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 Corporette.com, what are your opinions regard women crying in the workplace?For the Corporette $.02: There really should not be crying in the office, unless it’s out of joy. If you’re frustrated, if you’re sad, if you’re angry — bottle it up until you can get to your office or, better yet, to your house. (As Kelly Cutrone says, if you have to cry, go outside.) (Pictured: Crying is okay here., originally uploaded to Flickr by A National Acrobat.) That said: I’ve cried at work, and absolutely hated myself the few times I did. I felt like I lost points with my superiors, I felt like I looked weak, and I was disappointed with myself that I couldn’t keep my cool. Keeping cool is a big part of being professional. The most notable time I remember crying was in NYC one Friday morning, several Augusts ago. I remember the exact date because my best friend was married in London the next morning, and I missed it — I just couldn’t find a flight that would get me to London in time for her morning wedding but also allow me to meet a pressing work deadline (document production). I had taken the news in stride at the time I’d asked my immediate boss and been denied — after all, my friend had thrown the wedding together quickly (a morning civil ceremony in London), and assured me that I didn’t need to attend, and the deadline WAS important — but as I sat in that meeting, the day before my best friend was married, and we talked about the deadline, I found my mind completely and utterly focused on the terrible work/life balance I had. I was furious with myself for, apparently, selling my soul for so cheap a price, and I wondered how I could live with myself for missing my. best. friend’s. wedding. For a document production. And then, in the meeting, my boss’s boss asked if I’d managed to find a flight to London, and oh, what a pity. And before I knew it — with such little prompting as that — tears were welling up in my eyes. They were of fury and of self-pity and self-loathing — and the more I focused on keeping the tears at bay, the more they welled, and, finally, began spilling down my cheeks. I made no sound, and did my best to keep my head down and continue to take notes. And the meeting droned on, with no one saying a word. I wasn’t entirely sure if it was because the person leading the meeting had poor eyesight — maybe she just didn’t realize I was crying — or if she thought it best to carry on despite it — she was, after all, the one who had asked the question. At one point, in a break in the meeting, I said, “I’m just going to pop up to the bathroom and get some tissue,” in a cheerful, I’m-trying-to-pull-myself-together-here-if-you-happened-to-have-noticed-that-I’m-silently-sobbing tone of voice, and the meeting leader said, in just as cheerful a voice, “Oh, I have some tissues here!” Great. GREAT. And the meeting went on, and we never spoke of it. You may say that this — missing your best.friend’s.wedding 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.
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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
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.
Random, but wasn’t there an episode of Sex and the City about this exact topic?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Me too – I think I’m more unprofessional in anger than I would be in tears. Kinda wish my first impulse is for tears honestly.
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!
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, alone.in.my.office) 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
At what point in your relationship with your staff do you bring that up?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:)
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
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.
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…