I cried in an interview — and later accepted the job

A reader writes:

First, I just want to say that I love Ask a Manager! I’m in the process of transitioning to a new job, and your advice has been invaluable. I managed to negotiate a signing bonus at my new job, and I turned down my current job’s counter-offer while still maintaining good terms with my current employer, so I count both of those as wins!

My interview at my new company ended on a very awkward note. I’m a tech professional, so I had a series of interviews with the team I would be working with and my prospective boss, “Jane.” Everything was going well until my final interview, which was with the VP of R&D (Jane’s boss). He apparently did not like my style, because he said that I was coming across as “obnoxious,” that the worst thing to do in job interviews was to annoy the interviewer, and that he was “just telling me this because [I am] early in my career.” (I’m a couple years out of college and in an intermediate level technical position; he has 10-15 more years of experience than I do.) I was horrified and started to cry — I’ve never been more embarrassed — and was flustered and could barely think for the rest of the interview. As he was showing me out of the building, he said, “This is why we have you meet with several people. If Jane really likes you, you could still get the job.”

Jane called me as I was walking back to my car, saying that the team loved me, the VP was apologetic, and they hoped I would still take the job. To make a long story short, I accepted the offer, and I will be starting in my new position in a few weeks.

Do you have any tips on dealing with the VP once I start? While I think he was out of line, I’d like to be on good terms with him in order to do what’s best for my career (and now that I know what to expect, I can take a bit of unwanted career advice if putting up with it will help me advance). I talked to a friend who does HR consulting, and she suggested that I go ask him what behaviors particularly bothered him in the interview in order to show him that I took his feedback seriously and I was committed to improving. The thing is, I know what caused him to say that: I argued with him about whether my answer to a technical question was correct. So I’m stumped — should I go ask him what he would recommend doing in that situation instead? Should I talk to him about something else? Should I just leave him alone unless he approaches me? As a manager, what would give you the best impression of a new employee under these circumstances?

I think you have two options:

1. Ignore it. Pretend it never happened, and start your relationship with him fresh. Show him that you’re professional and can take feedback just by … being professional and taking feedback well.

2. Stop by his office sometime soon after you start and say something like, “Hey, thanks so much for being candid with me in my interview — I’m sorry I didn’t show it at the time, but I appreciated it.” Don’t say this as the lead-in to a big conversation about it; this is the conversation in its entirety. Say it, wait for his response, be gracious, done, move on. However, you should only do this if you can pull off the right tone: cheerful and upbeat, not embarrassed, upset, or emotional. If there’s any risk you’ll flub the tone in the moment — or that you’ll lose that tone if his response takes you by surprise in any way — then I wouldn’t use this option.

I don’t really like your friend’s suggestion of having a big conversation with him about it — you already know what bothered him (you argued with him over a technical question), and I don’t think you get much out of asking what he would have rather you done instead. In fact, asking that risks seeming either a bit obsequious or a bit dense (since he’s likely to think he made it clear what you should have done instead). I’d stick with #1 or #2 above.

By the way, as for his overall point, it’s worth thinking independently about whether it was a valid one or not. It might mean nothing more than “this particular guy doesn’t like the way you responded when you saw a technical question differently,” and his preferences might not have much value for how you approach similar situations with other people. On the other hand, though, it’s also possible that he was giving you valuable feedback that would be useful when you’re dealing with other people too. I don’t know exactly what you said in the interview or how you said it, but in general there’s an art to pushing back diplomatically, and it might be worth looking at how you do that in situations more generally. (At the same time, though, do keep in mind the possibility that his reaction was more about him than about you, and don’t over-correct if that’s the case. In fact, you might even want to talk to your new boss about what happened at some point, and tell her that you’d love her guidance about how to handle those situations well. You might hear, “Oh, that’s just Bob, he’s a jerk,” or you might hear that there are things you could benefit by doing differently. It’s worth asking at some point.)

In any case, I wouldn’t worry about this too much. You got the job, and you even negotiated a signing bonus. Those are both good things, and signs that no one was terribly troubled by what happened in the interview. Congratulations on the new job, and good luck!

{ 195 comments… read them below }

  1. anon-2*

    Good luck but be cautious. If they did that to you in an interview to “test” you, you could have some very rough sailing ahead.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d want to hear more about what happened in the interview to produce the interviewer’s response. I can totally imagine scenarios in which it would have been perfectly reasonable — for instance, a candidate being overly pushy or argumentative, and the interviewer thinking, “This person is fairly young so I’m going to cut them a break here by explaining to them why they shouldn’t act this way” … and the candidate being unprepared for that and getting upset as a result, even though the interviewer genuinely was attempting to give helpful feedback.

      1. Jamie*

        ITA with feedback being appropriate, even feedback that can sting…but for some reason the use of that word just really seems unprofessional to me.

        This could just be me, though, and it would depend on the tone in which it was said as well.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          No, I agree, the word “obnoxious” makes me wonder exactly what he said and how he said it. “You’re obnoxious” is obviously totally out of line and jerky, whereas “a lot of interviewers find it obnoxious when people ___” is still really badly worded but not quite as bad in substance.

          1. KayDay*

            “You’re obnoxious” is obviously totally out of line and jerky, whereas “a lot of interviewers find it obnoxious when people ___” is[…] not quite as bad in substance.

            This is why it’s important to be politely direct. When someone is rude, people tend to ignore what they say with an ‘oh, he’s just a jerk’ attitude (even if it’s a valid point); when you say something more politely, people are more likely to listen to the substance of the advice.

      2. OP*

        Wow, I’m so excited that Ask a Manager actually answered my question :) Here’s some more context if anyone’s interested:

        I don’t remember exact wording (it’s been a few weeks), but the basic scenario was: he asked me a simple question along the lines of “Why is it inefficient to solve X problem using Y approach?”. I answered with “Because you’re computing the foo variable twice, when you can just find it once and reuse the result”. He kept pressing, saying things like “Kind of…”, and I kept trying to explain myself. After a few rounds of this, he said “The answer I was looking for was ‘You’re duplicating work.'”

        I was surprised and I said something like “Oh, that’s what I was saying.”, and he said “Well, not exactly” and I said something like “I thought it was.”

        (In retrospect, this was definitely the wrong thing to say.)

        I believe what he said next was “I’m just telling you this because you’re so early in your career, but the worst thing you can do is annoy someone like me, and you’re coming across as really obnoxious. In a business meeting, you don’t always have to be right. I like to give people feedback, you know, I think people aren’t honest enough with each other in today’s litigious society.”

        Unfortunately, ‘obnoxious’ is kind of a trigger for me, and I can be a crier (I’ve cried at work a couple of times before, but always in the bathroom or in a closet or somewhere else private), and I was just not prepared to hear that. I do plan to take his feedback to heart though, and concentrate on how I’m coming across when I disagree with people.

        I really do like critical feedback, but it struck me as really odd to give it so bluntly in an interview, without even asking if I would be interested in feedback first. Is this something I should expect in interviews?

        1. Victoria Nonprofit*


          I mean, since you’ve experienced it once, I guess it doesn’t hurt to anticipate this kind of nonsense so you can handle it if it comes up. But, in my experience, it’s not at all normal.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’d say it’s not common in interviews, but it’s not uncommon in professional situations in general. There will always be people who aren’t artful in the way they word things, and some who are outright abrasive. In general, it’s good to have a strong sense of how to respond to those people in the different situations you might find them in! (Although I don’t blame you one bit for being caught off-guard by it.)

        3. Jamie*

          Oh, he’s one of those proud of being honest people which is code for “btw, I’m a assh**e.”

          Obnoxious is a trigger for me too, and I don’t recall anyone ever leveling that one at me so I was thinking about why and I think I know…it’s one of those words I’ve heard used to describe women at work. Obnoxious, mouthy, doesn’t know her place…I’ve heard people describe admins that way who weren’t docile. It feels like a sexist term to me, even though I know objectively it’s not.

          I hope you don’t have much contact with him and that the new job turns out to be fabulous!

          1. Brittany*

            ^THIS YES.

            Obnoxious is a huge trigger for me too! I likely would have cried as well. I still don’t agree at all with what he said and don’t think the OP said or did anything wrong to warrant that response. He basically expected the OP to read his mind and give the answer he wanted, which to me is an obnoxious behavior on his part.

          2. Katie in Ed*

            To say nothing of the, “I’m telling you this for your own good, little girl” attitude. Him being annoyed by you and crudely telling you so is not a constructive professional critique. My armchair diagnosis: dude did not like a young lady interviewing in his technical field.

            And “people aren’t honest enough with each other in today’s litigious society”? In an interview? This guy is a piece of work.

          3. Tricia*

            YES. +1 Obnoxious seems to be code for “I can’t believe this woman is arguing with me” and serves to completely dismiss whatever point she’s making.

        4. Kelly L.*

          So in other words he’s an annoying person who would only accept the proper buzzword. Ugh. And also what Jamie said.

        5. COT*

          I don’t blame you for being surprised, and in a stressful interview it can be even easier than usual to cry or otherwise react strongly. It sounds like this guy may not be the best with words (since he didn’t understand that you two were talking about the same answer), so I’m sure that some of the blame lay with how he communicated this “fault” of yours.

          I agree with most folks here–learn what you can from his feedback and then let it go. The best way you can smooth this over is by being a fantastic employee. If you develop a good relationship with Jane, I think it would be fine to eventually mention this incident to her. You could frame it as, “Here’s some feedback I got; do you also see that as a growth area for me?”

