Crying at Work — The Topic That Keeps Coming Back

When you’ve been around for a while, especially studying communication and leadership, you know that the topic of crying at work isn’t about to go away any time soon.  It’s a form of emotional expression that worries women in particular because we know that leadership is generally associated with strength.  Many natural emotions, however, are associated with weakness.  Yet, emotionless leadership is an oxymoron.  If you don’t truly care about who and what you’re leading, enough to occasionally become emotional, then you’re likely not an effective leader.

In response to the question posed on the Linkedin Wholehearted Leadership site, I posted the following.  It’s short, but to the point.  An occasional cry is not the end of the world. There are other things we repeatedly do at work that can be more costly.  A few of them are mentioned here.  You’re welcome to stop by the “Categories” section in the right column of this site to locate discussions about others.

Emotional expression is natural, but there is a time and a place for everything and crying is no exception. If it happens rarely, hopefully with one colleague in the room who won’t interpret your expression as weakness, then it’s no worse than occasionally expressing most other emotions. Caution is important, though. Some people will interpret crying as weakness. The same can be said for letting people interrupt you on a regular basis, always letting public put-downs pass, never sharing your accomplishments because you think it’s bragging, taking on worthless projects, and a host of other ways we communicate that can be turned into signs of lacking leadership potential — especially for women. John Boehner, U.S. Speaker of the House, cries regularly. He is still Speaker. Betty Friedan, who changed so many women’s lives with her words, determination, and leadership of the modern woman’s movement, cried in my office one day. I thought more of her, not less. It happens. Sometimes for the better — physically, mentally and emotionally. Just watch who you let use it against you. If you must cry, do so alone or with someone you trust. 

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