Crying at work doesn't mean you're weak. It can even help your career.
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Crying at work doesn't mean you're weak. It can even help your career.

When people cry in public places, they may be viewed as dramatic, weak, and attention-seeking. But they might also be onto something, especially when it comes to crying in the workplace.

Crying is increasingly being viewed as an act of empathy, according to Judith Orloff, MD, a psychiatrist and author of “The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People.”

"Our defences are being torn down by all of the horrible stuff in the news. People are becoming more sensitive,” Orloff said.

It happens to the best of us: Former US  President Barack Obama couldn't hold back tears as he spoke about gun violence, demonstrating he cared.

It happens to the best of us: Former US President Barack Obama couldn't hold back tears as he spoke about gun violence, demonstrating he cared.Credit:AP

When a person cries in front of others, it may show their compassion. That’s a desirable workplace trait, especially in managers, according to Anne Kreamer, a journalist who specialises in work/life balance and the author of the book “It’s Always Personal.”

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"There’s this deeply entrenched socially conditioned sense that if you cry at work you, will never be viewed as management material, but [in my research] I found that people at all levels [in the workplace] reported crying," she said.

Crying can help you check in with yourself and bond with others

Tears are often associated with sadness, but they can also signal frustration, Kreamer said.

In a frustrating situation in the office, it might feel necessary to just move on, but crying can better facilitate that process and allow you to check in with your mental and emotional state.

Crying at work is a sign that something is off, giving you a chance to acknowledge a problem and correct it.

Crying at work is a sign that something is off, giving you a chance to acknowledge a problem and correct it.Credit:Stock image

“You don’t want to be openly sobbing at your desk every day, but the occasional tear at work is like a check engine light on your car,” she said. “It’s a signifier that something is off, whether you’re overworked, you’re being bullied, or you don’t feel valued.”

Rather than trying to hold tears back during a frustrating work meeting, Kreamer suggested admitting that the conversation touched a nerve and then asking to revisit the topic in an hour or so.

Use that downtime to ask yourself why you felt so frustrated in order to learn how to better cope in the future. “After an emotional reset, you can go back. It’s actually an opportunity,” she said.

If you have a boss who would judge you for crying, find a  private place to cry, like during a walk outside, to reset your emotions.

If you have a boss who would judge you for crying, find a private place to cry, like during a walk outside, to reset your emotions.Credit:Shutterstock

Additionally, crying at work can help you bond with coworkers if you are going through similar difficulties, according to Orloff.

Tears can also signal a happy occasion, like if a close coworker has a baby and shares photographs.

Tears release stress hormones

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There’s a scientific reason why crying can help out at work. When you cry emotional tears, you also release prolactin and leu-enkephalin, two hormones that play a role in regulating mood, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

Preliminary research suggests that this response helps the body return to a neutral state post-cry and help you feel more relaxed.

Before crying at work, it’s important to analyse your surroundings and your boss.

Crying at work can help process emotions, but before shedding tears in the office, it’s important to consider the implications.

“Ask yourself if it’s safe to express tears around a coworker or your boss. It depends on how your environment is,” Orloff said.

Some bosses are empaths, meaning that they have big hearts and feel the emotions of others, and those people might be more accepting of workplace tears.

But a boss who is not an empath may judge you for crying. In that situation, Orloff suggests finding a private place to cry, like during a walk outside or even in a bathroom stall.

This story first appeared in Business Insider. Read it here or follow BusinessInsider Australia on Facebook.

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