        6. Joey*

          What’s the big deal? So he used the word obnoxious to convey a point. I’d much rather hear that than some watered down version of it. He obviously wasn’t trying to be insulting or he would have said bluntly “you’re obnoxious.”

          Take it as a learning experience that people can frequently communicate a little abrasively without intending to. Don’t take it personal just take it as his attempt to tell you his perspective.

        7. Katie the Fed*

          I think he was really unprofessional and Jane realized it too, which is why she called you to apologize for HIS behavior.

          I’m embarrased for him.

          Also that sounds so incredibly mortifying for you. I’ve cried when I didn’t want to. Stress can do that. I’m sorry it happened to you.

        8. Lils*

          How awful! I would also have felt like crying–totally had to excuse myself once from a negative-feedback meeting because of tears of frustration and guilt over making a mistake. I agree with Jamie–he sounds like an ass.

          However one thing I’ve noticed is that tech-y people (me included) will get so focused on process that they forget politics. I hate to say it, but in some situations, with some administrators, it’s better to nod and smile than to be right or correct VIP’s. I learned this the hard way too.

          I hope this job is awesome for you! You’ll soon appreciate the thicker skin this incident gave you–the next time something difficult comes up, you can say to yourself “I got through that interview, I can do anything!!” :)

        9. Vicki*

          But, that IS what you were saying. Your were also being precise instead of vague. Your answer was correct and a programmer would recognize it as correct.

          Ignore this guy if you can.

        10. Anonymous*

          “In a business meeting you don’t always have to be right.”

          Yet he pushed you to tears to show he was right? Keep you distance from this guy if you can.

        11. Jules*

          I must work in a terrible environment since I thought his comment was being nice :( But I used to work with managers who works as enginers offshore and utilize coarse language for a long time before moving up the chain and sitting in the office. They are never shy about telling you exectly what they think…

  2. Jamie*

    I can totally put myself in your shoes on this. In my perfect world which will never exist crying would be a perfectly natural response to stress and no one would even notice.

    I’d personally go with pretending it never happened, if it were me, because I wouldn’t be able to get the light tone right. It’s fair – he can pretend you didn’t cry and you can pretend he wasn’t a giant tool in your interview.

    Obviously the you weren’t argumentative enough to put you out of the running, you got the job, so the most obnoxious thing was him using the word obnoxious…imo.

    The crying thing – seriously – if I could figure out a way to not cry when I’m pissed or in a response to extreme stress I would be so happy. As it is I’ve gotten very good at trying to stop it and keeping calm and making light small talk as I excuse myself for a minute.

    1. businesslady*

      my personal rule is that you treat it like any other bodily excretion: it’s fine if it happens at work, as long as it’s in the bathroom & you avoid exposing your coworkers to its onset & aftermath as much as possible. :)

    2. Victoria Nonprofit*

      God, we should have a conversation on the open thread about crying at work: Have you done it, in what circumstances, how did you handle it in the moment, how did you handle it going forward?

      I’m a crier, and I’m proud of having only cried twice at work (and only once because of a work issue).

      1. Noelle*

        I’m not normally a crier but I had one job that was so bad I quit after a month, and spent most of that month crying. I managed not to cry in front of my coworkers or boss, but I would cry in the cafeteria, at lunch with friends, out to dinner, etc. By the second week I was having to go to the bathroom every 10-15 minutes to sit in the stall and cry. Worst. Job. Ever.

      2. Jamie*

        God, we should have a conversation on the open thread about crying at work: Have you done it, in what circumstances, how did you handle it in the moment, how did you handle it going forward?

        We totally should – because I still am so embarrassed when I think about it and it’s such a relief to know that others have done it too and managed to weather it as well.

      3. Sally*

        Oh, lord. I actually cried during a performance review today. My manager is amazing and admitted to also being a crier and was totally understanding. The weirdest part is that it was a great review, I only cried when she told me I was putting too much pressure on myself and I realized how right she was. Thankfully, by the time the review was over and we left the room, I looked normal again, but I’m still a little shocked that I did that.

    3. Sasha*

      My natural response to stress is laughing, which makes me look flippant and disingenuous. I hate it. Sometimes I can control it but it tends to come out at bad moments.

      1. LPBB*

        I’m a nervous laugher which I always worry makes me look like a ditzy nitwit. I seem to have gotten that under control during job interviews thankfully, but not so much in other areas. I’m convinced that half of my professional group’s local chapter thinks that I’m Not Serious about the profession and far less capable than I actually am.

    4. Kelly O*

      I completely agree, Jamie. I hate that tears are associated with weakness and lack of control or whatever. Sometimes, it’s just stress, and rather than go on a rampage (which is admittedly less than healthy) it just comes out in tears.

      1. bearing*

        I always think of Meg Ryan, the wounded captain in Courage Under Fire. “It’s just tension, asshole, it don’t mean shit.”

    5. Victoria HR*

      I am a cryer when I get frustrated. I have found that, when you feel that tickle at the end of your nose that indicates that your eyes are about to well up, immediately look up at the ceiling. For some reason, this stops the tear ducts from what they’re doing. I always do this now to keep from crying (the Zoloft helps also).

      One caveat, though: it may look to someone that you’re rolling your eyes if you do this in the middle of a conversation. So only do it when no one is watching.

      1. Vicki*

        “the Zoloft helps also”

        Sometimes we need a bit of help to balance the chemistry.
        (But I’ll keep the ceiling idea in mind too!)

      2. FreeThinkerTX*

        Sometimes if I feel a sneeze coming on, but one that’s just tickling the back of my nose and needs encouraging, I’ll look up at the ceiling (or a light, or near the sun, or whatever), and the sneeze will hopefully happen – but not always. I think I can use this if I need to look at the ceiling to stop tears from starting. If anyone notices me looking up, I can just say, “Excuse me, I thought I had a sneeze coming on; please continue.”

    6. Kathryn T.*

      When you first start feeling that hot feeling as your eyes are about to fill up, try flaring your nostrils REALLY HARD. This can physically pinch off the tear ducts and stop the crying in its tracks. But you have the be right at the beginning of the crying, or it won’t work.

      (I’m a singer, and I sing a lot of weddings and funerals, AND I’m an easy cry. I use this technique a lot.)

  3. Dan*

    It’s always ok to disagree about a single question. It’s life. However, if someone disagrees with your style or approach, then you’re going to have problems. Whether or not you have many problems depends on the frequency of interaction.

    At my current job, the lowest vice president is two levels above me. I never see him outside of bumping shoulders in the hallway. If he disagreed with my style, well, if my boss didn’t care, than neither would I.

    At a previous job, the VP of R&D was three levels above me. He liked the work our group did, so we saw him regularly. If he didn’t like my style, I’d imagine I’d be hearing about it a lot.

  4. businesslady*

    it’s also worth noting that, however out of line & unjustified the interviewer was, the interviewee committed a faux pas by crying in a professional setting. I’m not trying to be unsympathetic–I can frequently be set down an unavoidable path to sobbing under the right circumstances, even if I’m not even “sad”–but I’ve managed to keep it together in my work life thus far & I hope to maintain that record.

    it sounds like this is a good supportive company, & certainly it wouldn’t be right for anyone to hold this against you in the long term. but, nevertheless, you should probably be careful to ensure that you don’t end up crying in front of your coworkers any time in the near future: you don’t want to get a reputation as being “emotional” & then have that used as an excuse to avoid taking you seriously.

    …I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m criticizing the OP; I can see something like this happening to me, & if it did, this is what I’d be worried about.

    1. OP*

      No, I totally agree with you. It’s not something that comes up for me very often–I think I’ve cried at work maybe 3 times in my life, and never in front of anyone. I really hope this never happens to me again.

      1. Anon*

        Don’t beat yourself up over it. I know that personally, there are two-three days/month that I have a hair-trigger tear reflex, and I try to avoid any tough conversations (interviews, performance reviews, etc.) during that time, but it happens.

      2. businesslady*

        yeah, you clearly get it–& I feel so awful that this happened to you! after reading the additional background, I feel like you handled yourself with impressive grace.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        It probably won’t ever happen to you again, OP. That is part of the tears, facing such a totally unfamiliar situation and not knowing how to react. It’s a rare situation, not an ordinary occurrence.
        I have not finished reading all the comments, so forgive if I repeat, but please take a moment to look at something:
        1)”Who ever Jane wants, Jane gets.”
        The message here is that Jane is respected, she carries some weight.
        2)Jane said the VP was apologizing for the incident. This is HUGE. He must have reflected on the conversation and reconsidered his approach in some manner. Somehow Jane became aware of his convo with you- it weighed on his mind in some manner. Heads up- this could be a routine thing for him. He throws out some words and thinks about it later. He has demonstrated that he knows the words “I am sorry” and he can use them.

        I am pointing all this out because if this happened to me, I would be shaken, really shaken. I would need to do this type of analysis to get myself off the stinkin’ thinkin’.

        I would not go back to him for a longer conversation, OP. I do not believe it would be productive. I would have my guard up so high, I doubt I would hear half of what he had to say. I think your best bet is to work with Jane for a few weeks and let her get familiar with you. In a calm moment, ask her what her advice is about the whole matter. If she says “Oh, VP is a jerk, pay no attention.” Stress how you like the job and you want to get along with everyone. Ask her if she has any pointers.

    2. Ivy*

      To be honest, I’m a little surprised they still hired her (and by a little I mean a lot). I think this whole situation is a greenlight rather than a redflag, because not only did they hire OP, but the VP apologized. It shows they’re a caring company.

