Or should they???
"Where is the crying closet?" was a question I was asked one day by a fellow colleague.
"You know... the place you can to go hide when you want to cry?"
Fiiiiirst of all - no job should be making you cry so much that you need a crying closet.
Second of all - you shouldn't have to hide your tears.
I am a career-driven, growth-minded, passionate, and ambitious woman and I am a cryer. THERE I SAID IT!
I cry when I am frustrated. I cry when I am angry. I cry when I am disappointed.
While the idea of showing emotion - especially tears - is often seen as a sign of weakness and irrationality in the office I am here to say that is outdated and archaic and it is missing a BIG piece of the puzzle.
People like me (cryers) are typically passionate people who care A LOT about their work. They are passionate about their teams. And they wear their heart on their sleeve. Newsflash: THAT IS NOT NECESSARILY A BAD THING.
Yes, uncontrolled sobbing or emotional outbursts are unprofessional in most work contexts. But research shows crying can actually help moderate stress, stimulate thinking, and promote bonding and empathy in groups when expressed appropriately.
So rather than shaming or stigmatizing emotional displays, we need to evaluate their intent and context. Tears sparked by feelings of passion, anger, disappointment or overwhelm are quite different than manipulative "crocodile tears." When I allow my team to see my tears, they know, and they feel - deep down in their gut- how much I care.
If a colleague cries at work, avoid assuming they are incompetent or unfit to handle pressure or a leadership role. Emotion correlates to commitment and care, not capability.
Provide space for composure without judgment. A few moments of empathy can work wonders.
Suppressing emotion completely has downsides too. Bottling up feelings undermines mental health, trust, and inclusivity. Showing vulnerability is courageous and human, especially under intense pressure.
The future is flexible professionalism, where expressing emotion, ideas, and passion all help teams thrive. They create inclusive workspaces and showcase vulnerability as courageous and human - especially under intense pressure. Dare I say... it makes you... human???
So ya know what? It is time to move past the stigma that tears at work are unacceptable. If you aren't a super emotional person at work - that is OK too! But let's not look down on or question women's emotions at work.
With empathy and community, we all contribute our best.