One thing that has always been a big no-no in the professional world is crying at work. It’s just one of those things, along with beating the crap out of your boss, that is viewed as highly unprofessional and equally inappropriate. And it’s worse if you’re a man because you’re suddenly nicknamed Crybaby or Geoff the Wuss by your male colleagues.
The truth is everyone cries at least once in their adult life. Whether it’s because they’ve lost someone near and dear to them, they’re going through a difficult divorce, or after (unsuccessfully) trying to hold it together while dealing with a rude client. It happens to everyone.
Whatever the issue and wherever the setting (your boss’ office, the bathroom stalls, or under your desk), embrace it, because crying at work shouldn’t really make you feel bad – and here’s why:
1. It’s just not THAT disruptive
Okay, I guess it is when you work at a supermarket and start throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of the canned goods section, screaming “I don’t want to! I don’t want to stack any more cans on the shelves! I want my mommy! MOMMYYY!!!” That, my friend, is disruptive in the following two ways. One, it inconveniences customers who just wanted to buy a can of tomato soup. And, two, it leads the manager to make an overhead announcement – in a very bored voice – along the lines of “Cleanup on aisle six, please. Cleanup on aisle six.”
While it’s an uncomfortable and awkward situation for colleagues and especially clients to be in, having a good cry at work is just not as disruptive as: Gossiping on the phone with your best friend while meeting with a client. Avoiding a very important deadline by playing Tetris on your iPad. Or watching porn on full volume in your shared office space.
As long as it does not interfere with your colleagues’ workload and it does not affect your own, a dash to the bathroom for a quick cry will not do you or the company any harm.
2. It helps you advance in your career
No, seriously, it does. Well, at least according to journalist and author Anne Kreamer it does, anyway.
While crying at work might not automatically result in an on-the-spot job promotion (if it does, do let me know. I might try it myself), it does help you develop your problem-solving skills and it increases your workplace effectiveness.
Once considered career suicide (and some sort of mental disorder by some), crying at work shows that you are emotional and, believe it or not, it’s a quality that some employers look for in potential candidates, according to Kreamer in her book It’s Always Personal: Emotion in the Workplace. And Jim Whitehurst backs up that theory. According to his paper The Open Organization: Igniting Passion and Performance, employers want inspired, excited and enthusiastic employees, which is practically the definition of “emotional”.
Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs was known for his workplace crying, according to Ken Segall who had worked as ad agency creative director at Apple for 12 years. He recalled how Jobs used to cry “a lot – usually to get his way” in a business deal, as reported in USA Today.
By all means, however, do not – I repeat, DO NOT – cry during job interviews or every other day to get what you want. Seriously, that’s all you got from all this?
3. It’s good for your health
Generally, crying has a rather extensive list of mental, emotional, and physical health benefits, which only attests to your mother’s advice that “letting it all out will make you feel better.”
A 2014 study claimed that crying was more soothing and more effective than antidepressants, as it relieves stress and lowers blood pressure. As a mood booster, crying makes better with 85% of women and 73% of men feeling less angry and sad after crying, according to AgingCare.
It also improves vision. I guess we all now know how Superman got his heat vision powers. The National Eye Institute says that tears are necessary for overall eye health and clear vision, keeping the eye moist, washing away any dust and debris, and protecting it from bacterial and other infections.
But that’s not all. In his paper The Miracle of Tears, Dr. Jerry Bergman writes that crying reduces your body’s manganese level – a mineral that affects anxiety, nervousness, aggressiveness and general mood – which is “found in up to 30 times greater concentration in tears than in blood serum.” Bergman also says that suppressing tears only increases stress levels, and the risk of heart problems and peptic ulcers.
Weeping or a full-blown cry fest, therefore, does not only contribute to your career success, but also to your overall wellbeing. This is especially useful when you can’t afford medical insurance – simply cry yourself better.
4. It’s only human
Well, there’s a lot of ongoing debate among scientists about that, and many claim that elephants, dogs, chimpanzees, sheep, and even honeybees can all cry, too. They probably can’t break down in tears like Chris Crocker or your typical melodramatic soap opera star, though, but still: it’s only natural.
You’re not the first person to cry at work, and you’ll certainly not be the last. While it has been condemned as a weakness for years, the simple truth is it is a universal thing. It knows no bounds and it does not discriminate against race, sex, religion, financial standing, or even your job position.
Facebook’s COO (that stands for Chief Operating Officer, for those unfamiliar with business jargon) Sheryl Sandberg is just one of many high-ranking business professionals to admit to crying. In her speech to the Harvard Business School’s graduating class of 2012, Sandberg said, “I’ve cried at work. I’ve told people I’ve cried at work… I try to be myself. Honest about my strengths and weaknesses and I encourage others to do the same.”
And it’s not just women who cry at work – in fact, Ad Vingerhoets from Tilburg University in the Netherlands found that “male therapists seem to cry more often than their female counterparts”, as recently reported in The Guardian.
Starbucks’ CEO Howard Shultz told Oprah that it was okay for men to cry. He recalled how, in 2008, he returned to Starbucks during the financial crisis, when more than 600 stores were closed and over 12,000 employees were let go. He admitted to crying when he had to address and apologize to those workers and went on to say that “You’ve got to be truthful. I don’t think you should be vulnerable every day, but there are moments where you’ve got to share your soul and conscience with people and show them who you are, and not be afraid of it.”
Meanwhile, John Boehner, the United States’ current Speaker of the House, is known for having a good cry – including once at a Taco Bell event.
Heck, even Barack Obama – like, the President of the United States – has shed some very public tears over the years. It did not make him any less of a man – it only showed us yet again his very down-to-earth, sensitive, and human personality. The fact remains that everybody cries whether you’re a bellboy, a CEO, or the frigging President of the USA.
Have you ever cried at work? Share your stories with us in the comments section below – funny, sad or WTF, we want to hear them!