Have You Ever Felt Like Crying At Work?

I remember back in my early twenties feeling very raw and emotional at work because the night before I had farewelled my American boyfriend. He decided to return home to the US to work in this family business. It meant I wouldn’t see him for a whole summer, and it tore at my heart. I arrived the next morning to work with puffy eyes and a glum expression. All it took was a manager or co-worker to ask, “Are you OK?” and I’d burst into tears and run to the bathroom.

Why Do We Cry At Work?

The most common reasons people cry at work are work related issues like bullying, missing deadlines or a promotion, struggling with a heavy workload or conflicts, but we can bring personal issues into work such as relationship breakups or the death of a loved one.

Whether it’s personal or professional, no matter how hard you try to push it down you’re gripped by an overwhelming feeling of sadness and helplessness that impact your ability to function and focus at work.

Do Women Cry More Than Men?

According to an article in Forbes titled, Crying At Work, A Woman’s Burden, Jenna Goudreau says women are more prone to crying than men and its partly anatomical i.e. based on our different hormonal signals and partly due to cultural taboos, family and cultural beliefs.

For over 3 years, Davis, Kim Elsbach, Ph.D., has been studying the repercussions of crying in the workplace. She says, boys are taught not to cry or show their emotions so they can manage holding back tears more effectively.

Why Do We Need to Cry?

In my award-winning self help book, Stuck in a Rut – How to rescue yourself and live your truth, I dedicate a whole chapter to “Processing Emotions” because …

“Failing to acknowledge our emotions, or ignoring, repressing, dismissing or generally pushing down our emotions, causes terrible physical illnesses, which is one reason why avoiding emotional pain only perpetuates it in the long run. Avoidance creates suffering, When we give ourselves permission to really feel whatever it is we need to feel, the emotion is able to release its chemicals, teach us something about ourselves and then be released from our bodies.”

What Are The Consequences?

Women who cry at work say they feel embarrassed, ashamed, and disappointed in their failure to keep it together. They may worry they are being perceived as manipulative by co-workers, and it can be extremely damaging to their reputation and credibility as a leader, stories of missing out on promotions or board seats are indeed true.

What To Do When You Want To Cry At Work

In the corporate world, “control is everything, and crying will get you alienated” but for whatever reason you can’t hold them back, you need to respond quickly.

When you feel the tears are coming and there’s no turning back, here’s three strategies on what to do next.

#1 Breathe Through It

It’s not ideal to cry at work and far better to take it outside or find a quiet space where you can have a moment in private. In being a firm believer in processing your emotions and not managing them, if you are in a meeting, excuse yourself by letting others know that you will be back in a five minutes.

During those five minutes, take a deep breath and be with your emotion. Don’t distract yourself or push it away, down or fight it. You are human. Give yourself permission to cry, feel sad or whatever emotion comes. By breathing through it, you allow it to crest and recede like a wave. Other strategies like calling a friend, listening to soothing music, or taking a walk around the block are helpful. It’s through acceptance that you can self-soothe, allowing that compassionate part of you to come forth and comfort you.

#2 Self Enquiry

Be open to the lessons your emotions can to teach you. Why do you feel this way? Were you affected by someone’s actions or an event? How have you interpreted this with your beliefs, judgments, expectations and the values that have contributed to this emotion? You can choose to stay in this state, just as you can choose to take action.

#3 Talking It Out

Was your boss super critical of your work or did a colleague betray your trust? Once you’ve composed yourself, sometimes it helps to approach that person in question. In some circumstances, it can be beneficial for your superiors to know why you are upset as it may alert them to problems at work or poor team morale. It’s important to come straight to the point, and present your reasons as rationally as possible.

On the other hand, when crying at work due to more personal reasons it can be harder to disconnect your feelings and emotions. If you find yourself frequently getting upset, it could be a sign that you need some counselling through Lifeline or Beyondblue or take some leave.

Crying at work does not mean you are weak or incompetent. It can be difficult to hold back tears so don’t panic. Support yourself to move through your emotions using one or all of the above strategies.


life coach sydney, Fiona Craig, sydney life coachFiona Craig is a life coach, psychotherapist and published author of the award winning self-help book, “Stuck in a Rut – How to rescue yourself & live your truth” helping women remove the fear, worry and guilt to confidently take the steps towards creating the life they want to live.

Fiona has been interviewed by The Australian Women’s Weekly, and The New Daily and written articles for Collective Magazine, Herald Sun Melbourne, Sunday Life Magazine, Career One, I Am Woman Magazine, Women’s Fitness magazine plus Mouths Of Mums and other online publications. You can learn more about working with Fiona at www.lifebalancecoach.com.au or call 0405 433 217.

Image: CanStockPhoto/Sean