27 January 2009

Does crying make you weak or human?

By: Jessica B.
Tagged: Random, work

I am not a really a crier. But sometimes, I get so frustrated that it manifests itself in tears and I don’t know how else to express my feelings.

Last week a friend and I talked about an interesting topic: crying at work. Some friends think it’s a sign of weakness, especially from a woman, but I disagree. Crying doesn’t make you weak, it makes you human. And if I saw someone cry, I would remind myself that they are a real person and may just need someone to ask if they’re okay.
Some colleagues and I talked about our “secret place” to go cry at the office, which includes “taking a walk” to a deserted part of the building or hiding in a bathroom stall. One girl had a super creative idea, which is to go to the ground floor lobby of a neighboring hotel, where the bathroom stalls are the size of studio apartments. I’ve received several crying phone calls from bathrooms and the acoustics are amazing.
We even came up with the idea of creating a “crying room” at all offices for women to go for a few moments of alone time to gather themselves. It would be decorated in neutral colors, with soothing waterfall machines and a kitty poster that says “hang in there!” And of course, assorted make up to help touch up your face before going back to your desk.
Crying isn’t something to be ashamed of, whether it’s at or outside of work. I’m not saying you should cry all the time or at the drop of a hat, but when the urge comes, it’s okay to indulge it from time to time. And if your friends are as loyal to you as you hope, then seeing you show tears and emotion won’t send them running in the opposite direction.
I may not be the best at consoling people when they’re crying (because I want to help,) but if you need a shoulder to cry on or need someone to talk to, I’m your woman.
How does everyone else feel on the this subject? Are you showing weakness if you break down at work or in front of friends?


  1. wart removal says:

    Crying is normal and is a necessity when happy or hurt calls. It is not weak nor an abnormality. It is way of making us different from other species. Humans! Humans have feelings. So it is okay to cry. But most men won’t let other people see them cry but they cry!

  2. Jules says:

    I also cry when I get frustrated. But at work, I don’t mind if others cry, but I make it a rule for myself not to in front of others. I think other people might take it differently (especially bosses). AND I’m a teacher and it’s difficult to come back to a class of kids and not have them ask why you’ve been crying.

  3. Maris says:

    I have a no tears at work rule that gets broken from time to time. I’m not a big crier but once I start I don’t stop.

  4. Erin says:

    I cover crime/fire for a newspaper, so some of the stories are emotional. There is no judgment for welling up when you finish an interview with a dead child’s mother. We always keep it professional, but some of these assignments are pretty rough.

    A few of us did cry Christmas Eve night shift when “It’s A Wonderful Life” was on the TV.

  5. Megkathleen says:

    I think it’s ok to cry at work, I’ve definitely been known to do it once or twice. But I have worked with women before who cried all. the. time. It was seriously over the top. Eventually she had to be told that if she couldn’t handle the stress of the job then she needed to leave. So I think it’s just the amount of crying being done that makes the difference.

    Plus people who cry out in the open at work I’ve always suspected of just wanting attention. I’ve always been one to hide in the bathroom when I feel the waterworks coming.

  6. lifeintheleftlane says:

    I think there is nothing wrong with crying. It’s a good way to clear up frustrations and make yourself feel better.

    Crying at work is a different story in my opinion, especially around a (male) boss. I feel like a female would be more understanding, but a male would think it was a sign of weakness. I wouldn’t want to cry around a boss to begin with, but especially a male.

    There have been times that I was on the verge of tears because I was so frustrated, but I didn’t let out them out until later because I don’t think it’s the best idea to cry around your superior. If it’s a work friend though, it’s game on! =)

  7. A Super Girl says:

    I’m not a fan of crying in front of people at work. I’ve come close once or twice. I have colleagues who have broken down in front of the boss and I’m glad I’ve been able to avoid that. On the other hand, you’re right, you gotta have a place to get away for personal time. Even if you’re not a crier, there are times when you’re upset and need a moment and don’t really want to be taking said moment in front of your colleagues.

