Is it OK to cry in the workplace?

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Did you know nearly half of working women have cried on the clock? And no, we’re not sexist for addressing this in a women’s newsletter. Women are actually biologically hardwired to cry more often than men, according to Forbes, because they have six times the amount of prolactin, a hormone related to crying, as men. 

Still, a lingering negative social stigma for accidentally turning on the waterworks in the workplace remains, but that stigma is starting to dilute. 

…..Jennifer Anderson

Jennifer Anderson, an employment law attorney with Baker Donelson, advises her clients that as an employer, they want to foster a culture where people are recognized as human beings. 

“Crying is human,” Anderson says. “Businesses should understand that there may be a number of situations, whether in the workplace or out, that will cause people to have emotions, and that’s not something they should pretend isn’t normal.”

Women who cry shouldn’t be treated differently than men, she says, and employers should respond thoughtfully and appropriately when a staff member becomes emotional. They also need to be smart enough to recognize whether a workplace problem is the source of the issue, and if so, address it. 

“The goal is to have a workplace that doesn’t make people cry,” Anderson says. 

However, that can sometimes be easier said than done. Shedonna Martin-Mason, community relations and volunteer director for Life Source Hospice, works to separate her personal feelings from her professional life, but still found herself among the 41% of women who have cried in the workplace—in her case, after losing a patient she was especially close to.

“Whatever you do for a living, you pour passion into it, so it’s always somewhat personal,” Martin-Mason says, adding when someone finds themselves shedding a tear, it’s an opportunity for reflection. “We’re all going through life.”

She suggests not holding emotions in and reaching out to a coworker you trust when you’re overwhelmed. 

“It’s great that we can connect with our emotions. It’s OK to be vulnerable sometimes. It’s part of our dynamic and who we are.”

..Genevieve Silverman

Genevieve Silverman, president and CEO of Research Park Corporation, has found herself on both sides of the isle as both the crier and the supervisor of a crier. At the beginning of her career, it was difficult for her to hear negative feedback; over the years, she’s learned how to deal and process criticism. 

For those who know they can become emotional during high-pressure situations, she suggests researching online how to process negative feedback, as well as read psychologist Amy Cuddy’s book, Presence. And for employers, she advises maintaining composure and professionalism as they try to move forward in the conversation, as well as offering the employee a chance to step out to regain their composure. 

“You can’t judge someone for crying because everyone thinks and reacts differently to conversations,” Silverman says. “I think you have to give the person a chance to step away and revisit the conversation later.”

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