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Is It Ever OK to Cry at Work?

Is It Ever OK to Cry at Work?

Jodi Glickman Brown

By now, most people have seen at least one clip of Speaker of the House to-be John Boehner shedding tears in front of the camera — on the House Floor, with Leslie Stahl on “60 minutes,” talking about our failing public education system, you name it.

And perhaps you’re thinking to yourself that the rules of the game have changed: perhaps it is okay to cry at work. It’s not. Even though the highest-ranking congressman in the land does it, you still can’t. It is never okay to cry in your office, with your colleagues, or, god forbid, in front of your boss.

John Boehner is an anomaly. He’s the exception, not the rule. There are three key differences between John Boehner and the rest of us above-average professionals looking to progress in our careers: first, he’s the boss, second he’s not crying about workplace issues, and third, he’s old (or older, depending on where you sit).

What to Do Instead?

Admittedly, it’s not crazy to think something will happen at some point that will make you want to cry. No one is immune to hurt feelings, harsh criticisms or unfair treatment. But unless you’re the boss or elder statesman, you simply shouldn’t lose it. Instead, when you find yourself at the end of your rope, consider the following:

Next Page: A sad or unfixable fait accompli →



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Featured Author: Jodi Glickman Brown
Great on the Job focuses on the daily, one-on-one interactions in the workplace that are so critical to success—yet are largely overlooked by traditional corporate and business school training programs. Her clients include top tier business schools (Harvard, Wharton, NYU), Wall Street clients (Barclays, Merrill Lynch, Citi) and fortune 500 companies. Jodi is a regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review blog and her book is being published by St. Martin’s Press in early 2011. Jodi lives in Chicago with her husband and two little girls.


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    hutteto

    5 months ago

    2 comments

    Your an idiot. Are you a drone SHEEPLE bot? People have emotions you know? If you can hold back intentionally and NOT cry when you cant help but to cry, then more power to you btch! Who the heII do you think you are are. We need less people like you living here on earth. When emotions take hold, you CANT stop them. Its like saying "Be serious when something funny happens on the fly", or "Don't cry when your mother dies." Are you a complete idiot?!?????????? Question marks because I cant understand your foolish logic. Bimbos like you should go fck yourself and die. Good riddance FOOL!

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    beenthere1

    almost 2 years ago

    2 comments

    Accept when you're working for a narcissist. In this case, they need to feel powerful. They need to feel like they are a god. They brutally bully employees, and if the employee shows too much intelligence, they get sacked. They have no problem using and abusing, then taking the credit. Once the employee has made the mistake of showing too much insight and has offended their nacrcissistic boss, the boss blames them for doing something wrong. At this point while he/she is berating you, admitting failure and crying will save your job. You know your lying, but the boss needs to keep on living in his/hers. Then, speedily find a new job. In a dysfunctional work environment, sometimes manipulation is the only way to survive.

  • Greceaaaa2_max50

    grace2U

    over 2 years ago

    786 comments

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    ABG

    over 3 years ago

    36 comments

    Easier said than done. I admit, it's not a good idea to let them see you cry...but sometimes the situation just leaves you no choice. Especially when your (now ex-)boss is a proffessional bully. The crying was not what got me fired, the blow-up was. And I admit it wasn't the best way to handle the situation...but...they weren't LETing me get away from it for a while. They refused my break, and that's what started it. I put up with the first break-postponement, but by the time they postponed it AGAIN, I was having a panic attack. I have Social Phobia, and at the time, I was working in a grocery store...so it was ALL people, ALL the time. The only way I could put up with it was to have my breaks ON TIME. This was denied to me on this particular occasion...TWICE. And my boss did not understand...I don't think she WANTED to. I think she had been searching for a reason to fire me...and this was a way of forcing the issue. She later harped on my crying "very LOUDLY" (as if I was forcing the tears...which I wasn't. And I wasn't crying any louder than I normally do...not that she would know that...or even CARE.) in the termination letter.

    And the blow up...while I regret what I said to this day, I believe I needed it. I learned to defend myself that day...granted, not in the best fashion.

    Point is...true, crying at work (particularly in front of your boss) is something to stay away from...but sometimes it's unavoidable.

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    aworkinggirl

    over 3 years ago

    54 comments

    In all my years in the workforce (and that's nearly 30 years), I've never seen anyone lose a job or get passed over for a promotion because they cried or was otherwise emotional at work. I think all that 'there is no crying on the job" stuff needs to be left in the 80s. Personally, I'd rather see a few tears than see someone stuff their feelings and then someday show up at the workplace with a gun and mow everyone down. I think if people were allowed to constructively show emotions, there would be a lot less workplace violence incidents.

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    ag_peshie77

    over 3 years ago

    16 comments

    I guess it really depends with the situation. Sometime no matter how you try to behave like you are made of iron, the emotions get over you. I guess, sometimes we will only be expressing our human side. I once had something really not working out for me and the only person I could think of sharing the incident was my boss, fortunately she is also a woman. Why did I choose her, she is a prayerful person and very understanding. She easily normally dectates when things are not fine with me and I end up sharing with her, and being older and sensible, I always find her advice helpful. On this fateful day, she was in the middle of an important meeting and she had to come out briefly to see me. Wooo, I tell you it was like water falls the moment I saw her. I cried bitterly before even explaining what was the matter. Being a woman, she automatically thought I was pregnant, which was wrong of course. She had to suspend the meeting and attend to me, to me, it revealed the real human in this woman. She saved a life rather than concentrating on deadlines, which in fact are not the essence of life. I feel we are letting life pass us for fear of being human enough and express our inner fears and feeling. Of course, you cannot go around crying in front of every jack and jill otherwise they will make fun of you. I believe, crying in front of the right work mates or bosses once in a while is not a crime. We know our boundaries as employer and employee with my boss, but somewhere somehow we understand each other's fragile side and support each other in such moments. Who doesn't have a bad emotional day anyway, even bosses do.

