Is it okay to cry at work?

Have you ever cried at work? I have done it, but not in public. It would really freak me out, if I did, being afraid of my image. Or maybe I am wrong. In this blog post, I reveal my crying episodes and give my opinions on when it is okay for a you as a leader to let rivers stream from your eyes!

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Recently, I had a lunch with a friend. She said: They hired me because they needed someone who is good with people and can connect deeper with customers and stakeholders. When hiring me, they knew that I am more emotional than most of my colleagues, so they just have to keep up with my emotions.

After the lunch, I started wondering. Is it okay for leaders to show the full range emotions at work? And is it acceptable for leaders to cry at work?

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A week later, the twin boys and I visited the Deloitte office in Oslo. I young talented colleague asked me write to read this Norwegian article about crying at work. She also wanted my opinions. I asked her – how you cried at work? Of course, but I had time to run to the ladies room. My turn, miss S ;), my crying confessions follow below!

(Sorry for not publishing any crying pictures of myself. I could not find any, but I will take a snap next time I am crying ;))

Oh yes, I have cried at work!

I am not afraid to show my range of emotions at work. Actually, I believe, it is one of my strengths. But crying, that is a tough one. Still I admit it, I have cried at work. This is nothing extra ordinary. A study be Anne Kreamer (2011) shows that 41 % of women and 9 % of men have cried at work. Below I reveal three times when I have sobbing my eyes red at work.

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1) The first time I cried at work was because I was angry. The partners were staffing a very exciting project for a health care provider. I really wanted to be the project manager, but I was not selected. I was so furious and disappointed. With that “Cecilia stone face” I left the office area and went into the ladies room room. Tears were running down my face. My make-up made me look like a horror movie. I rinsed my face in cold water, looking myself in the eyes, telling the horror woman in the mirror – I’m going to show them all (in a future project). Not long after, a new project came along. I was selected as project manager, and, oh yes, I showed them all!

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2) The second time, I had just finished a long term personal relationship. At the time I was leading a large national project. For weeks, I was a bit emotional unstable, which could be a risk to project. So I had to tell the project partner. He was very understanding and supportive. I managed to project fine. Still, I was happy he knew about my personal issues.

Heart Pillow with Adhesive Bandage

3) The third time I cried, was in a development review with one of my dear employees. It was a really tough project. We were struggling and my colleague felt that she did not deliver at the standards both the client and we expected. We had several review meetings and eventually she succeeded! Our last development review so moving. In the end we were both crying, both being exhausted from the hard work and our personal struggle.

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beauty girl cry on black background
beauty girl cry on black background

When is it okey for a leader to cry in public at work?

President Barack Obama has done it. My idol and role model Shreyl Sandberg has done it:

I’ve cried at work. I’ve told people I’ve cried at work. (..) I try to be myself. Honest about my strengths and weaknesses and I encourage others to do the same. It is all professional and it is all personal, all at the very same time. (Quote – Sheryl Sandberg)

Here are the situations where I believe it is perfectly fine for a leader to cry.

1) Sad situations – when illness or maybe even death strikes your work situation, of course you should show your emotions. People around you feel devastated. By showing your emotions, you make it easier for everybody to show how they feel.

2) Personal struggles – we all have tough times in our personal lives from time to time. I believe it is important that your workplace knows if you are going through a difficult personal period. A divorce, a sick child or financial difficulties. Share your concerns and cry if you feel like it. Your colleagues might be able to help you. They will understand why you have a different behavior than normal.

3) Pushed work hours – I remember once I worked from 7 am until 6 am the next morning, I went home, slept for two hours, went back to work and I continued until 5pm.  I believe that in situations like that you either laugh or cry at everything. So have pushed your work hours to the extreme, let it out, stay sane and go home to sleep! But I would limit my crying actions to my team and not in a board meeting.

I read an article who said that crying at the workplace could even be a good career move. My advices, in this blog post, are for leaders already up the career ladder. But if you go for the “crying strategy”, pick your moment and do it only once! If not, people will shake their heads, and go “Oh no, here he or she goes again…”.

Did you read one my most popular blog post – 5 actions to create a better workplace!

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Where do leaders go let it out?

Crying can be a catalyst to relieve stress and negative feelings. For me, this often happens at the end of yoga sessions. My yoga practice has built it up. Shavasana (dead mans pose) gets it out. As usual, I do not show my tears. Quickly I remove them before getting up and leaving the class. My head is rebooted and feels clearer. I feel calmer and stronger.

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My advice to you, is to find your “shavasana” activity. A process where you reboot your body and mind! Go for a run, ride a bike, drive, read a book or listen to music, and let those tears do the work!

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Happy halloween,

Cecilia

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