      I actually don’t think I would hire someone who cried at the interview. True or not, I would think that she doesn’t deal well with stress and more importantly, doesn’t deal well with criticism. Even if the VP is a jerk and was harsh, I still want the people that work with me to have thick skin. I don’t want to worry that I’ll set you off crying. What if a client gets mad at you? What if the VP is unhappy with some of the work you do? What if there’s some other issue we have to address? I understand that we’re all humans and we all cry, but it would make me worry enough that you are “emotional” for me not to take the risk. As businesslady said, it wouldn’t be right for anyone to hold this against you in the long-term, but in the short-term? Well, I think you’re going to have to fight a little to lose the stigma of “emotional”.

      Op, I hope you don’t take this as a criticism of you since I know the waterworks are beyond our control sometimes. Stress has definitely brought some tears to my eyes. I’m just using this as a general discussion of what crying can do to ones image. Oh and personally, I have never cried at work, but to be honest, I don’t like crying in front of anyone (friends and family included).

      1. EJ*

        To me, the fact that they hired her anyway is a sign that the final interviewer is known at the company as a bit of a jerk.

          1. Jamie*

            I can almost picture the “Steve didn’t scare her off – she still wants to work here. Awesome!” conversation.

      2. A Teacher*

        I cry when yelled at directly in an unexpected manner for no reason. Its happened once in my career–not my current job, fortunately. I cry when the door is closed or when I need relief but not in front of co-workers. Most of the time I can’t feel it coming on until it is too late, sometimes its because I have migraines and haven’t slept in 3 days. I handle stress fine, I get good reviews and I do my job. Crying doesn’t make you weak and it doesn’t make you incapable and to suggest that it does is a very hasty generalization as my philosophy teacher used to say.

        1. Ivy*

          Wearing sweat pants doesn’t make you weak or incapable, so why do we hastily generalize when someone shows up to an interview in them?

          Crying is not appropriate for the office. Does it make you weak? No. Does it make you appear weak? Yes. With the same thought pattern, does yelling make you an angry person? No. Does it make you look like an angry person? Yes. You’re expected to keep some emotions at bay at work; crying and yelling are the outward expressions of an emotion. I’m not saying that crying is directly linked to any given emotion, but that’s how it’s interpreted. And after all, image counts for a lot.

          Besides, it doesn’t sound like the interviewer yelled or did anything extreme to that nature. Yes, he may have been harsh, but quiet frankly, I want you to be able to handle harsh without crying.

          1. Vicki*

            Whether or not to wear sweat pants is a conscious choice.
            Crying isn’t.

            Some people blush when shocked or embarrassed. Some people tear up. For those people, saying t’s “not appropriate at the office” is akin to saying that sneezing is not appropriate at the office. If it happens, you find a way to handle it, but you cannot (CANNOT) prevent it by conscious decision when you wake up that morning.

            1. Ivy*

              I think there’s a difference between tearing up, which is uncontrollable, and full blown crying which I think is controllable… at least until you get to the bathroom. Now, I suppose I am talking from personal experience, but unless I have tear-ducts of steel, I think this is true for most people. I tear up when I’m stressed, or yelled at or tired, but I don’t cry.

              How come you almost never see/hear of a man crying at work? Are men immune from emotions? No. I think they don’t cry because it’s less socially acceptable to do so for them. So if they can keep it together, I expect we women can do it too. Crying is a coping mechanism (for whatever), and if you find your crying regularly, you need to find a better way to cope.

              1. Kelly O*

                And there are differences in the way men and women act – our brains are wired differently.

                I really get so sick of hearing “well men don’t do X” – no, they don’t. There are lots of biological things men can’t do. I’m not a man. I don’t pretend to be one. I don’t think I ought to have to act or think like a man to be successful.

                And I realize this a totally tangential soapbox, but I have heard this ever since I started working. Take out your emotion, don’t get emotional. Men don’t get emotional and look how “successful” that man is.

                How about we acknowledge the differences between our genders, or even the different ways individual interact with each other, rather than trying to force one gender’s behavior set on another?

                Professional does not mean emotionless. It does not mean you get to act like a jerk and I have to sit there and take it quietly and stoically and save my reaction for later. It does not mean that you get to keep being a jerk at my expense, because my just letting you see how it comes across is “unprofessional.”

                And THEN if you’re a woman and you do this whole “act like a man” thing, then you’re a bitch. Or you don’t care. Or you have no heart. Or you’re cold, or unfriendly.

                So which is it? Do I act like a man and be perceived a bitch? Do I act like a woman and be perceived as too emotional or too warm and fuzzy? Do I just be myself and then get all sorts of weird feedback about how I ought to be acting?

                I mean, it’s a bloody Catch-22, and I don’t know how on earth you’re supposed to stay sane and negotiate this infinitesimally thin tightrope of acceptable behavior.

    3. Steve G*

      I’m not understanding why crying as opposed to another reaction. The person gave you a nasty, badly worded opinion, but they didn’t attack you as a person. The comments should have led to a heated discussion, but why cry? I thought crying comes from grief or extreme stress?

      1. OP*

        Well, there were some Terrible Personal History components (I’m a survivor of an abusive relationship and being too argumentative was one of the things my ex would berate me about), but I also just tend to tear up when I get angry.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Good for you for seeing the trigger and connecting the dots. That is half of your solution right there.

          Am feeling a book reference coming on– I know there are books out there about dealing with difficult people, or how to say no, etc. Something of that nature might be just the thing for you, to reframe things in your mind.
          Book suggestions anyone?

        2. Min*

          I, too, tear up when I am angry. It becomes a vicious cycle – I hate that my anger causes this reaction so when I feel the pinpricks behind my eyes as it begins, it just makes me angrier and exacerbates the problem.

      2. Victoria Nonprofit*

        Also, um, because for some people argumentative comments lead to worry, insecurity, anxiety, etc. rather than frustration, rancor, anger, etc. Why on earth would it have been better to have a heated conversation?

        As I’ve said over and over on this thread, just because it’s how you react that doesn’t mean it’s how anyone would react.

  5. Sharon*

    I think in a job interview the best thing to do is sadly just to NOT correct the interviewer when he’s wrong about something. This comes up in IT jobs all the time. I also had one for a project management job once. The interviewer asked me when I would complete my PMP certificate and I responded that I had all of the education covered but just needed to complete the x years of hands-on experience requirement, which I hoped that job would help me with. He argued that there was no experience requirement. I corrected him once (maybe there didn’t used to be, but there is now) and then let it drop. I’m pretty sure I was disqualified because of this. (He also got the interview dumped on him at the last minute by the person who was supposed to interview me, so he wasn’t in the best of moods!)

    1. Henning Makholm*

      … except when it isn’t. Especially for technical positions, the employer may want to hire someone who will stand up for his technical knowledge and not fold on it that the first sign of resistance. In a professional and mature manner, of course. Some interviewers will deliberately disagree with the applicant in order to find out how he reacts in a technical dispute, and then immediately abandoning your position is not the right answer.

      (Of course, this is a risky strategy for the interviewer, because there’s a fine line between fishing for pushback and coming across to the applicant as someone terminally stupid that they never want to work for. Doesn’t mean nobody thinks they can pull it off, though).

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Agree 100%. If I’d been that interviewer in Sharon’s example and later found out that I was wrong and the candidate hadn’t said anything, I’d note it as a concern. It wouldn’t necessarily be disqualifying, but I’d certainly be concerned about the candidate’s ability to speak up when needed.

        You need to be polite and diplomatic when you present a differing viewpoint or information, of course, but an interviewer who will reject you solely for pointing out a mistake is not someone you want to work for. Think about what they’ll be like in day to day work.

        1. dejavu2*

          I once travelled 2000 miles on my own dime only to have an interviewer flip out when I disagreed with her. Yet, I wouldn’t change anything if I had to do it all over again (well, besides not going for the interview). It was for an attorney position, and I was asked if I would ever be willing to do x, x being something that is clearly prohibited by the professional rules of conduct. I calmly answered no, actually thinking I had nailed a trick question. The interviewer asked, “Why?” I answered confidently, “Because that is a violation of the rules of professional conduct.” The interviewer proceeded to start shouting at me, asking if I was accusing her of unethical conduct. I remained calm and professional throughout her insane display, during which she described in great detail how she repeatedly violates this rule. When I got back to school, one of my professors suggested that I should report her to her state’s board of bar overseers, and maybe I should have, but I didn’t.

          Despite that interview turning into a massive waste of time and money, the question could have just as easily been a question to determine whether I knew the correct answer. I would much rather have had the interviewer go all psycho on me for being ethical than presenting myself as unethical.

  6. Jubilance*

    Random – this sounds so much like an interview I heard about through my former coworkers, when my old team was looking for my replacement.

    As for how to move forward, I think just ignoring it & starting over with the VP is the way to go. Making a big production of a conversation about it will just make it worse.

    I’m also one of those people who cries anytime I feel a strong emotion – anger, sadness, frustration, etc. Its frustrating when it happens in a high-pressure moment like an interview.

  7. Sasha*

    Congrats on the job and the bonus!

    My vote is for ignoring and it starting fresh. No telling how often you will interact with this guy. I would just focus on working hard and presenting a professional image from Day 1.

