By Sherkiya Wedgeworth

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Is it ever OK to cry at work?

Early in my career as a reporter, I had the unfortunate experience of interviewing the first of many people who had just lost a family member in a tragic accident. In one particular case, a couple had lost several children in a single car accident.

The parents came into the newsroom and I interviewed them in an office surrounded by windows. At the end of the interview, I hugged the father who was clearly in need of some consoling, and I shed a tear or two. Afterwards, a colleague approached me and said something to the effect: I know that was really tough…but you cannot cry at work.

Then there were those days in the office when I felt completely overwhelmed or defeated by workloads and expectations and after (or during) a meeting with a “higher up,” I literally had to fight back tears. I had learned early on that is never OK to cry at work. So I would go to the bathroom and cry in secret and in silence.

It was a Girl Scouts CEO that once said, “Tears belong within the family. And your colleagues, as much as you may love them, are not family.”

It’s also a very personal emotion, and we all know that the office is not a personal environment.

But is it really that bad to cry at work?

According to author Anne Kreamer, it depends on who’s crying—a man or a woman.

As part of her book, “It’s Always Personal: Emotion in the New Workplace,” she interviewed hundreds of working men and women about their feelings on the job and concluded that woman (41 percent) are more likely to cry at work and usually regret it and feel badly afterwards.

Men (9 percent) on the other hand, usually feel better.

“[T]he male criers in our survey tended to report that after their crying, their minds felt sharper, the future seemed brighter, and they felt more physically relaxed and in control,” Kreamer wrote in her book.

She said there are personal and professional benefits to crying at work, noting that 69 percent of respondents felt that becoming emotional in the workplace makes people seem more human, and 88 percent felt that being sensitive to others’ emotions was a work asset.

Kreamer quoted her sister-in-law, who is a management consultant: "No one wants to cry at work. But if you say to yourself, 'I know people will sometimes get overwhelmed, and if that happens one or two times a year, can I handle that?' — well, the answer is, 'Yes, of course I can handle that.' Crying at work is transformative and can open the door to change."

Posted by Sherkiya Wedgeworth on May 03, 2017 at 8:36 AM

Reader comments

Wed, Jul 26, 2017 Maryrose G.

I think it's nervy to even suggest that people can't cry at work, as if it was a choice. I'm all done apologizing for crying at work, or anywhere. I'm sick of all the stigma attached to it, as well.

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