Where do you stand on women crying in the office?

Women crying in the office is a topic that produces lots of heated discussion. But find out why men don’t  feel comfortable.

Or anyone for that matter. The question of women crying in the office produces a huge range of opinions. On the one hand you have the “it’s fine to cry”  brigade – “women are emotional beings and should be authentic and true to themselves.”

On the other, you have the view of those who feel that women crying in the office in a professional situation is letting the side down.

There is no doubt that in general female tears are generally received harshly. They are seen as weak, disruptive and manipulative, especially in an open meeting or in response to criticism, negative feedback, or a disagreement with a colleague or boss. Many professional women have battled to hold back tears in a difficult workplace situation at some point in the careers.

According to a 1997 study done by Prof Cynthia Fisher from Bond University, School of Business, the most common negative emotions experienced at work are frustration, worry, anger, dislike and unhappiness. These can manifest themselves in different ways and one of them is via crying. According to research from University of California, Davis, Kim Elsbach, women are much more likely to cry at work, mainly because they have not been socialized to hold back tears in the ways that boys have


Male turn off

There has been another curious development. Research from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, suggests that when women cry, men’s testosterone levels drop significantly. An article in the New Scientist indicates that “Tears of sadness contain a chemical turn-off for men. Like animal tears, human tears may influence the behaviour of others by smell alone.”

In a “Master of the Universe “ male dominated corporate setting, testosterone is a key driver in a competitive environment. Studies have associated lower testosterone levels in men with feelings of failure. So it’s no wonder they don’t like women crying in the office!

Double bind

But perhaps we should also be asking general questions around emoting in the office for anyone. It seems that it’s acceptable for men to exhibit their emotions through traditional gender based and accepted outlets – door slamming and yelling for example. Yet if women do that they would also be penalised. If men cry they are also called “wimps” or “pussy” and told to “man-up.”

And of course we have the new emotion on the block, post COVID19  – vulnerability. It will be interesting to see that when male leaders show this characteristic if women will be credited in the same way. Or will they just be accused of being weak?

What we need to do is look at all forms of extreme emoting and find solutions to manage them. This requires team members to be open, vulnerable and trusting. It’s about creating an inclusive environment where individuals can respond constructively.

And heaven help the woman who shows no emotion or keeps them under control. How often have you heard the term “Ice Queen?”

6 tips for women to handle emotions in the office

If you find yourself emotional and your way of emoting is crying in the office, here’s what you can do:

  1. Identify the trigger  – is it a specific situation or one key person who sets of this chain of emotions?  If it is a person or situation you can’t distance yourself from…. go to step 2. Some people are just toxic.
  2. Apply basic calming techniques such as deep breathing
  3. Implement the 10 second rule before responding. This person may trigger a reaction in you which you may find helpful to identify and learn to manage.
  4. Understanding the exact emotion you are experiencing is important and working with a coach can help you with that. This is important.  Sometimes it isn’t because you are sad, or hurt at that one particular moment in time. Naming that emotion precisely will be a great help.
  5. Is there an underlying reason? If there is a deeper cause which is part of a pattern – feeling undervalued, stressed, tired, over-worked, scared  or out of your depth, then raise those issues with a coach or trusted confidante.
  6. If you work in an inclusive environment discuss the incident with the individual, or even your colleagues in a constructive and respectful way. Quite often a person may have no idea how their behaviour or approach is being  negatively received.

Crying is usually a form of emoting to convey pain or distress. Under certain circumstances it is entirely appropriate to weep. Maybe you are pregnant and hormonal. But if it is an outlet for stress or other unidentified emotions, it can be no different to yelling, door slamming or swearing, none of which contribute to an inclusive and constructive working environment.

Inclusive workplaces are those with high levels of emotional intelligence, where team members can identify and manage their emotions and applies to men and women equally.

Learning to manage emotions  (this is not supressing them) is one of the indicators of strong emotional intelligence.  It’s something that needs inner work.

If you struggle with managing your emotions in a professional setting  Check out 3Plus coaching programs


Staff Writer: Career Contributor
3Plus welcomes any writers to join 3Plus as a Staff Writer. If you are an expert in Job Search, Career and Mentoring or just want to share your experiences, contact us! We would love to give you a voice!

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