Is Crying in the Office Ever Okay?

Posted on May 25, 2012.

When I worked in corporate America, I use to have a lot of aphorisms like,"die before you cry at work", or (to new managers) "someone will be in your office within two weeks crying".

So is crying at work such a bad thing? Depends

The first time I cried at work, a customer had literally threatened me. I was young, inexperienced and bought into the rumor that the guy was somehow connected to the mob. Let’s face it, who wouldn’t cry? Plus, he just really ticked me off. And yet, my boss at the time admonished me and told me crying would kill my career.  He was right.  Letting frustration or anger bottle up to the point where tears are the only release is when crying at work is a bad thing. You need to find other ways to vent. Take a walk outside, go to the gym, or just leave. It’s like sending out emails when you’re still mad. You’re definitely going to regret it.

On the other hand, showing emotion that humanizes you can be a good thing. It certainly hasn’t hurt the image or careers of Speaker of the house, John Boehner, Andre Agassi when he played his last U.S. Open or Walter Cronkite when he announced the death of President Kennedy.  The last time I cried in the office was after another massive layoff. It’s never easy to tell someone you’ve just ended his or her livelihood.  One of my employees walked in on me with tears dripping down my face, nose running and staring at the floor. I thought he’d walk away, but instead he said, “Cindy, if this ever gets easy for you, it’s time to leave”.

So when someone comes in your office in tears, coach them the right way and don’t automatically tell them “never, ever” cry.  Sometimes it’s a good thing.