We’ll come right out and say it: yes, it is OK to cry at work. For all those who are currently fighting tears, let it out. Why suffer? Do what you got to do. If you’re here because your sobbing coworker is causing you discomfort, ask yourself: am I dead inside? Don’t lie, you were hoping we would say, no, it is never OK to cry at work.
Casual reminder to all you office criers:
A long history of emotions in the workplace has solidified crying as the central expression of human weakness. However, crying is far less infantile or undignified as such a history suggests. The act is not some collective of unabashed emotions taking liquid form, or an indication of instability or immaturity. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Shedding a tear shows that you are in touch with your emotions, self-reflexive, and expressive – and last time we checked, those were good qualities to have. Why then, does the rhetoric surrounding crying suggest that criers lack control? Read on.
Women cry more than men. You’ve heard it before. And it’s true. One study found that women cry about 64 times a year and men only 17 – that’s roughly four times more. From a scientific perspective, women’s tear ducts are smaller than men’s, which means less room to hold in tears. On top of that, high levels of testosterone in males helps to inhibit crying, while high levels of prolactin in women causes tears to flow more frequently. From a social perspective, men are conditioned not to cry, or else they run the risk of looking like a sissy. Crying makes you human, not a woman.
What to do if you feel tears sneaking up at the office? Some might say, head to the bathroom, take an earlier or longer lunch, or just head home. Advice like this – who is it helping here? Others might say, just let it out or have a good cry. But the truth is that there is no blanket statement for what a person should or should not do when the waterworks turn on. However, perhaps it’s high time to consider how we respond to those in the workplace. Who knows what’s going on? Terrible things happen – visas get rejected, lovers get deported, things get tough – and that’s just life. Try asking, “are you OK?” before suggesting they leave, unless of course, you are dead inside. You may learn that you have more in common with your colleague than you thought.
Often, crying is a reaction to frustration or stress. It’s not surprising then that people are reaching for the tissue box between 9 and 5. People tend to feel ashamed about crying in the workplace, or fear that it will jeopardize their chance of advancement, but there are worse things you can do. Like, for example, slamming a phone down on the receiver. So, before you apologize for your tears, you should know that you’re not doing anything wrong. Take note from Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, who also thinks it’s OK to cry at work. “I cry at work,” she has admitted, and added “women are not one type of person Monday through Friday and then a different person in the nights and weekend.”
Of course, crying ALL THE TIME can interrupt the rhythm of the workplace. If you break down every time something goes wrong, then you might want to take a step back and work on getting to the core of the problem.
What do you think about crying in the office? Let us know in the comments section below!