Why crying at work isn’t necessarily always the worst thing you can do

Shutterstock

I have a thing called pseudobulbar affect, which is a long-dense way of saying 8/10 first dates end with me crying into a bowl of tapas. 

PBA is a condition usually brought on by other neurological disorders that is defined by habitual episodes of inappropriate displays of emotion, i.e crying at the end of Bad Boyz II and laughing when your Aunt Cathy dies (those extremely specific examples are not specific to me.)

Because these bouts are so sudden, sufferers of this condition or similar manic-depressive ones, have at some point had to explain there way out of a cry session at work. For the longest time my go to was “Ah, man, I still can’t believe Crash won Best Picture.” (Green Book has provided my alibi with a much needed refurbishing). 


Follow Ladders on Flipboard!

Follow Ladders’ magazines on Flipboard covering Happiness, Productivity, Job Satisfaction, Neuroscience, and more!


Another popularly adopted maneuver is to position yourself near a bathroom for easy meltdown access- “Ah man Indian food. Also, I still can’t believe Crash won Best Picture.” Both great ways to avoid exposing yourself as an embarrassing-wet weirdo, but the truth of the matter is, work culture has matured immensely in regards to mental health awareness, and there’s nothing wrong with occasional public lapses in sanity-within reason. 

If you are judged harshly for crying when it’s entirely warranted, it might be a sign of a toxic work culture,” explains  S. Chris Edmonds, a human resources expert and founder of The Purposeful Culture Group.“Having a work culture that appreciates the stresses that leaders and members are going through is an indication of a healthy environment. “

A modest degree of self-awareness must attend all of this stuff of course in order to effectively promote a meet-me-in-the-middle rapport. If you’re a professional with a history of mental health struggles, it’s your responsibility to seek  treatment of some kind before injecting yourself into a work ecosystem, the same way it’s encouraged of a company to try and collaborate with the members of their team, and take their medical conditions seriously, whether said conditions are somatic or mental. 

Don’t cry because it’s over, cry because it happened 

Unfortunately, there are preconceived disgraces that preclude everyone from being as honest as they should or could be when it comes to quality tear-time. All of the non-spoken dos and don’ts of public decorum belong to a term anthropology calls “the display rules”: a rigid rubric that is meant to distinguish how humans, the notoriously incalculable collection of nerves and meat responsible for the Crusades, Global Warming, and giving the movie Crash Best Picture, should socialize and express themselves amongst others. 

The problem with display rules is that they are willfully indifferent to the mercurial temptations of cohabitation. There aren’t any inappropriate places or times to start bawling, there are only inappropriate ways to respond. Incidentally, the other seemingly impenetrable roadblock standing in between us and professional egalitarianism is a national preference for an ala carte adherence to biology. This has become popular with the modern wannabe provocateur. In the same breath they’ll posit why minorities are genetically unfit to do what have you, or why women shouldn’t lead a business because of science and then unironically submit a sponsor break for Rogain or Testosterad or whatever.    

A recent survey revealed that 41% of women have cried at work at least once during their careers compared to the 9% of men that admitted to doing so. Figures like these establish an erroneously shameful minority. While it’s true that biologically speaking women have six times the amount of prolactin than men do, nothing productive comes out of inaugurating a correlation between this useless evolutionary hold-over, and what gender ought to be weeping the most about what and when. Applying archaic knuckle-dragging functions of biology to a society that has successfully surpassed them places unfair expectations on the non-troglodytes that inhabit it.

Author and journalist Anne Kreamer writes,  “In spite of the cathartic physiological benefits, women who cry at work feel rotten afterward, as if they’ve failed a feminism test.[Women] feel worse after crying at work, while men feel better.”

More risible than the who, is the when. Sheryl Sandberg, author and Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, has lobbed censure at the stigma surrounding crying at work on several occasions. In a broader sense, Sandberg believes socio-rule books of the like are poorly cloaked efforts to reinforce the workforce food chain. More specifically, she’s of the opinion that it’s unreasonable to compartmentalize human emotion by right of who’s in attendance. 

“I don’t really believe that we are one type of person, Monday through Friday, 9-to-5, and then a different type of person in the nights and weekends. I think we are, all of us, emotional beings and it’s okay for us to share that emotion at work,” Sandberg told India’s Mint newspaper in a recent interview

On the topic of the very successful executive, Mrs. Sanberg, the contrary view is at its most willed. In fact, whilst covering Sandberg’s statements admonishing the notion of where crying does or doesn’t belong, writer Suzanne Lucas raised some forceful considerations. 

Sandberg wields  a certain liberty of vulnerability that many of us simply do not. Exhibiting weakness is not damaging when you’ve already established yourself as a lion. The road to achieving that moniker provides a much smaller margin for these kinds of displays. Lucas also punctuated her coverage of Sandberg’s counterfeit words of solidarity by cautioning the average worker against conflating vulnerability with weakness, explaining sharply, 

“I want to make it clear that, in most situations, crying at work isn’t appropriate. When your boss criticizes your work, don’t cry. When your co-worker gets the big project you wanted and think you’ve earned, don’t cry.” Lucas continues, “Crying in these situations doesn’t make people feel compassion towards you. It makes them doubt you have what it takes to succeed.”

Very valid points. A reasoned mind that has read Lucas’ essay in its entirety would have to assume the writer would excuse instances of mental instability either chronic or circumstantial in her estimation, but even still, speaking strictly from a tactical viewpoint, crying at work yields very little positive effects, even if the consequences are rarely detrimental. That doesn’t mean one should make an effort to suppress the need. I guess it’s up to us sheep to determine when the need is a need and not merely an itch.