When I read this post by Fistful of Talent writer Andy Porter 2 weeks ago, I knew it was going to be my first Wednesday post. In fact, I owe FOT and Andy for making me create a whole new category of Wednesday Buzz posts – the Hover! Those who remember my site before it crashed may have noticed that “the hover” wasn’t originally there, only “the honey” and “the hurt.” When I read this post, I wasn’t immediately sure how I felt about it –and admittedly I’m still torn as I write this—and thus “the hover” was born!
Andy’s post was based on this Time Magazine article , given to him by a habitual crier in his office. The Time article basically says we should stop giving workplace criers, in particular Speaker of the House John Boehner, a hard time because it trickles down into men believing it is wrong to show emotion. Um … I call shenanigans on that.
I have a son and I believe it is important that he grow up expressing his emotions in healthy ways. I believe the same thing for my daughter. There’s nothing wrong with crying. Jesus wept. Everyone cries. But crying isn’t always healthy. In fact, it can be a sign of more serious issues, like post-traumatic stress or depression or bi-polar disorder. In our professional lives, we need to be aware of this. The standard for employers keeps getting higher and we are held more and more accountable for things we should have known about our employees. Like when changes in their mood and performance are indicative of a more serious condition. But more on that another time.
Even if the crier doesn’t have some major underlying issue going on, I still struggle with the idea of equating crying with healthy expression of emotion. There is a whole rainbow of feelings out there and ways to express them. It is more important to me to raise children and cultivate connections with people who know what they feel, why they feel it and can clearly articulate that. It is not important to make people believe it’s ok to turn on the waterworks when the wind blows.
And I say this as a sho-nuff crier! I love a good cry. Sometimes, nothing makes me feel better than to just clutch my pearls and let out a good old-fashioned shoulder-shaking, snot-slinging, long silent pause for breath, ugly cry! I cry watching television and during church and reading sappy stories and with every milestone of my children. But at work??? Nope. In fact, most people I work with would describe me as pretty unemotional. At work, I am clear, concise and candid. There’s no crying in HR—at least and especially not in front of others.
There are times where I’ve taken a trip to the bathroom or gone for a walk or left to “run a quick errand” in order to let a few hot tears of frustration fall. So I sympathize with others who’ve done the same. I see no issue with this. People say you shouldn’t get emotional because business isn’t personal. That’s a crock. Business has and always will be personal. Whether you work for yourself or someone else, if you spend 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year (assuming you get a vacation in there somewhere) giving of yourself to the work, you feel some kind of way about it. Very deeply about it, if you’re honest. In HR, we see tears more than any other department in the company (unless you have a customer service department. They run neck-and-neck with us for this honor). We deal with employees’ most sensitive and emotionally charged issues – discipline, benefits, conflict, harassment, etc. I’ve been in meetings where people go through all 5 stages of grief in one sitting!
What I don’t like and where I really agree with Andy is in his observations about serial criers. People who use crying to manipulate others in the workplace really annoy me. Whether it is to get out of work they don’t want to do or to get you to do something you don’t want to do or to distract from failure at a task, using tears to control another person or the outcome of a situation is foul and unacceptable. The same goes for those who are regularly so overwhelmed with emotion that tears flow. It doesn’t matter whether they are tears of joy or anger. Crying is no more constructive in the workplace than yelling or throwing/kicking things. I’m not convinced these are indicative of weakness or lack of discipline or self-contral. I’m an advocate of allowing yourself to feel your feelings, whatever they are and wherever they take you, as long as you aren’t directly harming others. But I am convinced, if not put in check, any of these reactions to stress or disappointment over time will render you ineffective in your workplace.