As women in the workforce, we often have to uphold a certain physical demeanor or exterior. We are strong, independent and have our positions because of our education and ability to further the company or socially advance society. Moreover, to fit in with the big boys in the boardroom, we have adopted men’s stoicism and left our feminine emotions checked at the door. This means that we can never cave in or show weakness, for the unwritten rule of “never cry at work” is vital if you want to be taken seriously at work or advance your career. Besides the image of pure embarrassment, a woman shedding tears at work can socially bring her down.
Instead, we run to the ladies room, drag that box of soft Kleenex tissues with us on the way to our car, stifle a sob with a loud clearing of our throats, and claim we have one hundred and one allergies when our eyes get a bit misty in January. It’s been said. And it’s been done. But how much does crying, bawling, or tearing up at work impact your career?
There are so many different reasons that can make a women cry at work. A bad day at home or troubles in the household can spill over into the workday and cause extra stress. A nasty relationship with a co-worker or boss can do a woman in, especially if she fails to meet a deadline or complete an assignment. We cry from extreme pressure or from feeling overwhelmed, undervalued, and underappreciated. It’s a natural emotion that women resort to, a built-in emotional release system that maintains an individual’s emotional intelligence in regards to working with others, compromising, and being sympathetic—skills that can be valuable in being recognized as an effective leader.
But in the workplace, it’s a nasty no-no that is viewed as inappropriate and detrimental to performance reviews and promotions. It’s something we women must often have to stifle, by biting our lips or hiding, and the suppression of the emotion can be detrimental to one’s own psyche or mental health. Women don’t want others to see them crying and then use it against them during their stay at the workplace. It ultimately hurts your executive presence, gives off the notion that you are not serious at work, or that you may need a “break” to deal with personal issues that could compromise the efficiency and production of staff. In many ways, crying is a big way of saying to fellow co-workers, “Hey, as a woman, I’m not cut out for the corporate mold.”
The order of life is natural, and we all, as women, have had those days when work gets you down because you were late thanks to morning interstate traffic, Starbucks ran out of your favorite spice for your latté, or you’ve been dropped from an assignment or project without any explanation as to why. Unfortunately, those natural elements or attitudes of life often don’t fit into professional relationships, and that is why, as women, it is important that we are aware of emotional selves in professional surroundings. So, the next time you feel like shedding the waterworks, reflect on some very important do’s and don’ts:
If you know you’re headed into an emotional conversation with a co-worker, plan out what you might say ahead of time. That way you have a reliable framework in your mind that will help you to stay focused on the topic at hand without being emotional.
If you know that your emotions are stronger than you, excuse yourself. Lois Frankel writes in her book, Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, that it’s okay to say, “You can see I’m having strong feelings about this. I’m going to leave for a few minutes to compose myself.”
Don’t Cry at Review
Criticism can bring tears during review season. Try to remain focused on the content of the constructive criticism that your boss is saying, instead of how it’s making you feel. Focus on what you can do to change and do better for the future.
A great way to control emotions is to focus on breathing. It’s a skill that you can build with practice. Breathing can help you to calm down, focus, and depersonalize.
It’s Just Business
Remember at the end of the day that anything that occurs in a professional atmosphere is simply business, not personal. Most people in the office are usually not out to “get you” so be mindful of constructive criticism, make changes where needed, and move forward.