    Also, I empathize…I had an interview once with Nightmare Lady and nearly cried. The interview seemed to be going okay, I was asking a lot of questions about culture and fit, and came to the conclusion that it wasn’t the job for me. At the beginning of the interview, she told me to be honest if, at any point, I didn’t think this was a good fit. So I took her up on that and said, thank you for your time, but I don’t think this is a good fit. She then lambasted me for saying that, told me I was weak and stupid for saying so, and that I should have begged for the job, even if I knew I wasn’t going to accept it later on. I was stunned. Walked out of the interview biting my lip, and as soon as I got into the bathroom, cried my eyes out.

    1. Jamie*

      Congrats on the job and the bonus!

      Crying schrying – I want to hear what you said to snag a signing bonus! :)

      1. OP*

        I said “You offered me $X, but I see on glassdoor that you’re paying people in my position with my amount of experience up to a 15% higher salary, and since I have experience working on a very similar product, I’m wondering if you could make the salary 10% higher.” They came back with that they didn’t have any flexibility on the salary for a new hire, but they could offer me the difference as a signing bonus. I’ve never negotiated salary before, but I think this went well.

        1. Anon*

          Completely agree. This is great–congratulations! Keep these (successful) skills sharp, though, because you may need to bring the issue up again in a year. Raises are often percentages based off your main salary, so the signing bonus wouldn’t necessarily be counted toward it. Sounds like they’re willing to work with you, though, so they may well be agreeable on this front, too. Good luck!

  8. Anonymous*

    Honestly, the interviewer sounds like a D-Bag. Regardless, I’d just ignore the crying stint altogether and start fresh.

    1. Brittany*

      Agree! I thought it was a rude thing to say. It’s one thing to receive someone constructive criticism once you’re in a role, but I would be really turned off to someone who called me flat out obnoxious in an interview. I’m inclined to think he was being a jerk because Jane the direct boss called to make amends and said the VP was apologetic. First impressions go both ways. The guy sounds like a real peach.

      1. Rachel*

        This part of what he said stood out to me: “…but the worst thing you can do is annoy someone like me…” Um, wow.

  9. BCW*

    So I have a question for many of the people on here. And please understand this is not meant to be insulting to anyone individually. However why do some people see crying as ok in the work place? I mean to me that shows a lack of controlling one’s emotions. If a guy went and punched a wall (not a person) people would be saying he needed anger management and that he should exercise more self restraint. However when someone cries then then some people would say “well they can’t control it”. Either way in my opinion its not controlling your emotions. I’d love to hear thoughts on this.

    1. Jamie*

      I may have missed it, but I didn’t see anyone saying that it’s okay. It’s totally not okay in the vast majority of workplaces.

      What some of us are saying is that in a perfect world – which will never, ever exist – it would be seen for what it is: an expression of anger, frustration, whatever.

      FWIW I have seen guys lose it at work. Toss phones, yell loudly, swear, slam doors…and at more than one work place. That’s not my style – when I’m really pissed I get extremely quiet and want to cry.

      I’ve had this conversation with my boss once, because I have cried at work a couple of times and I am absolutely ashamed of that. I don’t think that was okay – it happened and I had to deal with that. He was under the impression that I was crying because someone hurt my feelings or that I was feeling bad about myself and I explained that I was crying because I was pissed. A circumstance I won’t get into but suffice to say he agreed that not only did I have a right to be pissed, I’d have been totally justified in not walking out immediately.

      Crying makes people very uncomfortable – I totally get that because other people’s crying makes me very uncomfortable. There is no place for it at work – but unlike swearing or throwing a phone there is an element of a spontaneous physical reaction in the mix. So those of us who tend to cry develop coping mechanisms for knowing when it’s coming, leaving the room to freshen up, pinching the bridge of the nose works if you start fast enough. Affecting a very perky expression and claiming allergies to anyone who asks to explain the after effects.

      But no, not okay – but not something you can just will yourself never to do – so you take steps to make sure you at least never do it where it can be seen and when it is, well, you live with the acute embarrassment (if you’re me.)

      1. Jamie*

        An addendum – it’s more controllable but in the same realm as blushing. If stressed, anxious, or angry I literally turn a different color. The shade of red is so dark and it rises evenly like a thermometer…so when I feel it reaching my collar bone I leave the room if possible, otherwise people comment on it. I’m blotchy for the rest of the day.

        It’s a psychosomatic reaction to stress – even good stress as it will happen if I’m getting accolades which I feel are too effusive.

        It’s an emotional reaction I have no control over and it’s embarrassing in the workplace. But it is tough being at the mercy of your body when it decides you are going to process your emotions right now.

        1. fposte*

          Have you read Atul Gawande’s Complications? There’s a chapter in there about a female newscaster whose blushing was so savage it interfered with her career, and who actually had surgery to stop it. It’s fascinating to see how she felt that freed her up from the accompanying embarrassment.

          1. Jamie*

            I have not, but I love how many fabulous book recommendations I’ve picked up here this week. I will be taking some time off at the first of the year and I am looking forward to fulling my ebook reader.

            That is really interesting that it was so bad for her – fortunately for me it’s severe but infrequent. It takes a whole lot to get me to the point where this stuff kicks in so maybe a couple of times a year, at best.

            But when it happens, the same as the crying, the act of it happening makes it worse. I’m embarrassed, then I realize I’m turning red/starting to cry which makes me so much more embarrassed…which makes exacerbates everything.

            It’s funny – I have a co-worker with the same problem although for her it happens a lot more often because she lets people get to her in a way I don’t…but anyway when I see her start to turn in a meeting I try to subtly help her out and diffuse. She’s a red head too. Damn lack of melanin just outs us.

            1. fposte*

              The problem for her was that she was an on-air television personality and it affected her on the air. The more anxious she became about it, the more of a problem it became, and the worse she did her job as a result (pancaking makeup on probably didn’t help either).

              What interested me about her that actually relates to the crying thing is that the physical response actually started driving the emotion rather than just being a sign of it. She’d essentially focused all her embarrassment into shame about blushing, and when she stopped blushing, she found she wasn’t all that embarrassed.

        2. Kelly O*

          I have the same “tell” – my neck and chest get all flushed, even when my face is not. When I feel the warmth coming on, I know it’s time to get out of that situation, but you can’t always just drop everything.

          And naturally that leads to the “oh wow, what’s wrong with you?” which does not help in keeping things together, because most people will not let you just say “just a little warm” or something like that.

          I can’t stop it. I can’t wear a turtleneck every day. It happens. I don’t choose it. I wish I could make it stop, but I can’t. So I deal, and hope that people just leave me alone.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I would rather deal with a crying person than a phone-throwing, cussing person.

        I have had bosses who throw things in anger. VERRY scary.

        I don’t even object to the cussing part. It is the total loss of control over one’s bodily actions that gets me.

        The last throwing boss I had, the PTB had a long chat with him. It seemed to help. But I see that loss of control as totally unprofessional, a far greater offense than crying could ever be. I believe repeated occurrences should be cause for dismissal.

        If I see a person crying over a situation at work, I see a person who is trying to process the problem and trying to grasp what is going on and how to fix it. I have a very hard time being that generous with a person who throws things.

    2. Victoria Nonprofit*

      Two thoughts:

      1) Regardless or whether or not crying is “ok” at work, it happens. So it’s worthwhile for people to get honest about doing it and talk about strategies for handling it (either for avoiding it or correcting impressions afterwards).

      2) Crying and punching a wall aren’t equivalent behaviors. Crying is natural (everyone does it, from birth) – it’s more equivalent to sneezing, farting, coughing, whatever. Punching a wall is something very few people do (and something almost everyone can control doing). Punching a wall also implies violence, so it’s legitimately frightening and disruptive at work.

      3) As a crier, I can tell you: I really can’t control it, at least not all of the time. I’m a successful, senior-level leader, generally respected and trusted, excellent at my job… and I cry. It’s not about willpower; it’s about my body’s physical response to various situations.

      1. Jamie*

        3) As a crier, I can tell you: I really can’t control it, at least not all of the time. I’m a successful, senior-level leader, generally respected and trusted, excellent at my job… and I cry. It’s not about willpower; it’s about my body’s physical response to various situations.

        Victoria beautifully articulated in one paragraph that which took me nine trying to say.

        If I had just waited I could have just +1ed this.

      2. Katie in Ed*

        You know, I’m going to disagree that violent responses to anger are de facto controllable. I think for some people they are not. You’re right that punching and crying are not equivalent behaviors: one is violent, and the other is not. Neither are appropriate for the workplace, but one might be deserve more severe consequences because of the danger involved.

        Though it makes me think (and please forgive the momentary stereotyping): perhaps some male-dominated industries are more accepting of aggressive office behavior (like punching a wall or slamming a door) than emotional behavior (like crying). And perhaps since commenters on AAM are overwhelmingly female, they might be more inclined to forgive such behavior.

        1. BCW*

          You are 100% right. I think based on the demographics here, people are more forgiving of crying then say yelling or other “violent” responses.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I don’t know — I can’t think of a single professional job that would be more forgiving of a violent response like punching a wall than someone tearing up (we’re not talking sobbing, presumably).

            1. Jamie*

              I’m not referring to sobbing. For me it’s the involuntarily welling of tears and which you catch with a tissue before they even spill over.

              I’ll sob at home :).

            2. fposte*

              Oh, I think there are still some if the cryer is a man (of course, there’s a huge gender issue underlying this issue). In general, the acceptance on this is pretty recent–it still makes news when a public figure, especially a male, gets teary, and it wasn’t that long ago when it could kill a political career. This is still a really charged topic, and I think a lot of people view crying with the some reservations that BCW has expressed. I think also the blue collar/white collar contrast might factor in, too.