  8. alexa - cleveland's a plum says:

    this is a tough one. i’m not sure how i want to answer this because i think it can go both ways.

    people that use tears as a weapon though suck.

  9. Miss Grace says:

    I’m not a crier, so when people I don’t know well (i.e. coworkers) start crying, it’s just sort of uncomfortable, as far as I’m concerned.

  10. Kate says:

    I don’t think I’m weak when I cry at work, but I still hate it from an aesthetic standpoint. Once I’m done crying and start to feel better, I still have to deal with redness and puffiness for at least a half hour afterward. And then feel bad when I lie and tell people my allergies are acting up.

  11. Ashley D says:

    There have definitely been a few days where I’ve wanted to cry at work. I haven’t done it yet, but I’m sure I’ll break down eventually. Luckily, I work in the mental health field so I think it’s a big more acceptable to cry on the job.

  12. Katelin says:

    i think crying is perfectly human. nothing to be ashamed of, but i usually save most of my major crying for when i’m home or with a friend. that’s the best.

  13. laurwilk says:

    Truth be told, I’ve never cried at work. Which I suppose is surprising because typically I’m a crier. I can’t sit through nearly half of the TV shows I watch without tears streaming down my face.

    But I’m going to go against the grind here and say that I don’t think it’s appropriate to cry at work. And if you must, I think it should only be done in privacy. I work in an environment where very heartbreaking things happen quite often. If we must, we go for a walk around the block or take a quick trip to the bathroom.

  14. Kate, RD says:

    I find crying therapeutic so, while I don’t particularly enjoy welling up at work, I realize every now and then it just has to happen. Thanks for the shout out…I haven’t been to the palatial bathroom in a while…probably a good sign:-)

  15. Maxie says:

    I don’t have a problem with other people crying, but I think it’s like farting… it should be a private thing or just around people you’re very comfortable with.

    It annoys me when people cry and people that hate them go up and console them! It’s just so fake.

    I know sometimes people can’t control it…but it’s like crying wolf. If you cry at work all the time then it means nothing.

  16. The Modern Gal says:

    Sometimes all you need is a good cry to release some built-up stress or to deal with a big problem at work. I agree it’s best to do it in private which is why I LOVE the crying room idea.

  17. Bobbie says:

    I love the crying room idea.

    I don’t find crying to be a sign of weakness at all — in fact, I find it to be very brave. Showing your emotions to others or sometimes even recognizing them yourself can be very scary. And if you are comfortable doing that, then you are not weak at all!

    I have no problem with shedding tears in front of others, and I have no problem when others shed tears in front of me. I ask them if they’re OK or if they need a hug. Even if I hardly know them, because you never know, it might help anyway.

  18. S. says:

    I generally try not to cry at work but if it happens then it happens. It doesn’t really bother me so much cuz as you said, it’s human.

  19. wontletlifedefineme says:

    I tend to cry maybe a bit too often, but then again I always carry my heart on my sleeve… people do see it as a sign of weakness, but I think it’s healthier to let your emotions out than not expressing yourself. A cry room sounds like an excellent idea though. Or more a ‘retreat if necessary’ room.

  20. puddnheadnathan says:

    Crying makes you wet, which is thoroughly inconvenient. Human beings pride themselves on being dry, that’s why we use deoderant, wipe judiciously and avoid crying.

  21. G+D says:

    I know it’s only natural and completely human–and it doesn’t bother me to see it happen to others (other than to feel compassion for their stress or situation, etc) but *I* absolutely HATE crying at work. In front of the boss is the WORST in my opinion.

  22. Amy says:

    It’s so hard for people to accept crying at work as socially acceptable. Yet, work is a really tough place sometimes, and its important to let out your feelings! People really shoudln’t hold it in!

  23. Amy says:

    I have always been a tom-boy, and crying has never really been an option for me. But there are sometimes when I just break down and cry. I have cried at work before, and when I do I either go outside for a walk and a smoke, or I run to the bathroom and cry quietly there.

