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Crying at work: Human or humiliating?

The urge to cry at work can sometimes become unstoppable.
By Lydia Belanger |


Whether it is prompted by a text from a significant other, unfair expectations from a manager or even collective joy from closing a major deal, the urge to cry at work can sometimes become unstoppable.


Biological differences and social stereotypes dictate how we react when we are upset, or when we see someone else crying publicly. Last week, market research company YouGov surveyed 1,000 American adults on their crying behaviors and perceptions about where it is appropriate to let one’s emotions flow. Women report being more accepting of public crying than men, though the majority of both genders say it is acceptable.



Related: The Esquire Guy on Handling Tears at Work


While 80% of surveyed men and 84% of surveyed women say they believe it is acceptable for women to cry in public, 66% of men and 78% of women say it is acceptable for men to do the same. Opinions between genders also differed slightly when it came to the proportion of men who believe that it is unacceptable. While only 12% of women believe it is unacceptable for men to shed tears out in the open, 21% of men say men should not cry in public.


When the levee breaks, the social and professional risks associated with office tears can have a compounding effect. If you start crying at your desk or while chatting with a co-worker at the coffee maker, on top of the source of your sadness, you may be concerned of what others will think of your emotional spectacle, making it harder for you to bring your tears under control.



As you sniff and dab your eyes, the internal feelings you wear on your face may distract your colleagues or cause them to pass judgments. Others may be inclined to comfort you or help you find privacy and temporary relief from your responsibilities.


In her book It’s Always Personal: Navigating Emotion in the New Workplace, author Anne Kreamer surveyed 700 people about crying at work. She found 41% of women admitted to crying at work, while only 9% of men did, according to The Atlantic.


Related: Emotionally Intelligent Leaders Make Reducing Workplace Stress a Priority


We asked readers whether they believe public crying is acceptable, for men and for women. Many who responded pointed out that crying is a natural, inevitable emotion. While some noted that crying in a professional environment may be detrimental to a person’s career or authority, others explained that suppressing emotions has another set of negative effects. We even heard from a manager who explained how he handled a crying situation in a group setting.





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This article originally appeared on Minor edits have been done by the editors.


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