You spend so much of your life at work that it’s likely you’ll feel every kind of feeling there at some point. But crying. Is crying something that you can do at work without fear of destroying your career? Health writer for The Atlantic Olga Khazan decided to find out.
Khazan notes that, when the author of It’s Always Personal: Navigating Emotion in the New Workplace Anne Kreamer surveyed 70 people recently, she found that 41% of women admitted to crying at work in the past year while 9% of men admitted the same. Maybe the difference is because men produce more testosterone, a hormone that inhibits crying, while women produce a hormone, prolactin, that promotes crying. Or maybe it’s that men can hide their tears better in larger tear ducts that keep the telltale liquid from revealing how they’re feeling.
Maybe it’s that women voicing anger in the workplace are often penalized, so anger becomes internalized and often leads to a simmering frustration that finds its way out in crying.
Another reason men may cry less is that they’re concerned with being seen as less manly. However, men may actually get a completely different response than women do, sometimes making others feel closer to them. A study underway at the University of California, Davis, is finding that a men just don’t suffer the same damage to their reputations. A older study study even found that men who cried during a movie became more popular while women who did became less so.
Regardless of gender, crying in general may limit what bosses see as management potential in an employee since the crier could seem overstressed. On the other hand, some see crying as the opposite, a sign of manipulativeness.
Khazan’s article is accompanied by a video of her conversations about work crying with other smart people at The Atlantic, and their answers are candid and endearing.
For your own tear control, Khazan’s video contains a helpful session with an actor who provides tips on how to keep from crying during performance reviews and other situations at work where crying may not be appropriate.
Since work is often, face it, stressful and we’re emotional beings, we should consider bringing crying out of the supply rooms and bathroom stalls. It should be OK and not a career stopper for anyone. Really, it just shows we care.