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Is it okay to cry at work?

There is actually very little debate about it - most people believe that it is never okay to cry at work. But cry away is what I say. Here’s why.

I was watching The View one day and the women were talking about wether or not it was okay to cry at work and I believe all but one said absolutely not. The reason? Crying at work isn’t appropriate because you lose your power

and you’re viewed in a certain way (aka - WEAK). And they aren't the only ones who feel this way. It's a very common stance to which I say:

It should come as no surprise that I fundamentally believe that this is the wrong attitude because what makes people powerful is their emotion. Hell, you-know-who got elected based on emotion! Can you imagine harnessing emotion in a positive way? But, in order to do that you have to first acknowledge that it exists.

Denying someone the right to cry is denying them the essence of who they are because it might make others uncomfortable. Something needs to change but it’s not that we stop being emotional; it’s not that we stop showing where we are sensitive; it’s not that we stop internalizing. What needs to change is people’s discomfort with human emotion. We should not change the very thing that makes us so incredible. Instead, we should teach others how to be more comfortable with it. To understand it, to... harness it. To say that emotion, the very thing that makes us human, has no place in business is to say that humans have no place in business. So, we do want robots to take over the world?

When we are talking about crying at work, more often than not, it’s a woman doing the crying. ( but is there anything more powerful than when a man cries?) According to research sited in the book, Emotional Expression and Health, by psychologists Ivan Nyklicek, Lydia Temoshok and Ad Vingerhoets women cry three to five times more often than men. There are a number of different possible reasons why, including hormonal, societal and even cultural differences. Regardless of why women cry more often, women, on average, show more emotional empathy than men, according to Daniel Goleman, author of The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights. This means women have a greater ability to sense in the moment how people are feeling and reacting and this is a very important trait for a leader to have. Why? Because you don't lead numbers, you don't lead buildings, you don't lead charts, you lead...PEOPLE.

How wonderful that a woman can walk into a room and say, “That person is angry. Those two people are fighting. That person seems really happy.” There is tremendous power in the ability to tap into people, to be sensitive to people. Why is that something we would want to turn off? When you tell someone they can’t cry at work, you are telling them to change the essence of who they are and with that goes all of the great things about them as well. When you tell them not to cry you are telling them not to express, with honesty, what they are feeling. And our feelings make us passionate and work hard, or disengage, or try, or, quit, or risk!! Our ability, as humans, to cry, to be sensitive, to be scared, to be nervous, to be unsure, to be wounded, to be caring, is powerful. We should harness it, not get rid of it. And if it makes people uncomfortable, let’s help them get more comfortable with emotion.

As a leader, I want to know when my employees are scared. If I don’t know, how am I going to ensure that I make them feel better, that I get them to do what it is that we need them to do? If I’m ignorant to the fact that they are afraid, or their feelings are hurt, or they feel overlooked, how am I going to deal with that and turn those situations around? And women, more often than not, bring that level of emotional awareness to the table and that’s a very good thing. Cry away. [Insert Kleenex product placement here.]

Is it hard to have someone cry in your office? Maybe. But I guarantee that to avoid or ignore someone on the verge of tears will make your leadership results that much harder…Because you will miss something.


Michele Ferrari is a certified executive coach (CPCC) with over 20 years of experience and a passionate believer in the true impact of values-based leadership. Michele is available to organizations looking for an executive coach and/or team facilitator. She is also available for media interviews and as an expert source for stories related to leadership, organizational transformation, business strategy, executive and career coaching and self-improvement. Please contact Melissa Morra for more information.



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