It’s alright to cry at work

Stephanie Rosenbloom’s Big Girls Don’t Cry in the NY Times offers many opinions on women crying in the office, all of them against it. When I was a young manager, a woman in my group came to my desk to ask about a resourcing decision I had made. Unhappy with it, she broke into tears. In the middle of an open landscape office. With everyone looking on. It was uncomfortable, but this is a biological reality…

Scientists do not know exactly why women tend to cry more easily, but Dr. Frey said several factors may be at work. One is the hormone prolactin, he said, which is present in mammary glands and induces lactation but is also found in the blood and in tear glands. Boys and girls have about equal levels of prolactin levels in their blood during childhood. But from ages of 12 to 18, the levels in girls gradually rise, and that may have something to do with why women cry more than men.

In my case, we stepped into a conference room, closed the door, and I explained my decision. She agreed, ended the conversation by giving me a hug, and we went back to work. Ever since I’ve thought crying in the office is not only a normal part of work, but to discourage it is to discriminate against women. The 21st Century organization needs to be different from the factory or office of the 20th Century. Especially in companies that strive to push the boundaries of design and innovation we tap into the personal and emotional conduits of our customers and ourselves to create new products and services. That can’t happen when we deny our own emotions.


  1. I’ve had times that the littlest thing gets me all worked up and almost crying.

    The tough decisions is ‘will you call more attention to yourself by breaking down there in front of everyone, or quickly excusing yourself to the bathroom.” The first, everythign knows you are crazy, in the latter they think you are mad at them and spend all afternoon asking you what got you upset, which doesn’t help.

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