Can You Cry at Work?

Most of us have been there – and if you haven’t, you’re probably not being truthful. When the overpowering need to sniffle followed by the sudden rush of tears and then the instant panicked thought that this cannot be happening. We cry and sometimes you just can’t help it. Even football players are seen crying as they’re carted off with an injury or after a tough loss. They cry.

The act of crying is typically seen as a sign of weakness and something to avoid at all costs – especially in the work environment. But, some argue that the best way to lead, serve, and be authentic is to show up and share the emotions that make you human. So, which one is it? Can you cry at work or not?

A recent Shark Tank episode sparked that very question. Mikki Bey was a contestant who presented an eyelash extension business and got pestered with questions raised in doubt from the “sharks.” Bey’s emotional plea and tears in the tank caused the sharks to react poorly and a controversy to arise.

One of the sharks, Barbara Corcoran, reacted frankly saying, “give up the crying.” She explained that it is a major sign of weakness, gives away your power, and is never appropriate in a business setting. Mikki attempted to defend her tears, but Kevin O’Leary ended the show with his advice of “don’t cry for money, it never cries for you.”

On the other hand, there are times that tears are inevitable and appropriate. You would be heartless and cold if you shut someone down too quickly because they were being emotionally transparent.

It is impossible to answer this question with a definite yes or no because it is a situationally sensitive issue. So, as an HR professional how do you gauge if the waterworks are appropriate or irrelevant in the workplace?

An Absolute No…

There are certain cases when crying in the workplace is unacceptable. Look for these warning signs when you decide to rule crying with an iron fist.

  • Over routine situations
  • Acting sorry for themselves
  • Being selfish
  • When it sucks the energy from the room
  • Over frustration

It is Acceptable When…

To create a safe and trusted work environment, employees must feel comfortable to express their emotions. For many, crying is inevitable and bound to happen, but it should mainly occur under these circumstances:

  • Over personal tragedies
  • Done in an office and not in public
  • When it is over quickly

The next time you see someone fighting the urge to let their tears spill over, evaluate the situation and respond appropriately. As an HR professional, you can’t always be a shoulder to cry on, but you also can’t be completely insensitive to emotions. Be sure to step back and assess the situation when you find tears coming your way in the workplace.





cry, crying, crying at work, hr. human resources, shark tank

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