We’ve all had a little weepy moment at work. Maybe after an intense meeting with our boss, a snide comment from a coworker or even a fight with a loved one.
As much as we try to emotionally sanitise the workplace we are still only human. Which means that feelings will always be a part of our work lives whether we like it or not.
Professor Kimberly Elsbach of the Graduate School of Management at the University of California has been examining workplace behaviors for more than a decade.
Her most recent research with Becky Bechky from the Stern School of Business at New York University has found that crying off script in the workplace can ruin women’s careers.
Together the researchers outlined four stressful situations at work that commonly induce crying: personal issues, response to feedback, daily work stress or heated office meetings.
They concluded that some crying can be OK, as long as women stick to the preconceived notions of what others in the workplace expect from criers.
What happened to the women who didn’t? Well, they were perceived as weak, overly emotional, unprofessional and sometimes even manipulative.
In response to the research, Elsback has called for more organisations to educate their managers.
“For most women, crying is really not in their control. We know that boys are socialized not to cry and don’t have to think about it when they’re adults. But most girls aren’t socialized not to cry.”
The study highlights a bigger cultural challenge in how men and women are perceived differently at work. Instead of crying men often express their emotions by raising their voices.
“There’s no reason why it should give men stature,” Elsbach said. “We make specific attributions of behaviors because we have learned to over time. And these are so hard to undo. It will take generations and generations to unravel.”