Being someone who does not cry in the workplace is a persona I have carefully cultivated over the years. I believed I needed to be strong; even tough. As an old feminist, I feared displaying too much emotion at work was one of those things that held women back. I still believe that.
I have joyfully mentored many women over the years. For better or worse, one of the things I tried to do was to break them of work-related crying habits. I am not saying that crying is bad. In many areas of our lives it is appropriate and even a good thing to do. I am saying that it does not serve a useful purpose in the workplace. It is hard to take someone seriously as an employee or as a “player” when they are crying. Although I know people usually cry at work simply because they are not able to control their emotions, and often for good reasons, it is important to realize that observers often interpret workplace crying as either a tactic or a weakness. Neither perception helps get raises, promotions, or more challenging job tasks.
I hate to cry – even if I am alone and at home. It is physically unpleasant. I look awful. I feel awful. I use a lot of Kleenex. It gives me a headache and a sore throat. My eyes become bloodshot and my nose gets red. At this point in my life, only the death of a loved one can bring me to tears. Perhaps that will change in retirement as I learn to “live in the moment,” (a cliché I am personally tired of hearing, sorry to resort to using it here) and become more relaxed about how I react to events. In the workplace stressful events were things I had to “get through.” In retirement stressful events will hopefully become things I “live through” and allow myself to feel and fully experience. Does living well mean feeling deeply? I will have to get back to you on that. I am not actually ready to give up my non-crying persona yet.