In the film, A League of Their Own, an incredulous Tom Hanks looks at one of his players and says, “Are you crying? There’s NO CRYING in baseball!” And, until now, there’s been no crying on the job either.
Weeping at work has long been considered taboo, but a few years ago a Wall Street Journal article said times were changing. Reporter Sue Shellenbarger wrote, “…there’s evidence that a growing number of workers, especially those in their 20s and 30s, see it differently. Some think it’s old-fashioned to hide your emotions. Others are quick to cry over negative feedback. And many find themselves at odds with managers who grew up with a more repressive definition of professional conduct.”
I don’t know that I agree with this as my own informal poll showed that most people, despite the generation gap, continue to frown upon crying in the office. That’s not to say I haven’t cried myself on occasion, or worse – made others cry. Still, most managers are uncomfortable with outbursts of emotion in the workplace. Tears can undermine your competency and have a negative impact on promotability, performance reviews and your credibility with colleagues and/or supervisors. Leadership may equate crying with vulnerability or weakness and anyone looking to advance needs to keep this in mind when emotions start to surface.
Additionally, those people I spoke with said the reason for the tears also helps shape your opinion of the person crying. For example, it seemed more acceptable for someone going through a personal or family crisis to shed a tear, while crying because your boss rejected your project was not. Someone who has recently had the loss of a loved one or even a pet, might find themselves suddenly crying on the job. However, whatever the reason, no one wants to be labeled the company Cry-baby, so if you feel yourself welling up with tears, here are some ways to try to remedy the situation.
- Prepare or rehearse a difficult situation in advance, such as a confrontation with your supervisor.
- If you feel you are losing control, immediately terminate the situation. Say something like, “as you can see, I have strong feelings about this subject. Please give me a moment to collect my thoughts and we can revisit this shortly.”
- Learn what kind of behavior can trigger your tears and look for ways to detach. Tell yourself it’s business, not personal. Try to understand what might be motivating any negative comments from others.
- Stay focused on the points you want to make. Write down what you want to say and keep this paper at hand. Use it as a prompt should you become flustered.
- If something personal is making you cry, consider whether you want to make it public or not. You may want to alert close colleagues that you are under some strain, but are working through it.
- Step back from the situation. Do not put anything in writing while you are upset and don’t confront while under stress. Take a lunch break or wait a day to recover and deal with the issue when you are less emotional.
Finally, if you have cried on the company clock, you are not alone. In a survey of 700 people, write Anne Kreamer author of It’s Always Personal: Navigating Emotion in the New Workplace, found that 41% of women admitted to workplace tears, while only 9% of men said they had ever cried at work. And it seems we are still fighting old stereotypes – female tears are considered the equivalent of weakness or helplessness while a man’s tears humanize him.
Bottomline, do your best to suppress the tears. And if one of your associates tells you that your blog isn’t one of their favorites, don’t start blubbering. –– Just take a deep breath and move on.