            3. Katie in Ed*

              Perhaps punching a wall is too drastic a comparison then. What would be an equivalent response to crying that is more aggressive (perhaps slamming doors, or fists on desks, or yelling, as others have mentioned). Would you address these differently as a manager?

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I would address aggression as aggression; it’s a different thing, and it’s not acceptable to scare or intimidate your coworkers with it.

                I can also think of instances where I’d talk to someone about crying too though — not for an occasional instance, but if it were a pattern and if it was making people feel that they couldn’t have tough conversations with the person.

                But I do think they’re two different things — one is threatening and one isn’t.

            4. BCW*

              Yeah, I guess I’m not being clear. By forgiving I didn’t mean that if you punch a hole in a wall they won’t care. I more meant that if in a predominantly male office, someone slamming a door or their fist on a desk would probably not be frowned upon as much. Whereas in a female dominated work place I feel like the crying thing isn’t frowned upon as much

              1. KarenT*

                I hate it when things become gendered, but I have to say I actually really agree with you. I had a boyfriend who worked in BigTax, and during tax season he always had stories of so and so losing it and throwing their phone at the wall or slamming their fists on their desk while yelling. I find this horrific, but in his predominantly male office no one really seemed to care. To be fair, it might not have been because they were male but also because this was a very high stakes, high pressure environment.

        2. VintageLydia*

          I just want to point out that punching walls and slamming doors is just as emotional as crying.

          Just a personal pet peeve, but I hate how stereotypically male forms of emoting is generally more accepted than female ones. Not that punching walls is generally acceptable, but rarely do I hear people making judgements on the punchers actual work as a result. Criers are still seen as “weaker” in comparison, even though crying is more of a reflex than punching or slamming ever will be, no matter how ingrained the habit is.

    3. fposte*

      I don’t think crying has to be a big deal, actually, and it is very different than a voluntary action like punching a wall. (Yes, we can be socialized to allow or repress crying, but that’s a long-term process, not a thing you can do on the spur of the moment.) There’s been various serious life things that have caused me and colleagues to publicly cry in the office, and since we’re book reviewers some weeping over literature happens with regularity. I know that’s not the kind of crying that people are implying here–they mostly mean crying about the conflict with the person before you–but I think even the kind of tears I describe are probably a little alarming for some workplaces.

      I think it can become a problem when it’s perceived by either the cryer or bystanders as a cue that people need to do something about the cryer, or when it interferes with your ability to negotiate the situation.

    4. BCW*

      Here is my point, crying is natural to a point for certain things. Physical or emotional pain yes, I get that. But frustration, anger, those type of emotions, I disagree that its not controllable, because if I get frustrated I don’t cry. I think people have been conditioned to get a certain response by crying and thats why they continue to do it.

      Again, I’m not knocking crying nor am I condoning punching a wall. Maybe slamming a fist on a desk would have been better. Essentially, what my “gut” reaction is in some instances (yelling, hitting, whatever) isn’t the best, and I can control my emotions. I think people who cry at the drop of a hat when they are frustrated because their lap top is acting up or something similar just need to control themselves better.

      1. Jamie*

        I don’t think anyone here is talking about doing it at the drop of a hat. If computer troubles caused me to well up, I’d have drowned ages ago.

        For me it’s happened three times in my career where I’ve cried at work where anyone saw me. And it’s when I’m so angry that another person might very well have quit.

        And you can disagree about it being an uncontrollable response, but just because it isn’t for you doesn’t mean it isn’t for other people. There is some conditioning involved and some involuntary responses.

        I was in the room when my father passed away, so were my three siblings. When the machine flat-lined I was the only one who immediately started projectile vomiting before I could even think about reaching for an emesis basin.

        It was an involuntary response – just because the other people in the room didn’t have the same one doesn’t mean mine was controllable.

        Different people have different responses.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          “And you can disagree about it being an uncontrollable response, but just because it isn’t for you doesn’t mean it isn’t for other people. ”


      2. EJ*

        Lucky for you, you are not a ‘crier’. I assure you that on the single occasion that I have ever cried at work I was unlucky enough to have a few witnesses and that was the last thing I wanted. I absolutely was not trying to ‘elicit a sympathetic response. I was mortified.

        I think tearing up is, as others are saying, a similar response to blushing. Not equivalent to actions, which are controllable (e.g. Punching) – its a physical reaction of the body in some people.

        Not everyone. If it was, we wouldn’t need this discussion. And life would be much easier for people like us.

      3. fposte*

        The reason you don’t cry isn’t just because you don’t choose to at the moment, though. It’s also because you’ve been conditioned since childhood that you get a certain derogatory response by crying and praise for not crying–that’s American manhood. The conditioning involves everybody, not just the cryers.

        You’re onto something on the biological front, in that is the theorized origin of tears–it’s a distress signal to alert the family/herd/whatever. But like most hardwired stuff, we’re stuck with the system whether we’re consciously using it that way or not. We can gradually train ourselves to repress a little less or a little more on the crying front, but we rarely have the capability just to flip the switch on or off at the moment.

      4. Victoria Nonprofit*

        When I eat a peanut, I don’t have an anaphylactic reaction. That doesn’t mean that people who are allergic to peanuts just need to control themselves better.

        When we go to the beach, my olive-skinned husband gets a lovely tan, while my northern European skin burns within minutes. That doesn’t mean that I need to control myself better.

        Neither does crying.

        1. BCW*

          You really are comparing apples to oranges here. If you really think the presence of something your body perceives as a toxin is the same as crying because someone said something and you were too thin skinned to not start crying about it, I find that a bit ridiculous. Crying is a voluntary thing unless there is something in your eye and the tears are there to wash your eye out. And I mean voluntary not in the sense that you necessarily intend to start it, but you can DEFINATELY stop it. Coughing when your throat is irritated, tanning, allergic reactions are all physiological responses. very different things here.

          1. BCW*

            Let me also be clear, I say you can stop it not to be mean, but because I’ve done it. I’ve had deaths in the family that I privately wept for, but when I had to go in public or face people I stopped the tears. Maybe because I’m a guy with smaller tear ducts or whatever its easier for me, but it can be done. If you are allergic to peanuts and they are in your body, nothing YOU can do without medicine or some kind of chemicals to counteract the toxin will make it stop. That is the difference.

            1. Victoria Nonprofit*

              Gah! I just wrote that “agree to disagree” post, but then I saw this. Seriously will drop it after this. :)

              My overall point in the peanut comment wasn’t to draw a direct connection between peanut allergies and crying; it was to point out that the fact that YOU (or anyone) can control their tears doesn’t mean that EVERYONE can. Realizing that feels to me like an important part of existing in society. Not everyone everyone is the same and we have to learn to live and work compassionately with each others’ differences.

            2. OP*

              Maybe you can stop it when you want to (and I have no idea what determines whether a person can or can’t), but I can’t. I mean, I can in the broad sense work on desensitizing myself to stressful situations, but in the moment, I can’t prevent a few tears from showing any more than I could stop sneezing or feeling nervous or hiccuping or what have you. Not everyone is the same–just because you can do this fairly easily doesn’t mean everyone can.

            3. fposte*

              I actually agree with you that it’s not nearly as simple and uncontrollable as a peanut allergy, but again, that doesn’t mean there’s a universal ability to clamp the tear ducts shut at will.

              I think it’s worth considering this from both sides. It’s useful to be aware that some people don’t respond well to crying in the office (though if you factor it in to your management, be sure you’re in step with your organization on that). But I also think you’re considering crying to be a response to tragedy and therefore judging it as an overresponse to basic office stuff. But it’s not written anywhere that crying has to universally mean tragedy–it just means that for you. For some people, tearing up is about equivalent to “dammit!”

          2. Victoria Nonprofit*

            Ok, agree to disagree.

            I’d just encourage you to be a bit more open-minded and sensitive to differences in how various folks exist in the world. You are obviously dismissive of crying – as evidenced by your repeated minimizing of the reasons one might cry (“someone said something,” “you were too thin-skinned,” “because their laptop is acting up,” “they can’t control themselves”). Might be worth thinking about why that is.

            1. BCW*

              I’m very open minded. And again, I don’t think crying itself is bad. I’ve cried plenty of times. Its probably not my place to judge a persons individual reaction to an event (although I’d argue that can be said for most of the things on this blog). But in my experience when I’ve seen women cry in the work place (again not saying all women, but I’ve only seen women cry at work) it has never been for something that serious. If a woman got a call about a death in the family, of course I get that. But these things I’ve mentioned that you are saying I should consider, I’ve seen these things. I’ve seen women cry because their computers don’t work. I’ve seen a woman get criticized then run out of the room crying. So yes, I do find some of these things a bit much.

              But agree to disagree :)

              1. Jamie*

                And your examples show that we’re arguing different things.

                I worked with someone once who would cry at any negative feedback. This would inevitably cause her male boss to back off and never mention it again. I had a huge problem with that, because it felt extremely manipulative.

                What I’m talking about is when someone is clearly trying to control it and is having a tough time – heck except for once when I cried the tears didn’t even hit my face as I was dabbing with a tissue…giving them a moment to catch their breath and get some composure.

                Then get back to whatever difficult discussion was on the table. Just speaking for myself, since we’re all different, but that’s what I’m talking about. That kind of thing shouldn’t carry the same level of stigma as throwing a blackberry against the wall – shattering it, screaming at someone calling them a f*cking retard because they made an error, and standing up in a meeting of 20+ people and telling a team they were made up of dirty little c*cks*uckers and if they didn’t get their shit together they were all out the door.

