Is it ever OK to cry at work? Today we were featured in the Daily Express for our very different opinions on this topic. Here’s the article if you missed it…
WHEN was the last time you cried at work? According to Hillary Clinton’s head of communications Jennifer Palmieri, it’s something we should all do more often. “Crying at work has long been considered a workplace sin for women,” she says. “But it can be a way we express anger, frustration, passion or sadness. We shouldn’t mute all of that.”
In fact, in her new tell-all book Dear Madam President, Palmieri reveals that the Clinton press office was dubbed the “crying room” because the immense pressure of the campaign often led to people breaking down.
“No stigma was attached to anyone who had to use the crying room. And why should it? It’s our world and we should be able to cry in it if we want to.”
Dr Sandi Mann, senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire, says it’s important to strike a balance.
“Crying in the workplace can make people feel uncomfortable because they are traditionally rational places, not emotional.
“However, before you bottle things up, remember that the effort it takes to fake or hide emotions causes huge mental stress.”
But not everyone agrees.
Founders of the Female Success Network, Abi Horne and Sarah Stone have vastly differing views on whether it’s ever appropriate to cry at work, despite running a business together. Here they tell us their reasons why…
YES – Breakdowns can lead to breakthroughs!
Abi Horne, 31, lives in Stoke-on-Trent with her husband Aarran, 28, a salesman, and their son Ted, six.
When it comes to crying at work, I’m firmly on Jennifer’s side.
Expressing emotion is a sign of strength not weakness and it’s something we should all embrace.
For the first decade of my career I was in a very corporate environment and soon worked my way up to manager level at a global electricity company.
I can’t count the number of times one of my employees got emotional, either because they were passionate about the argument they were making in a meeting or because of the stress of their workload.
I always encouraged them to let their feelings out because it’s healthier to experience emotions rather than hide them and end up having a breakdown.
I think my non-judgmental approach as a manager is the reason so few of the people who worked for me took time off sick.
They didn’t need to get away from the office to deal with stress because they felt comfortable expressing their emotions.
Although women cried in the office fairly often, I rarely saw men do the same. But I think men should take a leaf out of our book sometimes and have a cry if they feel like it. We’re human after all.
What’s more, rather than making people appear weak in front of colleagues, I think crying shows strength of character.
It’s much braver to be vulnerable and open with your emotions than to care so much about what people think that you have to bury them.
When my son Ted was born, I stopped working for the energy company so I could focus on him. Then in September 2017 I met Sarah, who was working as a web designer, and we formed a coaching business for female entrepreneurs.
Now we have video calls with our clients up and down the country and help them solve their business dilemmas. In many ways Sarah is the opposite to me but our differences mean we complement each other, like yin and yang.
While Sarah takes a more pragmatic approach, I’m very passionate and emotive.
It’s not unusual for me to well up in a client meeting because I feel so strongly about what we’re discussing.
But rather than blink away the tears, I let them fall.
I think it’s good for clients to see how invested I am because it helps them understand that what matters to them matters to me.
And if one of our clients gets emotional in a coaching session, I encourage them to let it all out.
Being open about how we feel helps us form a bond of trust and improves our working relationship. I think it’s fine to be overwhelmed with emotion sometimes. In fact, some of my biggest breakdowns have led to my biggest breakthroughs.
NO – Giving in to tears sends the wrong signal
Sarah Stone, 38, lives in Newport, South Wales, with her husband Andy, 46, an operations director
Although I admire Jennifer for speaking her mind I don’t believe crying has any place in a work environment. I think putting emotions to one side is the best way to get ahead in your career.
That’s not to say I don’t still feel strongly about what I do.
Only yesterday I had a huge to-do list and I felt the pressure mounting. There were tears of frustration welling in my eyes because I was so stressed.
But instead of giving in and turning on the waterworks, I took a deep breath and carried on with the task at hand.
Unlike Abi, I would much rather put my emotions to one side and try to approach things logically instead of getting worked up about them.
If I felt I was going to cry in a client meeting, I’d take a few minutes away from the conversation to collect myself instead of letting my emotions show.
I think when someone starts crying in a work situation the focus of the conversation turns to making that person feel better.
And the more time you spend managing someone’s emotions, the less time you spend solving the problem at hand.
The people who work for you want to see that you can confidently steer them in the right direction. If you give in to the tears, it sends the wrong signal.
In fact, just the other day I was coaching one of our clients about an issue she was having and she started to get upset.
Rather than encouraging her to let her emotions show I helped her calm down and look at the situation more logically.
In the end she realised that part of the problem was her emotional reaction rather than the situation itself. And once she’d calmed down we solved the issue together.
I don’t think anyone should pretend to be someone they’re not but I do think it’s helpful to take a step back from emotions sometimes to get ahead at work.
And although I have a very different approach to coaching compared with Abi, in some ways I think it’s the reason we work well as a team.
If a situation arises that demands someone fiery and passionate like her, then she’ll take the lead. And other times when we need a more considered approach, we deploy my calm, collected attitude.
While bottling up your feelings might not be the healthiest thing to do, sometimes it’s necessary to get the job done. There’s nothing wrong with waiting until later when you can cry in private and have some time to reflect.