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    lexnkksmama

    over 3 years ago

    2 comments

    Numero uno: Some people are decidedly passionate about their work, others, and, in the case of John Boehner, about the country and pressing matters. This is NOT weakness, nor do these characteristics give Ms. Brown the right to belittle him for it. I think, possibly, it would be better if Ms. Brown took the time to research "How to Respect Those Not EXACTLY Like Yourself."

    Second, let's please not suggest that someone leave the building unannounced at work. Way to get people fired...

    Third, after reading comments about bosses, etc., that TRY to make people cry, and employees who prey on their more emotional coworkers, I am appalled at how common these things seem to be. Reading these comments actually made me stop to thank the good Lord that I work down here in Alabama at a public high school with a vocally Christian principal and with kind-hearted teachers and staff. The other day, a coworker of mine stepped into an empty classroom for a moment, tears down her cheeks, after her husband called to tell her that their dog (that they had adopted during a several-year struggle to have children) had terminal cancer and would die soon. I did not find this at all inappropriate, since she stepped out of her classroom and gathered herself before returning. In fact, I was thankful that she had her breakdown while I was present, since I was more than willing to listen to her and offer comfort. THIS is why we have such a wonderful working environment - we trust our emotions to each other and we are willing to support others, no matter what their struggles may be. It's not an 8-hour group therapy session, and that's largely because we are just the sort of people that help each other as the little things arise and so we rarely get so worked up that we lose it. Not to mention, we treat each other properly and are not out to "get" another employee. Sounds to me like the general mass of society should just GROW UP and treat each other right, and then articles with nonsense like this one wouldn't be necessary at all.

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    Andakwa

    over 3 years ago

    2 comments

    I agree with previous posters that most places leaving the building would be considered walking off the job and there would be no explaining later as there would be no job to go back too, maybe that is ok for people on wall-street but for the rest of the world you got to know your working environment, I have worked places where its ok to take a quick unscheduled break and other places that if you turn around for one second your job is screwed

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    JediKaiti

    over 3 years ago

    2 comments

    Fairprincess - I think you get license to cry on that one. But I'd suggest trying to confine it to a bathroom or personal office, lest one of the resident monsters take advantage.

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    fairprincess

    over 3 years ago

    4 comments

    How about if my boss and upper management were treating me in a racially discriminatory and cruel manner after I had found out I would shortly have to bury two close relatives (including one parent) by myself, and in a different state?

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    Xmatters

    over 3 years ago

    20 comments

    Since when is crying, "losing it"? Do you consider laughter losing it? I don't feel out of control when I shed tears, I feel human.

    If a company wants a robot for an employee, they shouldn't hire a human being.

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    wlkate

    over 3 years ago

    4 comments

    I agree this article for the most part is BS when the Author says, “It is never okay to cry in your office, with your colleagues, or, god forbid, in front of your boss.”

    As far as, “If a dear or beloved colleague has been laid off, you’ve just received a less-than-stellar performance review, no one listened to your brilliant idea in morning meeting, or you’re just having a bad day, you’re entitled to lose it. You’re just not entitled to lose it in front of others.” I will agree it is best not to lose it in front of others but there are EXCEPETIONS, shedding tears does not make you weak it makes you human.

    As far as, “If you can’t keep it together to excuse yourself, then simply exit the building quickly and worry about explaining later.” This would be grounds for termination where I work.

    NOTE: “As a former Vice President on Wall Street, I don’t know any colleagues who didn’t lose it at one point or another (sometimes often). We all knew the drill, however. We’d get out of 85 Broad as fast as we could. We’d do whatever it took not to let them see us cry and then we’d march back inside the building with our heads held high: onwards and upwards.”
    Yes and look at what has happened to “Wall Street.”

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    Account Removed

    over 3 years ago

    despite what any of you think, there is a perception in the workplace that if you cry, then you cannot handle the pressures that have been put upon you. so, I agree: exit as quickly and professionally as possible, and come back later when you've regained your composure. However, there are times when it is ok to cry and that is in the case of a tragedy; for example, the loss of a loved one. In that case it is ok, and understood, and also has nothing to do with work.

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    amandahill

    over 3 years ago

    24 comments

    "There are three key differences between John Boehner and the rest of us above-average professionals looking to progress in our careers: first, he’s the boss, second he’s not crying about workplace issues, and third, he's old"

    and fourth, he's a MAN.

    (Oh come on, I couldn't have been the only one thinking it!)

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    donnajsmith

    over 3 years ago

    6 comments

    Glad to see I am not the only one that feels this way. Never let them see you sweat- or cry. It will end up haunting you in the long run. High emotions - whatever they are- crying, yelling, etc....are never forgotten. And I don't know about you- but I don't want this to be what people think of when they hear my name.

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