WONDERING WOMAN: Can a professional woman cry at work?

ANSWER: It really should matter whether you are a man or a woman, crying in the workplace is considered inappropriate because it brings too much attention to the person crying and causes others to be uncomfortable.

Crying at work, whether you are a man or a woman, sends the message that you are not in control of your emotions. If you are not in control of your emotions, upper management may wonder whether they can depend on you in other stressful situations.

We all know there are people at work who have bad days and unexpectedly vent their anger on innocent bystanders. Your emotions might kick in because you are taking the display of anger personally. As a former HR professional, when a manager vents on a co-worker, it is the manager who is acting inappropriately. Keep this in mind the next time your manager, or another co-worker “dumps” on you and this should help you keep your emotions under control. Many find that clearing their throat or coughing helps provide a distraction while they regain control.

Many years ago a co-worker suddenly died. She was at work one day and the next morning we received notice that she had died. There were tears in many eyes—both men and women. In this type of situation, co-workers can help each other deal with their grief. Similarly, receiving notification at work of a tragedy can bring the onset of tears. The best thing to do in this type of situation is to remove yourself to a private area (office, restroom, parking lot) until you can regain control over your emotions. Rarely will this type of emotional display negatively impact your professional image.

What are your thoughts? Are there times when it is acceptable for a professional woman to cry at work?

Pat Roland, CTIC