I cried at work the other day, at the desk of my interim manager who I have been working with for three whole weeks. For reference, I didn't cry in front on my last boss over the course of nearly two years. Maybe because he's a man and my interim manager is a woman. Maybe because transitions are hard. No matter the reason, the tears were flowing and it stuck with me all day. The tight feeling your sinuses have, the vulnerable feeling. I'm sure it was written all over my face: attention everyone, Kate Was Crying Earlier!
I have a love / hate relationship with tears. Crying can be a cathartic way to release emotion that may otherwise have no outlet, but tears also express vulnerability, something I have somehow deemed as a personal character flaw. This may come from a lifetime of taking offense to being called "girly" (different topic for a different day), but always wanting to be seen as feminine: soft but strong, smart yet compassionate, witty and wise. All of this has translated into a deep fear of crying in public.
What would other people think? Who does that? What is WRONG with her?
My fears are further fueled by the fact that I am an ugly crier. Fair and sensitive skin means blotchy cheeks and chest, swollen eyes, and melting mascara at even the slightest swell of emotion. This, in addition to my penchant for sobbing and whimpers, makes crying a private affair meant for me, my closest kin, and preferably a cuddly cat.
And yet, there are the days, like Friday, when I lose control of my feminine cool and shed a tear in the work place. This can come of out nowhere from the most terrible of news, which is always understood and forgiven, from current events that are near and dear to your heart, or from a seemingly innocent Google Ad.
For those times when crying at work is unavoidable, or dare I say, even desirable (I said it was cathartic) I've put together a little advice on the crying scenarios that may present themselves to you in the workplace, if you too find yourself with tears in your eyes.
Something tragic has happened in your life:
This will likely happen to you at some point during your career. It can be hard to do it sometimes, but really, LEAVE. Don't send emails, don't put up your out of office and for god's sake don't apologize. Talk to your boss and get the hell out of Dodge.
Good news has been delivered and you're pregnant with emotion:
Express your excitement to your co-workers (if appropriate) before diving deep into an article which could lead to waterworks, preparing them to leave you alone. If you're not DYING to read more, open the article in a new tab and read more later when your surrounding cube-mates have left for their next meeting.
You're Mad As Hell and You're Not Going To Take It Anymore:
We all need allies who aren't close to the subject at hand (that doesn't mean you can't have a bitch session with a friend who feels the same way). This person is preferably someone with whom you need to maintain a certain level of professionalism, which will force you to act with a bit more rationality and a bit less emotion. This is good for the cathartic cry and may even amount to some unforeseen good advice.
A video you clicked on is unexpectedly driving you to tears:
Proclaim your surprise and alert all who around you that you are crying. They will likely laugh awkwardly, and then sneak away. No one wants to be around to deal with the full onslaught of a co-worker crying. When you have finished, go to the bathroom, drink a glass of water and get on with your day.
You are trying to tell a departing co-worker that you admire them and will miss them greatly:
Let it out, girl! It might be awkward, but there is no more sincere a compliment than being brought to your knees emotionally by heartfelt sentiment. Your tears just made a person feel great and you'll be better off knowing that you got those emotions out of your body and into the ether.
There you have it, all of the tools you need to make crying at work a little more okay, and a little less terrifying. Just make sure to keep some tissues at your desk.