Mental Health / Self-Care

It is okay to cry at work. Here’s what to do next

. 5 min read . Written by Rasika Rane
It is okay to cry at work. Here’s what to do next

People cry at work. I’m one of them and you might be, too. It is perfectly okay to do so. We need to act together to break the concept of letting out emotions at work

If you would have seen me at 3 pm last Thursday, you wouldn’t have found me at my desk. You’d have to make your way through multiple glass doors into the crisscross corridor until you eventually arrive at a door labelled ‘Ladies’.

I had a rather upsetting day at work that day. I remember the cry I had in the bathroom stall that day. I was just out of a meeting that hadn’t gone as planned and I was feeling upset for not reaching my targets and not living up to my teams’ expectations. I felt the tears well up during the meeting and I sprinted to find a space far away from everyone. It took a while for me to get back to normalcy but the crisis averted. Nobody caught me being human.

Crying is the most human activities there is. As humans, we shed emotionally charged tears. So why did I go to such lengths to hide my humanity from my coworkers? For good reason, actually.

We tend to view crying people as less competent. To top that, women are known to cry more than men. At that point, I wish I’d known that almost everybody cries at work. According to a survey, about eight in 10 people have shed tears at the office. Out of these, 19% of criers sobbed over personal issues, 45% blamed tears on bosses and coworkers, 16% blamed their workloads, and 13% cited workplace bullying.

Despite the fact that a majority of people have let their emotions flow at work, crying in the workplace is still a very taboo and divisive subject.

Crying at work is not the end of the world. In fact, if you cry at work, it likely means that you are still in touch with your emotions. What I’ve learned from last Thursday is that when we care about something, it creates energy. And when something happens to that thing, it sets that energy in motion. The outcome is the emotions.

We need to stop looking down on people who cry at work. It just shows how much they care about the work. Being vulnerable with colleagues creates an environment of trust and connection which help business function more effectively. Let’s not pretend that it’s an unforgivable event that will destroy your career.

So, how can you allow your emotions to flow and maintain your professionalism? Here are some ways to act on the new approach:

Clarify that your crying was not intentional

Some might see your crying as fake to avoid criticism, escape blame, or to gain sympathy. To show that you’re not being two-faced, make it clear that you didn’t intend to cry or get emotional. Say something like, “I know that I’m getting emotional about this, but it doesn’t mean I’m not listening to you or taking in what you’re saying.”

Tell them what to do if it happens again

If someone around you is uncomfortable with crying, you may want to let them know what to do if it happens again. Most people want to help when someone is crying, but they don’t know how to. The discomfort as an observer can lead them to make negative attributions of the crier, but if they know what to do, then they’re less likely to respond negatively. If you feel like your crying will be frequent because of something that’s happening in your life, tell them what’s going on so they can anticipate your emotions and better support you.

Apologise strategically, only when you need to

We constantly apologise for having a human reaction without realising that it feeds to the narrative that emotions should remain hidden. Know that it’s okay to cry. Your quick crying spell is probably not hurting anyone. But if you really feel the need to apologise, do it smartly. Say something like, “I’m sorry if my crying made you feel uncomfortable.” Apologise for the discomfort you caused them, not for crying.

Do not regret

Instead of regretting an emotional reaction, embrace it. Once you let yourself out, it creates a possibility of transparency and trust. Understand that it can be a gateway to better relations at the office. Your emotions are a doorway into deeper learning and growth, for you and for those around you. Emotions actually change the way we interact with our surrounding. Drive this change in a positive direction by having no regrets for acting like a human.

Be curious

Explore the cause of your emotional outbreak. You might learn something about yourself that will inform your work. You might learn about the triggers and roots of your reactions so that you can be aware and careful around them. The trick is to figure out if this incident is the norm or a one-off. When this incident is the norm, you either deal with the big emotions regularly or you choose to exit the situation. When this incident is a one-off, the right thing to do is always to just pick yourself up and move on.

Treat others how they want to be treated

We often look to the Golden Rule of treating others how we want to be treated. But in the case of emotions, everyone is distinctive as everyone handles and responds to emotions differently.

If you’re at the receiving end of an emotional reaction, be respectful and acknowledge the other person’s courage. Treat the person in a way that would comfort them.

Have honest and direct conversation

If someone did something to upset or offend you, speak to them directly about how their specific actions, words, or delivery made you feel. Talk to them about their actions and come up on a smoother ground on how to share harsh opinions with each other.

It’s okay to cry. It is necessary to help you process your emotions. Once you stop crying, pick yourself up, wipe away your tears, straighten your dress, and gracefully walk back to your desk to fix it. At the end of the day, what happens after the tears drop is the most important. Know that you are the owner of your actions. Despite the situation, it is always you who have the power to steer your own course.