Women at Work

For crying out loud – do you cry at work?

Do you love a good cry?

OK, I will admit it, I like to have a good cry.  I cry when we win gold medals at the Olympics, when I read about Animal cruelty or when I see those feel good stories on the news.  I cry during the song American Pie and when I was younger, I had to leave the school room when the song ‘puff the magic dragon’ was played as I become distraught at the thought of puff being left on his own at the end of the song.  My family despair as I cry through movies and sometimes in advertisements.  I cry when I see human suffering, when I see other people cry or when my family is in need.  I am not, and have never been a non-Cryer. So what has happened when my crying has slipped into my work life.  What happens when I cry at work?

My crying did not dry up when I joined the workplace.  I don’t want you to get the idea that I cry every other day but there are a couple of the more memorable work moments that included full sobbing, snot and crying till I got the hiccups.  Spectacular.   Have I made others feel awkward, absolutely.  Has it affected my career, truly, I don’t know.   As I have gotten older, I have used number of techniques to manage my crying, and have it in check. I am able to get through difficult situations without bursting into tears – one more recent exception was when I left a workplace I loved, it was ugly, but I think that I was forgiven.

So of course there are circumstances where crying at work is a no brainer.  Death of a family member, loss of a colleague (really death of anyone you know), terrible medical diagnosis, house fire, major house flood.  You get what I am saying.  Level ten trauma.

Do You Cry At Work?

What happens though when you cry because of something that is not level ten trauma?  Is it OK to cry at work due to a bad performance review, being pre-menstrual, being highly stressed or breaking up with someone you have dated?

Crying at work is usually something that affects women, though I did once work with a fellow who cried often when he felt emotional.  Simple frustration, stress, anger, happiness could trigger it. After a good cry research shows that a side benefit of crying includes a sense of therapeutic healing.  According to biology researchers, women cry 5.3 times a month vs men who cry 1.3 times a month (research here).  There is some suggestion that testosterone inhibits crying, which may account for men crying less than women.  The way boys are raised is also considered to account for the differences between the sexes in crying rates, from a cultural perspective.

So is it OK to cry at work?

 My answer is yes, but not all the time.  If it is a medical matter or a level ten trauma then of course.  Tearing up when your team has worked really hard and achieved an amazing result or crying in sympathy for a work colleague’s traumatic experience is ok.  Having the occasional brilliant meltdown when you have been under extreme stress or going through a tough time at home in most workplaces is understood.  Bursting into tears every time you get negative feedback, you are challenged or when things don’t go your way probably will wear thin after time.  It is really difficult to have a productive meeting with someone who bursts into tears every time the conversation becomes challenging.

So how did I deal with it?

Well, I do believe that age and experience has helped.  But, as I have discussed here, I like planning so I have incorporated planning into my efforts to stay dry-eyed. I have made a point of doing a dry run-through with friends or family members to deal with upcoming situations that may be emotive.  Biting the inside of your cheek and yoga breaths have helped me too.  I have also read that pinching yourself between your thumb and forefinger hard stops crying pretty much in its tracks.

If you are working with a someone who cries, please don’t just write them off as a highly emotional person and judge them on that.  It is wise to check in with them and seek understanding if there is a bigger problem at play.  Offer to hear someone out and if they don’t want to discuss it, offer to give them some time to collect themselves.  I always appreciated it when someone gave me time to pull my shiz together.

Note:  this post does not attempt to discuss mental health, hormonal or medical matters that may cause crying and other displays of emotion.  I am not qualified to comment on these issues, other than to say that they may be affecting someone you are working with so rushing to judge a colleague is never wise.

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