Is crying OK in the PR workplace?

Thu, Sep 15, 2011

HAPPO

 

Emotion.

It’s a powerful thing. And, if often gets the best of the best of us. At home. On the playing field. And sometimes, at work.

But, is breaking down and shedding a tear acceptable in the PR workplace?

You’ll get arguments both ways.

In an industry dominated by women, we probably see more tears than say, the construction industry. But, is it acceptable in the PR workplace? Here’s where I stand:

Emotion is a part of life

Jim Valvano said it best in one of my favorite videos of all time: “If you laugh, think and cry in one day. That’s a heck of a day.” Crying is a part of life–it’s a big part of life. So, why would we want to remove it from the workplace? Now, I will say, there’s a time and place for it. Should tears be shed if/when things don’t go your way work-wise? Probably not. But, in other situations, I just don’t think we should shun people who shed a tear if/when the situation calls.

Keep your feelings to yourself

As much as I believe emotion is a part of life and you cannot remove that from 8-10 hours of your day, I do think you should do whatever you can to keep it private, when possible. Missed out on that big promotion and need to just let it out? Find a conference room with no windows and have it out. There are going to be situations where you simply can’t avoid this, but for the most part, try to keep it under wraps. And, don’t let crying become a habit at work. Shedding a tear every once in a while under extreme pressure it to be expected. Crying at the drop of the hat when things go south? That’s a different story.

Emotion isn’t rewarded in the workplace

Let’s face it. In our culture, emotion and crying are seen as signs of weakness in the workplace. So, you could make a fairly strong argument that crying at work is a “career-limiting” behavior. Think about it. Executives want PR professionals they can count on in their most trying times–and they need those counselors to be strong and confident. Crying just doesn’t inspire that kind of confidence–no matter what we think of feel. So, despite my first point above, which is more idealistic in nature, this is the harsh reality.

Now, keep in mind, these opinions are coming from a pretty stoic guy. I’ve probably cried about 5 times in my entire life. And, I come from a long line of non-crying Norweigans (I’ve only seen my parents cry once each–ever). But, I’m curious about your thoughts. Surely you’ve witnessed someone crying in the workplace–what do you think? Acceptable? Or, should crying be kept behind closed doors at home?

Photo courtesy of memekode via FlickR Creative Commons.

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9 comments
ryanruud
ryanruud

"Executives want PR professionals they can count on in their most trying times–and they need those counselors to be strong and confident. Crying just doesn’t inspire that kind of confidence–no matter what we think of feel." well said Arik.

jlbraaten
jlbraaten

My own personal belief is that crying out of frustration/anger should be a rare occasion. Crying out of joy or happiness is a different story. While it's probably not cool to cry over every little nice thing that happened, I think shedding a tear or two out of pride, joy or passion for the success of a client, project or colleague says something positive about who a person is and why they're in the line of work they're in.

I mean really, we're allowed to shed tears at home over the Biggest Loser or Extreme Makeover: Home Edition for complete strangers, but not as a result of something epic in the work world, a place filled with people and projects about which you care deeply? Doesn't make sense.

All that said, I still feel very sheepish when I shed tears at work. Candidly, I wish it were more universally accepted, but you won't see me crying about it.

JohnNemoPR
JohnNemoPR

Arik I teared up just reading your post! ;)

It all depends on the situation. I think it shows our human/vulnerable side when we cry. Obviously though it has to be something pretty dramatic/heavy for someone to break down at work. So usually the crying makes total sense. I've only seen people cry in the workplace a few times, and it was always something super dramatic (getting fired, family member had just died, etc.)

AbbieF
AbbieF

Here's the thing about crying, sometimes you just have to do it. Is the workplace the best place, maybe maybe not. I've been known to shed a tear or two at the office -- out of joy, out of sadness, out of frustration.

I don't recommend bringing on the waterworks if you don't get the raise you thought you deserved. And if you think that's what's going to happen, I agree, find a quiet room and let it out.

Does it show lack of leadership or professionalism to sometimes let the world get the best of you. No, it just means we're human.

TimothySwenson
TimothySwenson

I believe the same as you. I think crying in a workplace shows lack of leadership and can impact how people see you in the future. Crying won't help you get that promotion and openly crying in the office will only dig you a deeper hole.

arikhanson
arikhanson moderator

Huh--I never really considered crying for joy. But, that's a good point that supports the larger one. We're OK with crying outside of work, yet when it comes to the workplace it's seen as a sign of weakness.

arikhanson
arikhanson moderator

@JohnNemoPR I think serious life situations like those are more than enough reason to cry at work. I'm more referring to work-type situations. And, as much as I agree with you that crying does show your human side, management/execs don't care about that.

arikhanson
arikhanson moderator

@AbbieF I don't know. I think it can be seen as a sign of weakness--especially in our line of work. Crying can mean you're cracking under the pressure (even if there is huge pressure). As with John, I agree in principal, but I don't think our clients and bosses would. Like you said, just keep it private.

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