    I definitely think that the Crying Room would be an excellent idea. It would be perfect for those days when you are absolutely falling apart and just need a little cry by yourself.

  24. RecoveringActor says:

    I totally think that crying at work is a-ok. Especially since I may or may not have had a slight little breakdown last Friday and cried for 10 minutes.

    (PS… I’m also passing along to you a Butterfly Award)

  25. Jamie says:

    I’m a crier. Get me way too over the top stressed, I will cry for five minutes and be good to go.

    I think it’s totally a sign of being human.

    I can always look back and laugh about it, as can everyone I cry in front of, and I think that makes all the difference! :)

  26. Hazel says:

    i’ve cried in front of the president and ceo of my company during a very stressful and overwhelming time in my job and they were very understanding about it.

    i think it’s ok as long as you aren’t doing it weekly or any time someone criticizes you or your performance.

  27. Hallie says:

    I think this is a fabulous topic!

    I personally am in a field that is very male oriented and if I were to cry in front of anyone it would not be a good thing. Though I get respect from my coworkers it is still important that I am always on top of my game and crying would not help that image.

    I have though cried at work (one time all day b/c of a split from a long time bf) and I pretty much locked myself in the bathroom.

    A crying room would be amazing! With some comfy couches, maybe some curtains so if you liked privacy you could block yourself.

    btw: I’m new here but I love your blog! Feel free to check out mine!

  28. Kyla Bea says:

    I work in children’s theatre and as a result we actually have a crying room! It’s a sound proof booth up at the back of the theatre where kids who are fussy can still watch the show and hear everything but the rest of the theatre can’t hear them.

    And when we don’t have shows? You can totally sit in the crying room in total sound proof privacy and chill.

    I think it makes you human, though I try to save my crying for at home. I don’t like the attention it generates in such a small workplace – I would rather do my job and if I can’t go to work without crying, cry at home and give my notice.

  29. MizFit says:

    human human. and youre too young (*sigh* hello 40!) but google ROSIE GRIER and ITS ALRIGHT TO CRY :)

    I sing that to my toddler all the time…

  30. CatsPuke says:

    I have a general rule that if a job makes me cry then it’s time to look for a new one. I’ve broken this rule with my current job though in which I frequently come home crying in sheer frustration. I’ve yet to cry at work, but I can see it coming, from frustrtion and anger. I’ll likely lock myself in the toilet though when it happens

    CP x

  31. LizSara says:

    I tend to cry only when i get really frustrated at work. I generally don’t let things get to that stage but i will take a trip to the ladies if i feel it coming on. I think it’s unprofessional to cry in front of people at work (unless they’re your friends) if you can’t hold yourself together until you’re in private then you shouldn’t be there at all.

  32. Charlee says:

    So odd that I came across this today, I was just thinking of it earlier!

    I don’t necessarily think it’s a sign of “weakness” per se, but it is definitely not something I want to be doing–I think it’s kind of unprofessional and I have to agree that as a woman, it kind of enforces sexist stereotypes that we’re overly emotional and thus less capable in the work place.

    That said, I did once have breakdown whilst doing an observation in the hospital. I had been having a rough time, my mother was very, very ill, and my instructor wanted to talk to me about it–which of course caused me to break down and begin to cry hysterically. I felt really inappropriate crying in the middle of the hospital (with doctors, nurses, and patients staring at me) so I ran away to the meeting room, where I barged in (still crying hysterically) on a group of residents and attendings having a meeting. Who also stared at me like I had three heads. That was a great day!!

    Needless to say I hope that doesn’t ever happen again…

  33. Paula says:

    Any crying I do in the workplace is more out of sheer frustration than anything else, but I do try not to do it in front of those who upset me because i don’t want them to know they are getting to me. I don’t necessarily see it as a sign of weakness, but i think THEY would . . .