                Asking someone why they are “so f*cking stupid” and waiting for an answer. In a meeting. In front of their peers.

                My point isn’t that crying is optimal, it’s not – my point was my dabbing at my eyes and pinching the bridge of my nose to regain my composure before I continue a painful discussion shouldn’t be more career damaging than any of the examples I’ve given above were for the men who acted like that. But I believe that was the case.

                FTR – none of these examples are from my current workplace, I wouldn’t continue to work in that atmosphere.

                Another point is my extreme examples were true but are in NO way representative of how men handle anger in the workplace – those are the rare exception – not the rule. And it’s the same for anyone crying over a computer or feedback. Exception not the rule.

                And with that I’ll shut up.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                “I’ve seen women cry because their computers don’t work. I’ve seen a woman get criticized then run out of the room crying.”

                Totally agree with you that those things are a bit much, and if someone is doing those things in any circumstances other than being completely about to break due to a larger context of far more stressful circumstances, that’s a problem. But I also agree with Jamie that those aren’t the sorts of incidents people were talking about here, which is maybe the reason for the disconnect.

          3. jmkenrick*

            Some people can control their tears, and some can’t. Some peopel can control their anger, and some can’t. Just because it’s voluntary for you doens’t mean you should assume it’s the same for everyone. There are 7 billion people in the world, and we are all programmed differently.

            Additionally, I would argue that anger and tears are equivelent in that they are emotional responses that different people have varying levels of control over, but I would argue that someone who can’t control their tears is much safe in an office space than someone who can’t control their anger. So I don’t think you can compare on that level.

            Also, fwiw, when people say they’ve cried at work, I don’t think they mean “regularly cry at work when things don’t go my way”. I think they mean they have, once or twice, but rarely. There’s a huge difference.

      5. Elizabeth*

        There is recent scientific research that shows tear production to be one of the biological differences between males & females in adult humans (Slate has a series of articles on it a couple months ago). First, women product more tears. Second, the tear glands of women are about 25% larger than the tear glands of men. The combination makes it more difficult for women to control tear production than for men to do so.

        The problem is that culturally, Western society has primed us with the belief that tears are a sign of weakness. Children cry when injured. So, women, who are biologically going to produce more tears, are subtlety (and no so subtlety) diminished for a natural biological response.

        The last time I cried at work, I wasn’t embarrassed by it. My boss brought to me a request from a senior administrator to flow chart the entire process of patient & information management in our ED. No problem. Only she wanted to do it by pulling about 25 people into a conference room “for a couple hours” and use that to buid the flow chart. I immediately almost started sobbing, because of the overwhelming impending sense of doom this gave me. My boss closed my office door and got me to explain why this was such a problem.

        After I calmed down a little, I explained that there was no way I was going to get any useful information in that situation. Instead, I needed to be able to sit down with small groups (1 to 4 people, at most) to tease out from them what they did in managing the patient or their information, as well as what problems they encountered in the process. While it would take longer, I knew it would be time well spent to suck it up and dig through the muck.

        I got my way. After over 20 hours of interviews, and about 10 hours with Visio, I had a 15-page flow chart. We then spent nearly 4 hours dissecting it as a large group.

        I don’t think anyone is saying that crying because the computer keeps needing to be rebooted is a good situation. However, there are legitimate levels of frustration well beyond that point that can justify a need for relief. My other one is a pillow in my office that I can slam into a side chair that I have when my door is closed. I’ve also been known to turn up the music on my computer with the door closed & locked and let loose a string of really bad profanity when no one else can hear me.

      6. Lils*

        +1 to what everyone else said. It has taken me 20 years of working to be able to control my spontaneous tears of frustration and anger (and blushing!) to the extent that I do. Teaching middle school is a good way to learn to control this, btw.

        Contrast a person who cries in rare circumstances and excuses herself, and a person who cries often and makes a production out of it in front of coworkers. Perhaps it’s my traditionally female occupation, but I find people are very forgiving of the former.

      7. LPBB*

        I’m sorry, but if you think this is about people crying “at the drop of a hat when they are frustrated because their lap top is acting up,” then you are not listening to what we are saying.

        I am a crier who has, unfortunately, occasionally cried at work. Every time that has happened, I have been mortified. I am most definitely not looking for any kind of response. I have never used tears as a way to get out of a situation, avoid taking responsibility, or avoid criticism in a workplace setting and I seriously doubt that any woman who is contributing to this thread has ever done that or would ever dream of that. I also don’t cry when normal everyday frustrations happen and I don’t know anyone past the third grade who does that.

        FWIW, when I was younger I had a great deal of difficulty managing my emotions. I put holes in the walls multiple times as a teen. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned how to manage my emotions and my response to those emotions better so that I no longer do that, but I still can’t control my involuntary physical reactions.

        For example, when I get stressed or angry, I turn bright red, spontaneously sweat, and occasionally have a vein pop out of my head. Massively embarrassing, especially when the trigger is relatively minor. So over the years I’ve worked on trying not to respond to situations with the emotion that will produce that physical result, if that makes any sense. I’ve had to develop a very c’est la vie attitude that sometimes makes me look like I don’t care or I’m not motivated. I’ve taken a similar approach to crying, because, for me and others like me, it is still a physical reaction to certain emotions, not a concious act of will.

        FWIW, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve cried at work, 2 of which were related to personal issues and 1 of which was related to an untreated anxiety disorder.

        I also want to make sure that people realize that even though I’ve made myself sound like an unstable whackjob, most people who have worked with me for any length of time refuse to believe that I have any kind of temper issues, even after they have witnessed me crying as a response to anger.

    5. Katie the Fed*

      It’s not ok, but sometimes it just happens. For some of us, it’s just a physical response to extreme stress, like sweating or shaking.

      It’s mortifying and humilitating, but you know what? Stuff happens and sometimes all you can do is haul ass to the bathroom to contain the meltdown.

    6. Jubilance*

      I don’t think anyone is saying that falling to tears after every little thing is ok. I’m one of those people that anytime I feel any strong emotion, it comes out through my eyeballs. I hate the fact that it happens, and I try my best to keep it inside. But sometimes your body doesn’t respond & a tear will slip out. It happens. We aren’t machines, we’re people. Everyone responds differently.

      1. fposte*

        I wouldn’t mind if mine just affected my eyeballs–it’s that it starts with the bright red nose. I should be verklempt all December and just be the office Rudolph.

    7. KayDay*

      This certainly isn’t true at all workplaces, but in general it seems that other emotional responses, like swearing, yelling (at someone), etc. (not actually punching a wall) are common and accepted, far more so than crying.

      1. OP*

        Yep, I’ve worked with a few people who yell in meetings over stuff like how something should be worded or whether to use a single checkbox or a set of radio buttons. Everyone thought it was silly, but no one ever said anything to the yellers.

  10. The Other Dawn*

    If it were me, I’d go with option 1. But that’s because I wouldn’t want to give the guy the satisfaction of knowing I thought about it anymore than at that moment.

    I agree with Alison’s suggestion to think about the conversation and if there is anything to learn from the comment he made. Since I wasn’t in on the interview, I can only guess at how you worded your argument about the correct answer. It was either, “My experience tells me X is the correct answer. I’ve tried other solutions, such as ABC, but X works best.” If that’s the case then he was being an ass. Or it was, “No, you’re wrong. It’s X. It’s always been X.” And if that’s the case, maybe there’s something to what he said, although he could have worded it much better.

  11. the gold digger*

    Sigh. I’ve never cried at an interview, but I have cried at work. In front of my boss. I did it once, then made sure it didn’t happen again. It’s mortifying and it’s so, so hard. Good for you that you impressed the other people enough that they made an offer.

    My husband had a stress interview once. It was at a company where his former boss had gone to work. FB recommended that new company recruit my husband. He went for the interview and it was horrible. He was really ticked off and turned down their offer.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      A friend worked for a company that gave a test as part of the application process. My friend passed the test with flying colors.
      Because he did so well, the overseer for the test commented:
      “You would not believe how many people are reduced to TEARS trying to take this test!”

      I would have been one of those crying people, enormous frustration for me.

  12. Design01*

    This reminded me of my situation! I’m an American but my name is foreign and my first language was a combination of English and Chinese.

    In the final stages of my interview process (I had 5 interviews on different days), the CEO called me back in and asked me if I was comfortable with English. I was stunned. I went to a top tier university and until that point, I considered it to be one of my best subjects in school. I managed to hold it together until I got to my car, but as soon as I shut the door, I started to cry.

    I had another job offer (which they knew) so the HR manager called me that night to tell me that I had gotten the job. Long story short, it was really awkward with the CEO for a while, but I acted like nothing happened. It’s been a year since, and I’m glad I brushed it off- addressing it would have just increased the awkwardness.

    And you know what? Now that there’s been some time to think about it, I’m really glad he brought it up. He did me a favor by being straightforward with me, and it’s helped me develop more as a professional.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      If I was the interviewer in that situation I would have been crying at the possible lawsuit I just landed my company in. Don’t talk or hint at race, gender, pregnancy, national origin, religion, or any other protected class.


    2. Katie in Ed*

      How did he do you a favor by making a racist assumption? I mean, did he not hear you speaking?

      Oy indeed!

  13. clobbered*

    I’d wait a bit and then bring it up with your immediate boss. Otherwise ignore it.

    I actually believe in acting normal in an interview (yet another way it is like dating). There’s no point in fooling people into thinking they are getting something else. Then if they hire you, everybody knows what they are getting.

    Congratulations on your new job. Don’t let this colour your experience.

