A decade ago, any display of extreme emotion at work, like crying, would’ve been incredibly taboo. In some workplaces, it still is. But mental health and human resources experts agree that crying at work, though it shouldn’t be done all the time, is healthy and human.
Anthropologists say crying at work has been looked down upon in the past because it violates “display rules,” which are cultural norms related to self-expression, according to Forbes. Some managers also see crying at work as a sign of weakness; women, especially, often worry about being seen as weak if they cry in the office. But Claire Williams, director of people and services at UK-based human resources software company CIPHR, told Woman’s Day that people who regard showing emotion at work as unprofessional are being unrealistic.
“Crying is a natural response to being happy, sad, stressed or worried, and it’s not something that most people can control– it just happens and, all of a sudden, tears are tumbling down your cheeks,” Williams said. “At the end of the day we are all human, and everyone goes through ups and downs in their personal and professional lives that can mean we have emotional days in the office — especially when employers are finally taking a more proactive approach to supporting employees with mental health illnesses.”
A 2018 recent study shows that the majority of chief financial officers (CFOs) in the United States agree with Williams: About 74% said crying at work is OK from time to time or they said crying has no negative effect on your career prospects and just shows you’re human.
Experts agree that crying at work can be beneficial.
So you shouldn’t necessarily feel bad about crying at the office occasionally (Williams notes that you don’t want to make it a habit). But whether crying at work could affect your boss’ or coworkers’ perception of you depends on the workplace. Williams said companies should create a culture where it’s OK for an employee to cry — managers should be trained on how to pick up on problems before they become too severe and to have tough emotional conversations with employees when necessary.
“We can’t expect people to act like robots and pretend everything is fine when it’s not; we have to acknowledge that people’s ability to perform at work is affected by what’s happening at home, that stress and burnout are real risks, and that employers should create a sense of psychological safety and support for their people,” Williams said. “It’s that organizational culture that will give both permission and support, and ensure that crying isn’t detrimental to others’ perceptions of you.”
Lou Campbell, a workplace psychotherapist and stress management specialist, even said it can be beneficial to cry at work. “Certainly the release of emotion is far better for mental health than bottling it up, in any environment, and so I’d say the facility of being able to cry at work and being supported, rather than discriminated against, is a goal all workplaces should strive for,” Campbell told Woman’s Day. “If companies want to get the most out of their employees, adopting a more empathic culture is a far more modern, productive and healthy way to move forward.”
There is, however, a right and wrong way to cry at work.
Alison Green, who runs the career advice blog Ask a Manager, told the New York Times that you generally “want your crying to be as private as possible.” Tearing up in a one-on-one meeting with someone or alone in a bathroom stall might be more beneficial and less detrimental than crying, “while you’re sitting around a conference table with a group of other people,” which Green said “is likely to harm your credibility and make people much more uncomfortable.”
If you’re going through a hard time personally or professionally, Williams said the first person you should probably talk to would be your manager, if you have a good relationship with them. Or you could turn to a colleague you’re close to. “Try not to feel embarrassed; good line managers should be supportive and understanding of your problems, and might be able to help you by offering flexible working arrangements (such as working at home), or by adjusting your workload while you’re going through a difficult time,” Williams said.
If you’re having problems at work for which you need advice, she suggests speaking to a member of your HR team in confidence. Some companies also have mental health first aiders (MHFAs), who have been specially trained to help people in times of need. She said MHFAs can offer specialist support and can also point you to helpful resources if you need more assistance.
Many workplaces also have employee assistance programs (EAPs), which offer short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees who have personal or work-related problems, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. They often help address issues like alcohol and substance misuse, stress, grief, family problems, and more.
Williams said the EAP that CIPHR offers to employees, for example, includes eight free face-to-face counseling sessions in a 12-month period. “Many employers don’t publicize these services particularly well, so it’s worth asking your HR team what wellbeing support they provide, and how to contact the provider, in case you need their help in the future,” she said.”
Source| Women’s Day