Recently the Wall Street Journal printed an article about crying at the office. Having struggled myself with the fine line of creative passion/frustration which on the rare occasion means tears… I wonder how others have fared. In the WSJ article it discusses the cultural atmosphere at the office and for the most part if you cry there will be a scarlet letter “W” on you for “weak” and “wimpy.” ABC news in an article from last year dubbed “Is blubbering in business ever OK” discusses the finer points on what to do if you have cried and why it is doubly more dangerous for a woman. “They want to know that they can trust us to deal with whatever situation may come up in the office, with clients or with other businesses,” …If you lose it even for a second, they attribute it to ‘Oh, she’s just another emotional woman.”
Working in the very male oriented New York City start-up scene I have dealt with the constant running commentary of “How does your husband feel about it” to “are you sure this is what you should be doing” … questions I know if gender roles were reversed would NEVER occur. But then I have those moments of utter frustration, and admittedly tears and then I fear I am a self-fulfilling prophecy of the “emotional woman” and these “men” are right about me.
I think all of my female peers have cried to me on the phone about work related dramas or frustrations but it is a dividing line as to who actually has cried at the scene of the crime. I recently spoke with my long time friend about it and she said “Oh don’t worry, I have cried manyyy times to my boss.” I have always admired this friend for being the brilliant tough business woman and hearing her say that made me think on how many self-beatings we all give ourselves when the tears win out.
Being self-critical is innate and if you hold yourself to a standard of swallowing the volleyball sized lump in your throat; you hold others to the same high threshold…. inevitably someone fails… and then they are ridiculed I think probably more harshly by women themselves.
In last year’s Forbes article “Crying at Work, A Women’s Burden“ discussed ” studying the repercussions of crying in the workplace. Women are much more likely to cry at work—and in general—due to their socialization. Because most boys are firmly taught not to cry, holding back has become a reflex, she says. Ultimately, women are quicker to cry in a culture that considers it unacceptable. It’s not fair, but it is reality, says psychiatrist Orloff. Because tears release toxins and shed stress hormones, she says it’s important that professionals do not avoid crying entirely. Rather, she advises that they train themselves to take a breath, stay neutral and not react in the face of pointed criticism or intense stress. After waiting or excusing themselves, Orloff suggests crying privately.
There’s no crying in Baseball
“There’s no crying in baseball” retains the kernel of truth that ultimately we do need to do our best to separate tears from the work place and despite all the emotional training classes businesses can take, do your best to find that bathroom stall to let it out first. Whatever you are frustrated about will probably be better articulated through a clear voice.
“Emotional freedom is having a choice of how to respond rather than reacting in the moment without control,” says Orloff. “Train yourself, so you’re not taken off guard.” (Forbes)
The biology of the tears, Men vs. Women:
“Physiology plays a part, too. Women’s tear ducts are smaller, so while both genders may well-up in response to a situation, men are physically less likely to cry, as the tears don’t overfill their ducts. Women also have up to 60 per cent higher levels of the hormone prolactin — which encourages the production of tears — than men.
“But that doesn’t mean it’s because women are moody messes. Prolactin, which also controls breast milk production, is present when someone cries emotional tears. The protein gets the endocrine system flowing, making people more prone to crying. Women may possess as much as 60 percent more prolactin in their bodies at any given time compared to men [source: Women's Health].”
Why Crying Helps Men and Women
“85 percent of women and 73 percent of men said that they felt better after crying, which shows that tears may help remove chemicals that build up after stress according to Frey. Also scientists and sociologists both say that women are more inclined than men to feel the urge to cry when they are frustrated.” (Psychology today)
Interestingly I cry very little when something sad happens and am considered the “emotional rock” of the family but if I am extremely frustrated the tears can come on in a blink of an eye. I am an advocate for the “right time and place” method for tears (privately, in the bathroom, home, on the phone to friends/family) but having personally lapsed several times of “crying-in-the-moment’ I am selfishly hoping we all can be a little less judgmental.