  14. FormerManager*

    I’d vote for not bringing it up at all.

    Also, remind yourself that even though you cried at the interview, there was still something about you that made them want to hire you and give you a signing bonus. I think that says a lot.

  15. Ramona*

    My partner is in the tech industry, and he had a very similar experience as the OP during one of his interviews. He had really great interviews all day, did extremely well on the questions, and then at the end of the day, met with the CTO. This guy was just plain nasty to him, interrogating him about the research he did during grad school and saying in so many words that it was bad. (Even though my partner didn’t have much control over the research as it was primarily conducted by his advisor, who’s famous in the Computer Science field). I don’t think my partner cried during the interview, but I know he was fairly upset about it – upset enough that the CTO probably noticed.

    Anyway, my partner found out later that the CTO purposely gave interviewees a difficult time. I’m not sure why – maybe just to see how they handled stress. My partner didn’t get the job, but that wasn’t because of that interview. (He did progress to the next stage of talking to the president).

    I know that not all tech companies function this way in their interview process, but I suspect a few do because of the striking similarity between the OP’s and my partner’s experience. That makes me think that you should follow AAM’s advice about moving past this as fast as possible.

  16. kdizzle*

    Some interviewers are jerks / people who have absolutely zero social skills. It’s a totally natural reaction to be caught off guard and cry when someone says something bizarrely nasty to you. I would probably just ignore it in future interactions. He likely feels embarrassed about it because he was equally caught off guard by your crying.

    I had an interview where the interviewer started off (not with any kind of introduction) by saying, “This job is sink or swim! Can you handle that?”
    When I replied, “I have a history of buoyancy…”
    He cut me off and said, “jokes won’t win you any favor here.”
    Then after every answer he’d say, “That’s in no way analogous to what we do here. Can’t you tell me anything more substantive than that?”
    It was brutal. I laughed during the interview because of the sheer absurdity of it all. When people act in a way that’s completely unexpected, many of us don’t have much of a choice but to respond viscerally. Don’t sweat it (figuratively).

    Congrats on the job!

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I was in a really awful interview several years ago in which I got the distinct impression that there was another candidate in mind and they were just going through the motions. They were really rude too, like your interviewer. They cut me off, were argumentative and dismissive.

      About 15 minutes in, I decided I’d had enough, and that there was no way I’d ever work for them, and told them very politely “you know, based on these questions I don’t think I’m a very good fit so I’m going to remove myself from consideration. Thanks for your time, and good luck with your decision.” And then I left.

      Alison probably wouldn’t approve but I was having such a visceral reaction to them that I could only think the best move was to end it immediately.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        No way, I’m totally fine with that and think I’d probably do it myself in similar circumstances. No reason to subject yourself to rude treatment if you’re not desperate.

  17. Victoria HR*

    I had an interview a couple of months ago that I blew by crying. Bleh. I’ve traveled a lot in my life thanks to my dad’s job and we were talking about the place I’d been, and then she asked where my dad was now, and I had to say that he passed away in February, which made me well up, dangit. Then she asked me what my toughest moment at work was and I said that it was when one of my employees was killed on the jobsite and I was at the hospital when his wife was told that he’d passed. Teared up at that point too. Ugh. Sometimes ya just can’t win.

    1. Sasha*

      Wow. If I was the interviewer, I would probably think it was weird if you didn’t get a little misty.

      As for myself, I would probably do my nervous laughter thing and look like a sociopath.

      1. KayDay*

        Agreed. A company that doesn’t hire someone because they cry over people dying is not a company I want to work for (btw, while my normal advice is to try your darndest not to cry at work; anyone who faults you over crying a little over a death (of someone you know) is a d—).

        Also agree about the nervous laughter. I smile and chuckle when I’m nervous, which is great for somethings (like public speaking) and no so good for other things (talking about bad things happening).

  18. MB*

    He may have been legitimately trying to help you, but he still sounds like an ass. I think can of a dozen different ways to phrase that.

  19. Anon in the UK*

    I have to say that if I had been called obnoxious in a job interview, particularly by someone with whom I would be working, then unless I was unemployed with no prospect of finding anything else soon I would have turned it down.
    I think I’ve posted before about having an interview in which they queried my professional qualifications, spoke down to me and tried to secondguess some of my answers. I didn’t get that job, but a while later another vacancy came up and the recruiter called to see if I would be interested. Apparently I wasn’t the only past candidate who said ‘hell no’.

    1. OP*

      Yeah, it was a tough decision whether or not to take the job. I have a job that’s fine but a bit boring, and I actually had another offer at a different, smaller company. I ended up accepting because 1) it’s a well-known company that would look great on my resume, 2) the team that I’d be working on was doing really interesting stuff and using cutting-edge technology, 3) I’ve been looking to move across the country and this company would relocate me, and (most importantly) 4) I liked everyone I’d work with day to day, and my interaction with the VP would probably be limited to presenting our work to him on occasion.

      But yeah, my initial reaction was to walk out of the interview and never, ever consider that company again.

  20. Jennifer*

    The constructive advice regarding this situation has pretty much been covered here, so I won’t “duplicate” it ;) Instead I will just offer the OP some support if she is still reading.

    While not technically an “interview”, I cried during the prolonged hiring process for my current position as well. Although already hired, we had an extremely long and stressful training process, and when I flubbed part of the test at the end, I thought I had failed and possibly lost my job. I cried. I apologized about it and moved on without ever bringing it up again. All is fine in the world, I love my job, and it has never been an issue since. I wish you the best!

  21. Seal*

    I would favor option 1 (pretending it never happened), BUT I would also NEVER let my guard down around him. If this idiot thinks it’s OK to bully candidates during an interview, how does he treat his staff? I do have to give the OP credit for not only taking the job but getting a signing bonus as well. Had something like that happened to me in an interview I would have turned down the job offer; for me, being bullied to tears during an interview is a deal-breaker.

  22. DA*

    I don’t really have anything to add to the discussion that has been covered above, but I will add this:

    Don’t cry in an interview again. I honestly can’t think of a reason in any professional and legal interview that would yield in the applicant crying. The OP got lucky and even if the interviewer came off as a jerk, was able to get the crying incident overlooked and was hired.

    Going forward, I would advise the OP to work on figuring out how to get a thicker skin because if an interview question yields crying, what happens when crap goes down with a client or any number of things happens in the professional setting? It will hold your career back.

    Take this experience as what it is – a learning experience – and just move on.

    1. Jennifer*

      One could ask the same about men yelling/shouting and getting into very heated arguments at work? Someone up-thread posted this link – and I think it bears re-posting:


      Emotional outbursts at work are not limited one gender. They just tend to look/sound different.

      As a note, I work in an extremely stressful job. EXTREMELY. I see far more men “lose it” than I do women.

      1. Joey*

        That’s a valid point. And I would bring that up if it were men talking about acting like ogres at work.

    2. Jamie*

      Conversations about stereotypical behavior can also shed some light on why the behavior exists.

      So not you, not some other people, but maybe after reading this someone will see someone having an uncharacteristic struggle to hold back tears and won’t rush to immediate judgment about whatever stereotypes you think we’re enforcing and just maybe they will consider the possibility that it’s a biological response and give them a moment.

      Or those who have struggled with this from time to time can never admit it publicity so people like the OP and others who have had this happen can feel totally alone and that would reinforce that strong, successful women never experience this and that there’s something wrong with them.

      There is value to discussing issues that clearly affect a lot of people, mostly women, in the workplace or there wouldn’t be so many articles written about it. If you find no value in the discussion, fair enough, but it just might be valuable for someone else.

      1. Joey*

        That’s great, but I would think there would be more suggestions on how to actually combat the crying and less on rationalizing it.

        1. fposte*

          Sure, it’s always helpful to give options, but you’re starting with the very-much-unproven assumption that it’s unacceptable. If it’s acceptable, it’s not rationalizing.

          So if you think it’s unacceptable, do you think it’s always unacceptable? What’s the difference between acceptable and unacceptable?

          1. Joey*

            This is sorta like asking when rudeness turns into threatening behavior. It depends on the context, bu in the ops case I think it’s pretty clear that its not acceptable in most workplaces to cry when someone tells you you sound obnoxious.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I agree with you there, and it’s not a reaction that anyone would want to have or would feel okay about, but the reality is that sometimes people just have a moment where they react less than well to something, and I don’t think it needs to be the kiss of death.

              That said, I agree with Ivy that I’d be unlikely to hire someone who cried in an interview, because it would raise too many concerns about me about how thick-skinned they were and how they’d take criticism. (This isn’t intended to imply the OP has those problems, but rather is a reflection of the fact that when you’re interviewing someone, you have limited information and have to go on what you have, even if it might be out of character for them.) So I think it comes down to interviews vs regular work situations; in the latter, it’s never appropriate but it doesn’t need to be the end of your reputation either (again, assuming we’re talking about your eyes tearing up, not weeping).

              1. Joey*

                I just hate that women who lose it emotionally frequently get labeled as weak while men are typically given more slack. So personally I’m interested in hearing how women who’ve dealt with it have overcome it.

                And yeah, I’m kinda shocked that anyone would hire someone that cried in the interview. I can’t see myself ever doing that. Ever.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                Alison and Ivy, I sincerely doubt that either of you would construct an interview in such a manner that would reduce a person into tears.
                So if a person did go to tears while interviewing with you, I would seriously wonder about their ability to cope in the workplace, also.

                I like the advice above for those antagonistic interviewers: “I don’t think I am a good fit for this position.”