  34. James says:

    I have ALWAYS hated crying in front of people, no matter who, or why. I don’t know where it started, but I remember running into the bathroom to cry because i felt so skweemish crying in front of even my parents. Like, way too personal. Even at age eight.

    At my last job I had a day where I needed to cry out of frustration, and I did it in my car. When I came back inside I hoped no one noticed any smeared mascara.

    At my new job, I think I can get so frustrated I’m past the point of tears, and instead I just grind me teeth down to powder, scratch my eyeballs out with my pill counter and laugh a “girlfriend’s lost her marbles” kind of laugh.

    I don’t know which is worse. Or better. Hmm…

  35. Maki says:

    It most definitely makes you Human. Sometimes you can’t just fight it – your body and soul know you better than your brain..

  36. Melissa says:

    Worst situation of all? Getting SURPRISED by your own tears when you’re talking to your boss and all of the sudden start crying and cannot compose yourself! Worse yet? Having your tears be the result of something completely non-work-related, but instead because you are trying to figure out whether to put your cat to sleep! This is all completely hypothetical, of course.

  37. emmaelizabeth says:

    I NEVER used to cry, but that changed when I started taking the pill. Weird? But- I still refuse to cry in front of people. I dont think it’s a weakness, but just a personal preference. I have cried in front of people before- but they would be trusted bff type friends.

    As far as crying in general? You’re right. It does make us human. However I think there are some limits to crying at work. I understand that there are times when you can’t help it, but sometimes you need to leave your life outside work at home. I worked at a restaurant with too many HS kids who brought all their drama to work. Lame.

  38. Gretchen says:

    I HATE crying at work, but my friends have seen me cry waaaay too many times. :)

  39. Live and Learn the Hard Way says:

    I’m not a big crier either, but when I do cry it tends to be out of anger and frustration rather than sadness. I have cried at work before when it was unavoidable. i prefer to cry alone in my car if at all.

  40. Vanessa says:

    I think as humans, we are subject to a wide range of emotions. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to honor your emotions and cry if you need/want to. At work, where lines of professionalism are expected to be maintained, I would usually go to the bathroom or save the release for yoga or some other meditative release.

  41. Blaez says:

    i’ve let out the tears a few times at work. once because i was so frustrated with my boss and one of my groups i was too overwhelmed. another was when my kitty myst died and my aunt died a day later and it was just bawling for weeks after that.

    after the big split with the ex i cried at work but thankfully i was alone on my own and could wail all i wanted…

    the only time i cry really is mushy movies, weddings, childbirth (others not me, yet) and if something is really emotionally overwhelming.

    and pain. i’ve cried alot because of my back…

    i don’t konw if i answered your questions or not… i think i did??

    i gave you an honorary mention in my blog for an award, i wanted to award you with it but the person who awarded me awared you as well!! how funny, huh??

  42. Hi! I'm Erin says:

    I have cried at work before, but it’s always been because of a personal issue that most of my coworkers knew about anyway. I’ve teared up at work before but managed to hold in the actual crying.

    I used to work with a woman who would cry ALL THE TIME. It got to be a joke. I mean, I felt bad for her but it got irritating after awhile to see her crying yet again.

  43. DocElectron says:

    Theoretically, I completely agree with you and I have no problem with at-work crying for non-work-related issues such as a breakup, a fight with your mom, a death or pet illness.

    But I know that particularly in the line of work that I do now – crying would be a total kiss-of-professional-death. It wouldn’t fly and it would take a ridiculously long time to get rid of your reputation. I’m not in any way taking up for it or saying that it’s right but I know that’s the perception where I’m at right now.

    I’m not a crier at all so this doesn’t usually affect me personally in that way. But I do always feel for people who start to cry at work for work-related issues, because I think a lot of people don’t want to, they just lose their words at some point.

    I like this topic though… good to think about – especially as someone in a male dominated field.

  44. Dingo says:

    Crying at work is a big no-no because crying is one of those emotions/reactions that people just can’t seem to control. Showing your peers and bosses that you are not in control of yourself is never a good thing.

