Have you ever cried in the office ? Not in private in the bathroom but in front of your boss or your colleagues ?
I have. Multiple times, for various reasons, related or not to work.
The first time I cried was in the context of a one-to-one with my very first boss. She wasn’t phased by it and didn’t dwell on it. I, on the other hand, felt very ashamed. I made the resolution to never cry again, and I didn’t for a few years. But I then cried again on the phone with my second boss, then twice with my third. I think it’s fair to say that all my bosses have seen me cry at one point or another.
Then, recently, I did something that I never thought I’d do. I cried in a meeting. In front of 7 other people. Tears rolling on cheeks and all. It was a very confusing and frustrating interaction and I felt the surge of tears coming. I had the choice to excuse myself or to put my head down and hide, but I took the decision to say what I had to say, even if it meant crying.
Of course, afterwards, I felt awful about it. Guilty and ashamed mostly. I even apologized to my colleagues. And then, after the crisis was over and I had recovered, I started thinking : “hold on a minute, I am ashamed and apologetic, but really, why should I ?”
Crying at work is really not the worst thing I could do
I could have lashed out in anger or frustration and taken it on my colleagues, creating an atmosphere of aggressiveness.
I could have not spoken and withheld some important information that eventually helped us make a better decision.
I could have bottled up feelings and have them come out ten times stronger a few days after
I could have stopped caring, withdrew myself and decrease my commitment.
All those things would have been worse. And I didn’t do them ! I merely shed a few drops of saline water and sniffled a bit.
Crying does not a bad professional make.
Over the course of the last 8 years, I have managed around 60 different people. And I can tell you : everybody cries ! It is not a factor of gender or age, I have seen middle-aged men and young woman cry. Experienced people and junior ones. Out of joy, anger, frustration, gratitude and sadness. And even though I judge myself harshly when I do cry, I do not judge the people who have cried in front of me and I never did.
Crying is simply a display of emotion and the job of the manager is to understand and help fix the underlying cause, not judge the symptoms. The tears are merely an information, what matters is what underneath.
Sheryl Sandberg publicly admitted that she has cried in work and did a lot to help put things into perspective. We all show emotions in our jobs, and I think the workplace would be a much happier place if people judged anger more harshly than they judge crying. And it starts by us ! So repeat after me : “Crying is not the worst thing I could do !”