Is It Okay To Cry At Work?

ALL OF A SUDDEN, A WAVE OF EMOTION OVERWHELMS ME. I’M TRYING TO HOLD BACK THE TEARS BUT THEY FLOW. THE SETTING, HOWEVER, IS AT THE OFFICE. IS THIS OKAY?

A: My mother told me many times that women should never cry at the office. Did that stop me from doing so? Nope. When I was living in Singapore, I cried more times than I'd like to admit for a variety of reasons. It was a tough time personally and professionally because I was homesick and overworked. I started off by crying in the bathroom but eventually it got to be so bad that I would cry at my desk and barely try to hide it. It was not an ideal way to handle emotions. Truth be told, I wasn't addressing the root of the problems.

While I still believe emotions should be kept under control as much as possible, especially at the office, I think women put too much pressure on themselves to stifle it. As I’ve matured, I learned that I can cry at the office, but more discreetly and only in front of coworkers that I really trusted.

A little trick I learned to fight off the tears as they come is to take deep breaths through your nose. If you're past that point and it happens in front of a manager, it's best to excuse yourself to gather your thoughts and step back into the conversation once you are calm. I think a manager would appreciate that you took a moment to collect yourself before continuing but also sees that there is something that weighs heavily on you.

 

N: I’ll outline two incidents of when it was okay and when it was not okay.

OKAY TO CRY:

One day, I received a text while at my desk that a close college friend of mine had passed away. I was initially in shock from disbelief but very quickly, a piercing sadness engulfed me and I began to cry. I continued to sit at at my desk for a few minutes and “work” on my spreadsheet but tears were literally dropping on my keyboard as I digested this tragic news. I thought I could control the emotions and put it on hold until after work, but that didn’t turn out to be the case.

What did I do? I pinged A via internal chat for immediate help. While I have my family, boyfriend and other friends I could have reached out to as well, A is a trusted co-worker who wouldn’t judge my situation and could help me handle my “office tears” situation quickly. In fact, she didn’t even ask why I was crying. She told me to go to the bathroom asap and that she would come in shortly after to help.

If you don’t have someone like A near you for help in moments like this, my advice is to go to the bathroom or leave the building altogether for fresh air. Called a loved one to release some of the emotion then try go back in, if you can.

NOT OKAY TO CRY:

I had scheduled a meeting with my boss to discuss something that had been bottling up inside of me for over a year. I was struggling with how best to present this persistent issue to him and had played out/practiced this conversation in my head several times prior. Everything went smoothly in my dreamt up scenario, but in reality I ended up sobbing in the seat right across from him. I couldn’t believe it - I had prepared for this moment and blew it! While he was understanding, he told me to never do it again.

If you have certain work issues that continue to frustrate you, don’t keep it in. My mistake was not expressing these earlier to my manager so that we could resolve it together. Instead, the meeting became an eruption of emotion, which was the last thing I intended. Strive to keep an open communication line and don’t be afraid to channel negative news upwards sooner rather than later.