What He Thinks: Crying at Work
Ever wonder what goes on in the minds of the guys you work with? We've recruited one man to tell us what he thinks. First, he said he doesn't like going to happy hour with us. Now, he weighs in on what he thinks about crying in the workplace. Read on for a glimpse into his perspective.
A friend at Goldman Sachs recently confessed to me that she has mapped in her head three bathrooms in her building where she can go when she needs to cry. Bathrooms on other floors, in other sections of the building, away from prying eyes.
I know what she means, because I also have specific bathrooms mapped in my head, comfortable places for longer visits. But it's hard to relate to the crying. I don't cry at work.
Well, there was one time. It happened on the car ride home after work, in my first job after college.
I was running the ticket office for a minor league baseball team, and it was Opening Day. I had spent most of the off-season installing an expensive new computerized ticketing system, and Opening Day was a big test of whether it would work.
Opening Day is always a big night at the ballpark, and I had invited some out-of-town friends to come and enjoy the game and the fireworks. I had told them that I could come up around the sixth inning and watch the end of the game with them. Then, we could go out after the game and have a few drinks.
Instead, I stayed in the office until midnight, reconciling the numbers and making sure that everything tied out. And it did. The computer system worked. I saw my friends only once, before the game, through the thick plexiglass of the box office windows, when they arrived to pick up their tickets.
On the drive home, after midnight, I completely lost it. I had to pull the car over under a highway overpass just blocks from the stadium. I should have been celebrating my biggest professional success yet, but I felt completely empty inside. I had ignored everything else in my life to get that system in place, and the months of pent-up stress rolled down my cheeks. I sobbed uncontrollably for a good 10 minutes.
Eventually, when I could breathe properly, I called my girlfriend (now my wife), and she helped me get some perspective.
Since that night 10 years ago, I don't think I've ever cried at work.
Apparently some women cry all the time. I haven't seen it much, but I have seen it.
When I worked at McKinsey, I had a female manager who broke down crying at a client's office. We were all working in a conference room while she sat in the corner on her cell phone with one of the firm's associate partners. It sounded like a tough conversation, at least from her end, and when it ended she rushed out of the conference room, sobbing. We stared at our computers for a few moments, and then awkwardly tried to talk about how stressful the project was.
There was an undercurrent of judgment in the room, like, "she can't handle this" or "she's in over her head." But I didn't feel that way, and I actively tried to counter it among the others. From where I was sitting, she was doing a bang-up job on the project and the real problem was that there were too many partners trying to influence the project from above. It was an overwhelming situation and she was doing exceedingly well. She just needed to release her emotions.
Women are probably biologically predisposed to cry more often than men. I don't actually know if that's true, but it seems right. And I think it's an advantage. Rather than bottling up your feelings for months, a good cry every now and then can release toxic emotions and free up your brain to make better decisions. I'm sure science has shown that crying can be beneficial to your health, too.
Unfortunately, though, like napping, it isn't quite accepted into workplace culture just yet.
So my advice? Scope out your building for those hidden bathrooms, and make good use of them.
Photo courtesy of Dan DeLuca.
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