There’s No Crying In Business! (maybe)

Photo by Nathaniel Yeo on Unsplash

“Are you crying?

Are you crying?


There’s no crying!


Tom Hanks as Jimmy Dugan in “A League of Their Own”, (1992)

Those lines from one of my favorite American baseball movies always come back to me at this time of year as the baseball playoff season is about to begin. OK. So there’s no crying in baseball? What about in Business? Is there crying in Business? Is crying OK, but dependent upon your gender?

Based on a study of 700 Americans, the book “It’s Always Personal: Emotion In The New Workplace”, by Anne Kreamer, revealed that women cried a lot more than men but claimed this was not viewed by others as a bad thing. Specifically, 41 percent of women had shed tears at work, compared with 9 percent of men. Both genders said the most common reason for tears was stress from home spilling over into work. ‘People at all levels of management had cried at work, dispelling the notion it’s career suicide,’ wrote Kreamer. (1)

Another surprise was that men were more sympathetic to the idea of crying at work than women. Psychology researcher Yasmine Yaghmour carried out a similar but smaller study with Professor Gail Kinman at the University of Bedford in 2008. They found women who cried judged themselves far more harshly than they judged others who became outwardly upset. ‘There is still a stigmatised view of crying at work. Women are concerned they will be perceived as weak,’ explains Yasmine. (2)

It’s probably fair to generalize that we office dwellers think of home as the realm of emotion and work as the place where rationality rules — a tidy distinction that crumbles in the face of experience. As management scholar Blake Ashforth has written, it is a “convenient fiction that organizations are cool arenas for dispassionate thought and action.” In fact, in the workplace we are bombarded by emotions — our own and everyone else’s. Neuroscientists have demonstrated over and over in empirical ways just how integral emotion is in all aspects of our lives, including our work. But since companies have generally avoided the subject, there are no clear protocols about emotional expression in the office. (3)

So, what’s been your experience with crying at work? Is your perspective different if you’re a man or a woman? Is it different if you’re in the US or the EU? I’ve noticed a lot more hugging than I was used to in the business environment where I work; not a lot of crying that I’ve been aware of though…

So, maybe there is crying in Business. Researcher Kim Elsbach, Ph.D, University of California, Davis, wrote that there are few situations where crying in the office is “acceptable.” The worst offenses, she writes, are crying in a public meeting or because of work stress, like a looming deadline or coworker disagreement, because it is considered disruptive and weak. Crying in a private performance evaluation is also considered unprofessional and often manipulative. The only exception to criticism is crying due to a personal loss like death or divorce, and even that has its limits. “If the crying is excessive–repeated or prolonged, rather than a single episode–it could be considered unstable or weak,” writes Elsbach.(4)

What do you think?


There’s no crying!

Well OK, THERE may be CRYING IN business.