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04/29 2011

Is it OK to Cry at Work?

Is it OK to cry at work?   A recent article in TIME (April 4) suggests that the answer is a qualified “yes” — with both men and women seeing some emotional displays as being perfectly acceptable in the workplace…

Interestingly, men (48%) feel that it is more acceptable to cry at work than do women (41%).   Men are also less likely to consider those who have cried at work to be unstable (32% of men felt that criers were unstable, vs. 43% of women).

When it comes to actually shedding tears in the workplace, women have the advantage — 41% of the women surveyed had cried at work in the past year, while only 9% of men indicated that theyhad cried in the workplace.

The above research findings — adapted from author Anne Kreamer’s recent volume “It’s Always Personal” — also provide other interesting tidbits about emotions in the workplace.  For example, both men and women report that “Stress spilling over from home into work” was the most common reason behind tears on the job.   Women tend to judge others who have shed tears more harshly than men do.  And some recent studies have suggested that emotions can have as much impact on job performance as do cognitive brain functions.

With the boundaries between personal life and work life becoming less well-defined, perhaps it is natura to expect more displays of emotion in the workplace.   Author Kreamer points out that 69% of survey respondents report that when they see someone get emotional at work, it results in the person being see as “more human”.  In addition, 88% of all respondents feel that being sensitive to other’s emotions at work in an asset for leaders to possess.

Still, showing emotion in the workplace can carry some baggage.   For example, some recent studies show that women are judged more harshly than men when they express anger, and these same studies also show that men are more likely to be seen as “justified” when they do express anger —  with women being seen as having a personality flaw when they do display anger.

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