look. I ran to the bathroom to try to get it together but I was at a point of no return. The more I tried to stop crying the more I cried. Finally a good friend/colleague met me in the bathroom and looked me dead in the eye and said “Suck it up! RIGHT NOW! — Do you want to be that girl??? Stop it.” It was the best reaction I could have asked for. One more pity look and I would have been a goner!

    It was horrible but now I know how NOT to react if anyone else ever spills a glass of wine on me…

    • Your friend/colleague rocks.

      Your boss’s wife is a b*tch. But then, you already knew that…

  81. So, in response to the part that asked about methods to keep yourself from crying (because sometimes, no matter what, the eyes start getting wet, and leaving simply isn’t possible)…

    I take deep breaths, counting in-2-3, out-2-3, etc., etc., and only let myself blink on the “in” and “out” count. The trick is to concentrate exclusively on the counting, and not let yourself think about anything else. And remember to swallow a few times before trying to talk, to get your voice back to normal.

  82. The only time I have ever cried at work (in front of co-workers) was when my immediate supervisor announced he was leaving – he was an absolutely wonderful mentor who taught me more than I can even say my first three years of practice. I held it together until he had left my office, but a co-worker/friend came in to discuss it the second he was gone and I couldn’t quite talk and not tear up a little. I find a nice large glass of water, coffee, whatever, can distract me and hide your face a little bit.

    I however, spent many evenings crying the whole way home when I was 7 months pregnant and working 16 hour days for 3 weeks straight. I would make it to the car, and burst into tears the second I got out of the garage. Once, at 2 in the morning when the garage gate wouldn’t open I did not quite make it out of the garage but I do not consider the garage attendant a co-worker. Even at 2 am though, I never actually cried *in* the office (other than as described above), which I am pretty proud of….

    On the other hand, I do not generally judge people who do cry (as long as it is not manipulation). My poor husband tends to tear up when he gets angry, and if you think it’s hard to be a woman who cries at work, try being a man.

  83. People cry in the workplace and part of being a leader is learning how to cope with it, including helping the individual feel more composed and ready to make the next move. When people are at work, they may learn of an accident or death involving an immediate family member, they may have miscarriages, or they may have to tell you that they have just been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Sometimes it is hard not to cry with them, but at that point, they may need practical help more, such as a drive to the hospital or the offer of a hot drink. They are often mortified afterwards, but I never think twice about it. Nor do I ever have an adverse reaction if someone is overcome during a difficult performance review or otherwise having a bad day. You never know what is going on in the background.

    But fellow employees may also cry with joy when telling you good news and then on occasion I have cried with them, usually followed by a good laugh. We all spend far too much time at the office to think we can shut off our humanity for that many hours per day.

  84. I cried at a job interview once. I didn’t get the job.

  85. This is really sad. Crying is a natural healing process, for both men and women. Are our workplaces really so harsh and inhuman that people have to beat themselves up and worry so much about being judged?

    This is going to sound so crazy but that’s probably why I think it works so well.

    At work; you can face hard and stressful decisions and as a women, we tend to deal with that kind of emotions with tears(and me being a very femine girl, I had this problem). But not to let your colleagues see you break under impression, you have to learn to hold your tears back.

    So what worked for me was dancing. I start moving my hands and hips as if I was doing a little dance and it’s so silly that it makes me contain myself. Also, usually when you’re dancing, the last thing you think of doing is crying.

  87. I think people there are two reasons for crying in the office and should be treated separetely:
    -A serious reason (the death of a relative, finding out about an illness…) I think it would would be unhuman not to accept crying in such a painful circumstances. Those are really hard moments and trying to look “cool” as many people talk here it just seem un-natural. Lets get our priorities right!
    -The second reason for crying is a job related problem, normally stress/frustation. In this case I think it doesn’t look fine at all. I don’t think that gives us the right of blaming the person. But it does look unprofessional and it gives the impression that you are unable to cope with your work. That could be for two reasons: A) that job is above of what you are able to handle or B) that job (or the office in general) is poorly run or workers are have an impossible work load.

    Having said that, I cried today at work out for these very same reasons. I am not proud of it and I wish I hadn’t do it. I left the office as soon as I felt the burn in my eyes. A couple of very nice colleagues who saw me came to talk with me. They shared the feeling because it is a very poorly organised office with loads of pressure. I am not too bother about it to be honest. But it clearly means I need to find a new job. Clearly we need a job but certainly not one that makes you break into tears. I am certainly not being paid enough for that! :)

  88. rachel terry :

    I think crying at work sucks…. it happens… and unfortunately, unless your mom just died, no one forgives office place crying. I will say this, crying is our bodies way of saying “Stress Overload” on the emotions no matter how quickly or how long it takes to occur. When I find that i’ve cried at work or have come close to crying in a professional situation, one of the following is true: issues at home, overly tired, eating poorly, or issues at work. I would suspect your breaking point is caused by that trigger near the issue. I was happy personally, attempting to eat healthy minus an ocassional McDonalds run, decent shape, and i not only broke out in Shingles – I cried for the 3rd time in under 8 months, I knew it was time to move on.

