Why do people shed a tear at work? Is it a form of weakness or just an expression of emotion or sometimes strength to demonstrate strong positive feelings? I don’t know whether it’s right or wrong to cry. But it is very difficult to pass it off as yet another expression of emotion at work. “What’s the fuss about it?” you may ask.
We don’t feel uncomfortable when somebody laughs at work. (Some so loud that you give them LOL awards in the hope that the sarcasm makes a connection.) But crying for different reasons/occasions sure puts people around you at discomfort. Many of us are not equipped to handle the emotion of crying outside the workplace leave aside colleagues who display the emotion. The easiest way some of us use as escape is by looking for the nearest box of tissues 🙂 So why do people cry at work? You are probably familiar with the triggers, but allow me to list few from my library.
Though this is not an exhaustive list, I relate to some of these or have frequently encountered them. I recall once at one of my farewells, some of my loyalists cried so much that it made my successor felt un-welcomed. He was so embarrassed that he had to assure them that they won’t have to cry again. It did boost my ego though 🙂 Farewell tears have sort of reduced after FB, Whats App and LinkedIn have entered our lives, people now feel more connected in the virtual world than the real world 🙂 Remember we all still keep looking at our phones even when we meet our long lost friends/relatives. Also the plethora of job opportunities, shorter tenures or frequent job changes, returning colleagues, tailgating (following your bosses and best friends wherever they go) have ensured we are less emotional about departing colleagues. At least I haven’t seen people shedding tears for some time now at a farewell party. Should I say social media and the connectivity it offers has taken away some unnecessary emotions from display.
Are there people who are more prone to crying? Yes, some of us have a genetic make-up where tears roll down at the slightest trigger. I think sobbing colleagues make us weak while we interact with them (let’s say while giving a strong feedback on poor performance). I knew I had to always take Riya out of office to give her a sensitive feedback to avoid colleagues feeling awkward. But then it backfired too as people at Starbucks were getting free entertainment every time she started to react with tears. I think tears is gender neutral, yes believe me, I have met equal number of men in my career who are emotionally expressive too. Once at a global conference my name was mentioned I was recognised in midst of hundreds of colleagues. It was a shock to me and I was too numb to react, but a couple of my colleagues next to me had tears rolling down their cheeks and for the first time I saw grown up men crying in public. Now don’t get wrong ideas. They were not jealous of me, but felt genuinely moved by the recognition given to me as their boss. Needless to say both of them got promoted immediately for publicly displaying their loyalty to me 🙂 Just kidding! I added one more reason to shed tears that day, ‘overwhelmed’.
It’s easy to say one must be professional at work (whatever that means to each one of us), and should not exhibit strong emotions like anger, tears and love in the work place. Let me deal with love 🙂 and anger another time. On the topic of tears it’s easy to say it’s an inappropriate expression at work especially when things come to a halt because of your show of emotion. I have sat in common review meetings where some of my ex-colleagues have broken down when the supervisor asked them tough questions related to their business unit’s lowering performance. Thereafter they used to sit in meetings with a long face, sobbing at intervals throughout the day without participating in any other aspect of the business. Obviously it sort of makes the whole team uncomfortable to indulge with the individual any further. I think it wasn’t any form of defence/cover to keep performance debacles away. For some of us it’s a natural form of expression even if it makes others uncomfortable!
I asked myself when did I last cry at work, memory says 19 years ago when I had to resign from my first job. I remember I broke down much to the dismay of my supervisor. I recall him telling me then in Hindi “Don’t behave like a kid”. Since then it seems like my tears have got dried up at work or maybe I have aged to the extent of people telling me I only give poker faced expressions. One of my colleagues even called me iceman once! I don’t like that tag; neither do I like to be called a cry baby. Would it be easier to say crying or shedding tears at work is another form of expression and you should not pay too much attention to it? How insensitive, you might wonder!
How do you deal with colleagues who shed tears and hijack workplace proceedings? If only I could end this piece by listing some techniques to avoid shedding tears at work! Sorry’ I don’t know any! In fact I love emotional people!
I would like to believe that tears make us more real, I think it is perfectly alright to be emotional and express through our natural feelings, whether we cry to express happiness, disappointments, frustrations and shame it shouldn’t matter as long as people around us are also human beings 🙂
It will be such a boring workplace if people gave their perfect plastic expressions/behaviours for every occasion. I think it would be like working with Robots if we have people who dont cry at work!