    Unfortunately, I cry when I’m angry and I’m not a pretty crier either. Blotchy red face, swollen eyes, the works. So, even if I do go to some place else to cry, everyone would know that I’ve been crying unless I took the afternoon off to get my face back to normal.

  45. Classy in Philadelphia says:

    Oh man. I have definitely cried at work. I don’t think it’s a sign of weakness at all. Sometimes we just have those days.

  46. SA says:

    I agree with you that it’s just showing a human side. But yeah, crying in front of a guy or your boss just isn’t great. It’ll get you that reputation of being weak, even if you aren’t. Especially for women.

    Damn stereotypes.

    However, the idea of a crying room? Genius!

  47. Angela says:

    I don’t think crying makes you weak. I think it means that you just have too much emotion at the time and the only way the emotion can be let out is through crying. If I saw someone crying at work, I would try to be compassionate. As long as the person doesn’t cry at work alllll the time.

    I’ve been doing my fair share of crying this week, and it’s because I’m an emotional person. It’s not because I’m weak. I’m NOT a weak person.

  48. Ruby Isabella says:

    Can’t men use the crying room? I think crying for humans is a great way to express emotion. It’s much more socially unacceptable for men. Therefore, they bottle it all up. Not healthy. Someone who bottles it up may end up kicking their dog.

  49. Heidi Renée says:

    I cry all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. When I was still working in the office, it was just kind of accepted because in our line of work, we see a lot of very upsetting things.

    My husband, on the other hand, does not understand the crying. He gets very uncomfortable with a panicked look in his eyes and thinks he has done something terribly wrong.

  50. Erin says:

    I have cried at work several times…this week alone. I cry when I’m mad, which sucks. I am not the kind of person who can mask my feelings well, so if you ask me if I’m ok and I’m not, the tears will come. I hate it, though, because I hate crying in front of people.

  51. Deutlich says:

    You know, to an extent I TOTALLY agree with you. I think work can get overwhelming and things just happen. I have had full-fledged panic attacks at work from bad, bad situations. I’ve had messy, messy cry fests and it still embarrasses me to this day.

    The trick, of course, is to not do it in front of a boss or a dude.. especially if your boss is a dude.

    As much as we are equal today, there’s still a stigma that business is a “man’s world” and men just don’t cry at work. And when girls do it, it’s sort of an annoyance to them.. a sign of weakness, even. And it’s silly to submit to this sort’ve ridiculousness.. but it’s something I’ve found that I need to be cognizant of.

  52. Ashley says:

    I cried at a retail job I had as an undergrad, and everyone forever after that was extremely nice to me for fear that they’d make me cry again. A similar thing happened at another job. It wasn’t bad being treated extra kindly, but I kind of resented the special treatment.

    I don’t think crying is a sign of weakness, but I think it’s often interpreted as such, and I’d prefer not to be in that situation again.

  53. Mandy says:

    I have cried at work a few times. I typically just shut my door. I think I may have gone to hide in a bathroom stall once. I like the idea of a “crying room.” I don’t think it shows weakness but I prefer to not break down in front of others.

  54. Arielle says:

    I am totally not at all a crier but sometimes I wish I was. I think crying helps you let out your frustrations and NOT crying just bottles everything up. I never cried at work though there were oh so many times that I felt like it. The only time I can ever remember crying in front of someone in the last, oh, 10 years is at a funeral a year and a half ago.

  55. Rachel says:

    I’ve encountered this problem recently when dealing with my in-laws. I get all upset and want to cry, but that freaks out Diana. So I have to do the hiccuping, no breathing, holding in of the tears move.

    It sucks

  56. Jen K says:

    I totally know how you feel! I have definitely cried at work once (k, maybe twice), only because I got soooo frustrated and couldn’t convey what I was trying to say that I started crying. I HATE it. It will still come up today in a convo: “Oh jeez…are you going to cry again?”