  89. This thread makes me so angry I want to cry! No, seriously. There’s something wrong here, people. Some of us cry, and it’s clearly better, in the current professional culture, if we don’t. Is it a disability? If so, the current professional culture also has a way of legitimizing that (we can’t legally penalize for other disabilities, can we? But must make “reasonable accommodations.) If not a disability, is it perhaps simply a human coping mechanism that yes, probably is better than throwing a punch or counter-insult? Whatever the case, two things seem to be at play here: we need both to protect criers in the current culture (where yes, it’s better that they don’t cry), **and** we NEED to change the culture. If we don’t, many women may jeopardize their careers because they are so crippled by the culture’s abhorrence to crying that they avoid the very conflicts they NEED to engage in order to keep their jobs. And that same damned culture, unfortunately, ALSO penalizes women for showing their anger in other sorts of ways (proven by research, so yes — we are still held to impossibly conflicting standards) . Those of us who cry when angry are therefore responding in a culturally-adaptive way too. Nor are we allowed to be too “cold,” either (women are supposed to be the “nice” ones, too): in other words, many women are DAMNED WHATEVER WE DO . May those with power please continue to work to change this sick way of things, even as those without power must continue to learn how to trick their own bodies to behave in conflictingly adaptive ways. And now, off to my own big conflict of the day (why I’m online in the first place) — so wish me luck. Better to cry than not handle my business, in any case — now THAT’S being a professional.

  90. I’m very tired of everyone accepting that the norms of the “male dominated” office that has been created over the past 200 years must remain the same now that both women and men populate today’s workplace. I have heard stories of men getting angry, shouting and even throwing ashtrays in meetings, yet these public displays of anger and frustration are rarely seen as negatively as a woman’s crying is. Let’s be honest, women rarely breakdown completely when we are angry. Our voices crack, our eyes well up, the corners of our mouths twitch downward. We struggle because we are now embarrassed as well as angry. Why do we do this? We can’t help it. That is how we are wired to react and have little control over it. So our argument is minimized, we are coddled and told we aren’t “Strong enough”. How dare you! It is physiological and natural. Women are wired differently for the same emotions. Tough! Even when I cry from anger, my argument is valid and I should be heard. Just because men don’t do it, doesn’t mean I don’t belong in the office place. This is the new office. Men yell and make aggressive hand gestures, women cry a bit. I will not be forced to leave the room so everyone can talk about how I cried and not talk about the point I was making. You don’t need to coddle me, you don’t need to pity me. You aren’t expected to respond to me the same way you respond to your wife or daughter when she cries. You don’t need to respond to my crying at all. It’s not weakness nor a manipulation tool, it’s just a fact and difficult to control. Have any of you women failed to respond in a discussion because you were afraid you’d cry? We cannot keep our mouths shut because we cry if we get emotional. Men want to believe we are weak for crying. Don’t believe it. All professionals need to learn to better control their emotions, but we will all fail occasionally. Part of the changing market place is dealing with the emotions of others. Women need to learn how to deal with men’s aggression when angry so we can continue to stand our ground in the argument, but men also need to stand their ground when a woman is welling up. They need to harden against the occasional tear. One way is not better or worse than another, it’s just different. Just as executives go to classes to learn how to handle cultural differences when interacting globally, their is a cultural difference right here at home that needs to find it’s way into office culture. Now let’s change the subject, you’re making me cry:-)

  91. This is my first job and I’m not very good at handling stressful situations, in the past two weeks I’ve cried twice in front of my boss, and once she even asked me to stop crying which made me feel even worse. I’ve tried to help it but I just cry whenever I’m feeling frustrated or angry. Is there something I can do to save face after this two episodes?

  92. Speaker of the House Bainor (sp) is known for crying all the time. How did he get where he is today (no conspiracy theories allowed.)

  93. I think the business world needs to take a tip from women who cry at work. We are doing what’s healthy, and those that hold it in are NOT. Shame on anyone who looks down on those following their biological imperative.

  94. Patricia Hayden :

    I think you no cryers are funny you talk like not crying at work is sooo awesome. Are you workaholics? Do you dedicate yourself more to your children? Do emotions annoy you? Do you dress super uppity all the time? Hillariouse. That is whats retarded about todayse dog eat dog world. Money doesnt even exist exept for debt because of unemotional unsentimental misers like you. Rockafeller total type A. They see numbers and rational but they have missed the point of life. the way i see it life is to live. if you were a robot you would be one. your just a human trying to figure out how to make everyone miserable like you. People who dont cry start wars kill steal murder for money and look like they had to many face lifts.

  95. You guys that have an office to hide in when crying are really lucky. I work in an open plan call centre and I have no place to hide. I have been working there three months now. I openly admit I’ve cried (not sobbing but just tears) a couple of times due to crap home life getting to me, making mistakes and getting chewed out by my boss and getting yelled at by angry customers. Not ’cause I’m upset but I’m frustrated. I know I look weak and incompetent and I feel really embarrassed and angry with myself. I try really hard but the tears just come out sometimes, not every day but sometimes.

  96. I too cry out of frustration or anger, but I know not to let it flow at work. I am a social worker, and even though the subject matter discussed during meetings typically involve successes and fails in helping people, I know for a fact that I would be labeled as ” non- management material ” if I were to become teary eyed during a meeting. My voice cracking is bad enough, but I often find myself having to disguise my passion for what I do, in order to be respected by management. Management: a cult of desensitized ,egotistical ,phony, money worshipping followers, who operate blindly wearing a self- proclaimed title of a leader.