Tuesday, March 22, 2016

There's No Crying at Work!!!!

There is a common blues couplet that reads "Crying won't help you/Praying won't do you no good". I tend to agree with the spirit of those lyrics. Leaving aside the very serious events in war there are only a few situations when I would grudgingly concede that it is theoretically appropriate or excusable for a grown man to cry. These times are few and far between but would probably include such traumatic occurrences as the death of a parent, wife, sibling or child, the joyous occasions of a child's birth or daughter's wedding, and possibly such horrific fictional events as the shooting and eventual death of Sounder, Cochise's death or the Red Wedding. Snicker. These are my rules anyway. I'm not saying they should be yours. Humor aside, I am saying that for better or worse a man who runs around crying at every little thing will inevitably discover that he will lose respect from both men and women. A fellow who lets other men, women or life's ups and downs regularly reduce him to blubbering helplessness shouldn't be allowed to call himself a man in my view. There are very few problems that are solved by crying. And no matter what fresh hell we may find ourselves in at any given time it's a certainty that the world is going to keep turning. The Sun rose yesterday despite all the horrible atrocities that occurred to people who aren't you. And the Sun will rise tomorrow if you get some terrible news today. That's just the way the world works. As both of my grandfathers were prone to saying (fortunately jokingly by the time I arrived on the scene), "Hush up that crying before I give you something to cry about!" I view most crying by men, outside of the previously listed exceptions, as an announcement of utter incompetence, childishness and weakness. Life does not reward such behavior in general. As the Godfather informed us it's important to act like a man!! So whatever problems you face in your life remember that other people have faced them and survived. Or to quote an influential local DJ of my teen years , "Whenever you feel like you're nearing the end of your rope, don't slide off. Tie a knot. Keep hanging, keep remembering, that it ain't nobody bad like you." 

So it was with initial bemusement and later something close to growing horror that I read a piece in The Atlantic which argued that men and especially women should feel entitled to cry at work if they needed to do so. In fact women should have permission to cry more than men because equality and grrlpower or something. And looking negatively at people who cry at work is sexist.That was Olga Khazan's argument anyhow.
When the president of CBS News fired correspondent Mika Brzezinski a decade ago, she cried. And she regrets it. “There was no place for those tears in that moment,” she told the Huffington Post two years ago. “If anything, when you cry, you give away power.”
Of the 15 other high-profile women the news site interviewed about crying at work, the majority expressed negative views of some sort. Frances Hesselbein, former CEO of the Girl Scouts, put it most bluntly: “Tears belong within the family.”
In the office, crying is simply another unexpected emotional cue, like a guffaw or a jump for joy. But unlike those, it’s negative, so it snaps people to attention.
The ignominy of the office cry is still more of an issue for women than for men, because women cry more than men do. In her survey of 700 people, Anne Kreamer, author of It’s Always Personal: Navigating Emotion in the New Workplace, found that in the past year, 41 percent of women admitted to crying at work, but only 9 percent of men did.
Part of the explanation is hormonal: Men generate more testosterone, which inhibits crying, while women produce more prolactin, which seems to promote it. Anatomy also plays a role. Men have larger tear ducts than women, so more of their tears can well in their eyes without spilling out onto their cheeks. The only solution, it appears, is to normalize office crying for everyone. Not unlike other unpleasant things, crying happens. Men shouldn’t reap the unfair advantage of a mid-meeting misting, and women shouldn’t worry that on top of their own embarrassment, they’re being judged as manipulative and incompetent...
Now to be fair the social expectations are just a wee bit different for women. Outside of the workplace I don't view the spectacle of grown women crying with the same disdain I would have for grown men. Is that (horror of horrors) sexist? Perhaps so. I think most honest people will admit that, politics aside, they have slightly different expectations for men and women. It's just how the world works. Men and women are different. And that's a good thing. Still, man or woman, the workplace is not the place to have teary breakdowns. For men, in most work arenas I've been in, the loss of respect will be almost instantaneous and very difficult to retrieve. I don't think women face that exact same issue. A woman would often receive more confused sympathy than contempt. But even so, a grown woman who cries a lot at her workplace will have people wondering about her competence and stability. Ironically, one of the nastiest, meanest, most aggressive and most profane female co-workers I ever worked with was also a huge crybaby. I thought her tears were just another tool in her kit of emotional manipulation though she claimed not to be able to control them. So my thought is that encouraging people to cry at work is a horrible idea. It takes no account of how the world is today. We can argue and debate about how much of the difference in the frequency in men and women crying is due to biology or environmental factors. But regardless of whether you have XX or XY chromosomes, if you are routinely boo-hoo-hooing at work for reasons that don't include a loved one's death trust and believe that in many workplaces you will find yourself slowly marginalized and kept away from challenging or highly visible assignments and promotions.You need to put on your big boy/big girl pullups. Keep punching away at whatever problem afflicts you. If you really feel that you just need to have a good cry then I would strongly urge you to find yourself a private office or a bathroom stall and do what you need to do there. You won't share private moments with co-workers. You won't run the risk of having a crying jag in front of someone who may not know you that well and probably doesn't want to know you that well. Crying in front of a good friend, supportive and empathetic lover or spouse is utterly different from doing so in front of someone who evaluates your work, a rival peer who may crave your job, or an ambitious underling who resents reporting to you. 

I mean if I had a boss who broke down sobbing because another boss said something mean to him on the Tuesday conference call going forward am I really going to trust Fearless Leader's judgment and mental balance? No. No I am not. Although it is impossible to completely separate work from your emotions the bottom line is that you are at work in order to make money. All the emotional stuff needs to take a back seat while you're at work. Don't try to pretend it's not there. But don't start having crying fits at work either. I'm not interested in comforting you if you are a man; trying to comfort you if you are a woman could be misinterpreted by HR. Please keep your crying to yourself.

But that's just my take. What's your view?

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