Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Teardrops On My Pillow

In Nicole Williams' Works Weekly Agenda, today she addresses the issue of crying at work. While I often find Williams' advice a little flippant and not always applicable, I was very interested in hearing what she had to say about tears in the office.

I’m a highly emotional person and tend to cry at the drop of a hat. It’s been happening a lot at work. It’s not that I’m sad, but crying is a way for me to deal with stress. Is this hurting my career?

This seemed like an appropriate question to pull out of the bag in light of the Hillary “cry” last week. It happens to the best of us, but by and large I’m a big believer in keeping the tears at bay. Whether we like it or not, double standards are still running rampant through the halls of corporate America, and women who are highly emotional are perceived as weak and—even more damaging—crazy. Emotion is a slippery slope and response is varied. I’ll admit that Hillary’s expression of emotion on the campaign trail made me feel like she is stronger, not weaker, than I originally thought. But a lot of people (especially men) disagree with me. If, as you suggest, you’re highly emotional, keep in mind that YOU are responsible for controlling how you convey that emotion. Take it to the bathroom, run it out after work, funnel it into a passion for a new project—crying is energy, so expend it productively. And if you still can’t stifle the sobs, do so in private.

I agree with Nicole on the "do so in private" part of this. But I'd be interested in hearing her advice on the post-sob period. What do you do now that you've been to the powder room for a boo hoo and you return to your desk with bleary or puffy eyes?

When I got my Eastern European Show Trial review at my last job, I cried. I tried very hard not to cry as I was told my work was brilliant but I was somehow a defective person, and then I said I needed a little time to digest all of this and respond. Then I ran to bathroom and bawled. It was not my proudest moment. It was the end of the day and no one was there, I thought, to hear or see me. I had my pocket notebook with me and I started scribbling whatever came into my head to just get it all out. And when I finally emerged, I thought, I'll grab my stuff and just go home. But I ran into my boss on my way. It was an awful moment. No one looks good after a cry, and this was humiliating to see the woman who had just smashed me over the head with a bad review. It's a moment I will keep tucked away in my mind to remind me that just as there's no crying in baseball, there's no crying at the office either.

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