Why crying in office is no big deal

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28 Oct 2022

A poll conducted on the Hush platform about crying at the office had 28 percent voters admitting to getting emotional in office. While a significant 12 percent reported holding up their tears despite the urge to break down, another 30 percent said they never cried at work.

How can one avoid crying in the office? Does crying at work damage your career? Steps to recover credibility after you cry at work etc…read some of the most searched topics related to tearing up at the workspace. These discussion threads also serve as proof of how crying at work is largely considered inappropriate and threatening to one’s career.

So, why is crying at work regarded a stigma/taboo that can potentially wreck people’s professional lives? Though there are several aspects that feed into such a narrative, here are a few explanations as to why crying at the office should be normalized.

Just another human emotion

In a survey researcher, Anne Kreamer found out that it was normal for men and women at all levels of job hierarchy to report crying at work. The findings of the study which were documented in the 2011 book ‘It’s Always Personal: Emotion in the New Workplace,’ noted how 41 percent of women and 9 percent men admitted to crying at work the previous year. Those surveyed also said crying at workspace made no significant difference in terms of their work and success.

If tearing up is just another human emotion, wondering what’s the big deal about expressing it at workspace? According to research conducted by Kimberly Elsbach, a professor at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, it’s the fact that crying is a negative emotion which is likely to demand much attention.

Though crying at workspace is relatively better than other aggressive tendencies of lashing out, manipulating and bullying co-workers, it is still met with considerable disdain by colleagues who are likely to perceive it as a sign of poor self-control.

Sexist attitudes make it worse

Elsbach who gathered insights from over 100 women on crying at workspace also noted how female employees were more likely to be reprimanded for tearing at work than their male counterparts by being stereotyped as “weak, unprofessional and/or manipulative.”

There is also evidence that suggests that men tend to feel awkward around women colleagues who cry. It’s appalling how emotions such as anger and aggression by men are regarded as indicators of greater passion and commitment towards work; while tears by women are seen as markers of their vulnerability.

A 2008 study conducted by psychology researcher Yasmin Yaghmour at the University of Bedford found out that women who cried at work also judged themselves far more harshly. Anne Kreamer also reiterates a similar observation:

“In spite of the cathartic physiological benefits, women who cry at work feel rotten afterward, as if they’ve failed a feminism test”.

Crying, not a sign of weakness

In a human moment that was lauded later, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow recently got emotional on air while reading a news report of toddler migrants and babies being sent to tender age shelters in America.

Facebook’s leading lady Sheryl Sandberg has also addressed the taboo and openly admitted to crying at work from time to time. In her book Lean In, she notes that “emotions, after all, were developed as survival mechanisms; they’re hardwired into our biology. Rather than spending time beating ourselves up for crying, we should accept the act as a part of what it means to be a human, emotional being who, by the way, doesn’t shut off at 9 a.m. when the clock starts.”

Remarks such as these go on to show the newfound acceptance crying at work has been receiving. Therefore, it’s time crying at work be detached from notions of being ‘unprofessional’.

A mark of professional passion?

In her recent research, Elizabeth Bailey Wolf from the Harvard Business School suggests the secret behind turning tears at the workplace to one’s own advantage. Through a series of five experiments, Wolf found out that workers who blamed their tears on emotional investment in their work as likely to be ranked more competent than others.

Hence, from being considered a workspace taboo to being marked as a sign of professional passion, research on crying as also evolved to normalize it for the right reasons.

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