Is it OK to cry at work?
Sheryl Sandberg addresses Harvard Business School Class of 2012.
Earlier this year Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg made headlines when she told working women with kids they should leave at 5.30. And not feel guilty about it! She caused a fuss more recently when she addressed the graduating students of Harvard Business School and told them they shouldn’t be afraid.... to cry at work. Let’s not take Sanberg out of context, this is what she had to say in her speech:
“I don't believe we have a professional self from Mondays through Fridays and a real self for the rest of the time. That kind of division probably never worked, but in today's world, with a real voice, an authentic voice, it makes even less sense. I've cried at work. I've told people I've cried at work. And it's been reported in the press that ‘Sheryl Sandberg cried on Mark Zuckerberg's shoulder’, which is not exactly what happened. I talk about my hopes and fears and ask people about theirs. 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.”
Is crying at work just "being authentic"? Or a professional faux pas to be avoided at all costs?
Kerrie McCallum, editor of Instyle.
Don’t cry at work - Kerrie McCallum, Editor, Instyle
I’ve cried at work twice. Once when I was told I would have to pay back my maternity leave because I was leaving for another job. (Actually, it was more than a sniffle; it was a big old sob.) The other was out of sheer frustration at a difficult long-term situation. Oh, and maybe also that time I resigned, and then when I watched that client presentation on its charity for sick people…
Gorgi Coghlan, TV host, The Circle.
And I regret it. Not just because my face crinkled up into an embarrassing wedge, my lips trembled, mascara dripped in shards down my face, and I left thousands of scrunched-up tissues splayed across my boss’ desk.
It’s never good to show all your cards at work, or really lose control. I’m an emotional person and it’s a quality I wish I could subdue more in the office. I don’t like others being able to read what I’m thinking.
According to Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, it’s okay to be vulnerable and show your human side. In theory, that’s true. Over the years I’ve watched many people cry for various reasons in my office. It doesn’t bother me (although sometimes it upsets me), or make me think less of people and it’s often a fairly natural reaction. But I don’t believe everyone is as open-minded and offices aren’t always a supportive bed of roses. Having a work persona is important to me and wearing a professional face is part of that. Not to mention tears unsettle people, in particular my team. I’d prefer to do my crying in private, even though post children the tears come out of nowhere and I can’t always control it, darn it!
Crying at work certainly isn’t career suicide, unless you’re sobbing and rocking in a corner every day. But I’d prefer to keep the tears at bay… and avoid watching Huggies ads starring small puppies and babies while in the office. I lose it every time.
Let the tears flow – Gorgi Coglan, TV Host, The Circle
Shedding a tear through laughter or joy is so much part of my job description that I insist on having a box of tissues on set at ALL times. I've cried on live TV almost as many times as I've changed my daughter's diaper. Okay, maybe not THAT many times, but close enough. You get my point. I don't apologise for it. People watch our show to see real people respond to real life.
I've always been very comfortable about showing my emotions, both at home and at work. I’ve never seen crying as a sign of weakness. I’ve worked with some incredible people throughout my career. Hard working, intelligent and driven. I’ve worked for incredible leaders. It was rare to see them in tears. But sometimes I did. And that’s okay.
In the work environments where I've seen productivity at its highest and people remaining in jobs because they are passionate about what they do, it's always been due to an open, encouraging and empathetic workplace. It’s an environment that differentiates between treating people like robots and treating them like human beings.
Human beings just trying to do their best.
Human beings who may be going through a divorce.
Human beings struggling with mental health issues.
Human beings who may have a child suffering from a serious illness.
Human beings who should feel comfortable to shed a tear if it all gets too much.
Men. Women. Mothers. Fathers. Sisters. Widows. Singles. Gay. Straight. Our workplaces are filled with a beautiful array of individuals who all have a story. And sometimes, the storylines of our personal lives overshadow the demands and professional expectations of our jobs. And that’s okay.
I’ll never forget the day I was sitting in Year 12 Biology back in 1993. Our teacher Mr. Britton broke down in tears in front of the class. His youngest daughter was suffering from a serious illness. As the room fell silent, 26 self-absorbed 18-year-olds forgot about their own lives and instantly focused on his. It was the most valuable lesson he ever taught.