                1. Joey*

                  I don’t know if its just me, but I don’t get the view that others can control your crying. Others don’t make you cry. Only you can allow yourself to get so emotionally overwhelmed you feel like you can’t stop the crying. But it’s still yours to control.

    3. fposte*

      Well, it’s turned into a thread about crying at work, so we’re going to be mentioning it at a greater rate than it happens. And in some of these cases other people might not even know that it’s happening.

      I think “crying” is really a pretty broad term, encompassing anything from Lucille Ball boo hoo that screeches everything to a halt whenever anything deviates from simplicity to a welling up in a sad conversation about layoffs that doesn’t affect the course of the discussion. If you cry loud, if you cry often, if you cry in a way that you can’t work through or prevents other people from working through it, then I do think it would be helpful to develop strategies to modify it (and it is modifiable, like anger management). But tears aren’t sulfuric acid, and if the conversation is carrying on regardless nobody needs to worry that it’s been made toxic because somebody’s leaked a little along the way.

  23. Elle*

    Yeah, crying is pretty manipulative, that’s why people don’t like it. It’s just like punching the wall in that people will try to work around “making Lucy cry” or whatever it is. As someone who is quite blunt and loud, I’ve found that complete … witches can dissolve into tears at the drop of a hat and they then have the weak sympathetic woman card.

    Bottom line: women are culturally conditioned to cry because other expressions of frustration that are available to men (anger etc) are criticized heavily in women. So women cry because it’s the only way to get the correct attention/response. That’s fine with friends, boyfriends, parents but when it moves into the workplace it’s unprofessional. It is NOT like a peanut allergy: it’s a culturally conditioned response. Read “Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office”. It’s not about how women should be mean. It’s about how women are culturally conditioned to behave in certain ways (deferential, crying, etc etc) and how when they bring this into the workplace, it hurts their career advancement.

    1. Elle*

      Bottom line, a senior experienced professional should not be crying in the office UNLESS in a non work related emergency (family etc), Crying due to criticism that mild is completely unprofessional and is not typical, imho.

      1. fposte*

        That’s a pretty tough bottom line; John Boehner, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton would all fail by it.

        1. LPBB*

          I’m not sure how old you are, but I still remember the criticism that Pat Schroeder got for tearing up in a press conference when she announced the end of her presidential bid in the late 80s. She used to say later, I don’t know if she actually did, that she tried maintaining a file of instances of male politicians crying in public, but had to quit because it got too big.

    2. OP*

      I don’t think that crying is ever a good idea in the workplace, and if I could have avoided it, I would have! I also definitely agree with you that it’s culturally conditioned, but I don’t think “culturally conditioned” equates to “easy to turn off”. People are culturally conditioned to do plenty of things–wear certain clothes, speak a certain language with a certain accent, maintain certain personal boundaries–and it would be weird and difficult and time-consuming for anyone to change any of these behaviors. It’s not just a case of “This isn’t advantageous in the workplace, so just stop doing it!”

      I will definitely check out the book recommendation, though!

      1. Job seeker*

        I don’t claim to be a expert at work place issues, but I understand how you feel about crying in front of others. Please do not feel too bad. I am not thick-skinned and wear my feelings on my sleeve a lot. I hate this. I wish so much I was a tough person. I cried a little one time at a job in front of a co-worker. She and I were both the same age and I was new. A younger girl there kept making comments to me about how I was having to learn so much. I had been out of the workforce for awhile and things had changed. I had took her picking at me for a couple of weeks but then I finally teared up in front of the co-worker training me.

        I was so embarrassed. I felt that I was already doing things wrong. I realized later people noticed I dressed very nice and people noticed I had pricey jewelry and shoes. One co-worker commented I did not have to work. Well, I ended up becoming good friends with the people there because I think they just did not know me at first.

        I wish I knew how to not get my feeling hurt so easily. I wish there was a secret to being tough. I hate to hurt anyone else either. I have seen other women be so professional and strong. Why can’t I learn to do this?

  24. sr*

    Glad the topics of arguments in interviews has come up. I recently had a ‘spirited discussion’ in an interview that I feel on edge about. Essentially I was asked how I would react in a certain crisis situation, and then the interviewer said my answer was wrong because I should have prepared for that situation before hand. Trick question, no? So I then essentially argued with him, agreeing in principle, but pointing out the spirit of the question and defending my answer. This is to a man from a tradition where young women are seen and not heard. Needless to say … probably not going to get an offer.

    1. DA*

      You stood your ground and defended your position. There is nothing wrong with that. At least you didn’t cry when you received some push back.

    2. Kelly L.*

      Wait, so the answer was supposed to be “I’d never be in this crisis situation in the first place”? Yeesh, what a nasty little Kobayashi Maru trap. I’d tend to see “I’d never be in that situation in the first place” as a copout answer myself…

  25. KayDay*

    On crying at work: I always really liked Kelly Cutrone’s advice on crying, “If you have to cry, go outside,” because it accepts that sometimes people get emotional and they just need a moment to collect themselves. No big deal. Just take it outside (or to the bathroom) until you gather yourself.

    Is crying appropriate for the office? No. Is it the worst thing you could do ever? Also no.

    …and I’m totally embarrassed to admit that I’ve seen the Hills =\

    1. Yup*

      I agree, “go outside” is good advice regardless. No matter what one’s default stress reaction is – crying, yelling, blushing, withdrawing, whatever – it’s nearly *always* professionally OK to say “Will you excuse for a moment?” and go compose yourself privately.

      I think people try to gut it out and end up overwhelmed. To my mind, asking for a few minutes of breathing room is pretty fine in all work places. Unless you’re transporting live organs for transplant or something,

  26. Lisa*

    This thread is great. In stressful situations, I well up. I know it’s probably technically considered crying, but it’s not like im making noise or tears are streaming down my face. Still, once you quickly dab at your eyes, even if you immediately regain composure, you’ve just “cried” at work. That moment when you’re trying to will the tears back into your eyes is the worst.

    1. Job seeker*

      I agree. I have never cried like sobbing in front of people, but I think to tear up makes you human. It still is embarrassing. I don’t know the trick to stopping your feelings.

  27. Marly King*

    I had one interview with a Pennsylvania-based company, and part way through the interview, the interviewer asked if “I would be able to clean up my accent at work.” I’m from Deep South state, but have lived in the Midwest for the past several years, so I was completely taken off guard at that. We awkwardly stared at each other for about 3 minutes before she asked another question.

    Not as bad as your story OP — but why do interviewers have to be jerks ? Aren’t interviews are stressful enough as it is?? Congratulations on getting the job, though!

  28. Job seeker*

    Yes, I am also someone with a soft southern accent and had one interviewer say to me “I detect a southern accent.” This was a panel interview and I didn’t know if this was a good thing or a bad thing. I thought she was just trying to figure out where I came from. Since I can’t change this, I felt awkward too. I too am glad this poster got her job. It turned out good for her.

  29. Linea*

    The OP got some great advice, I think. The ensuing discusssion about crying at work reminded me of a scene in “Sex and the City” – even though it’s a show I never really took seriously, this scene really stuck with me: Samantha is interviewed by an insulting guy, who basically says he wouldn’t hire her because she’s a woman, and she gets angry and yells at him and then runs to the elevator, holding in tears until the doors close.

    FWIW, I only cried at work once and I did it “the Samantha way”, holding the tears in until I could close the bathroom stall behind me.

  30. moss*

    I have cried at work. I don’t cry over every little thing but it has happened. Last time I cried in front of my manager during my performance review. I told him I wasn’t crying to manipulate him, it was just a reflex and to please carry on with the review. He did and our relationship is fine now.

    Crying is just a thing. I never “use” it to gain anything. What could I possibly gain? It’s just a thing that I do.

  31. Laura L*

    Have any managers dealt with people who have full-out cried at work? When people started talking about crying, I thought they were talking about actual crying, with tears running down the face and all that.

    I’ve done that a couple times and, in those situations, I felt that it was out of my control. What’s a good way to handle it if that happens? How would a manager react to that?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I had a couple of people do that. One was from stress and feeling overwhelmed (and it actually led to us having a good conversation and solving a lot of the problems she was facing, which she hadn’t told me about until she lost it in my office one day), and one was with someone who knew she was really struggling in her job. I had a candid conversation and told her that if this wasn’t the job for her, there was no shame in that and we could work together to plan a transition, and it didn’t have to be an awful situation with firing and so forth, and she seemed to cry out of relief. Neither of these were sobbing or anything like that, but definitely full-fledged tears running down the face.

          1. Jamie*

            I think firings are in a different category. I’ve seen full on breakdowns and also very tough guys trying to hold them back. When someone is trying not to cry I always leave to go get them some water, just to buy them some time and not make it worse.

            Unexpectedly losing a job is right up there with divorce and death for stress levels and it’s understandable people may have very different reactions.

            Now, with firings as opposed to lay offs, I agree with what is oft stated here in that it shouldn’t be a real shock if discussions and warnings were given along the way – but between management not giving clear clear messages and employees being in denial it happens a lot.

            1. Laura L*

              Yes, I ended up being fired from that job, but I was definitely expecting it, so I didn’t cry much during the meeting. I mostly saved it for the car ride home.

              Also, even if you are expecting it, it’s still upsetting.

      1. Laura L*

        Thanks. I somehow managed to save the sobbing for the bathroom after the conversation was over, but I think it still reflected poorly on me.

        In retrospect, what they were talking about wasn’t a huge deal, but I was new to the workforce and wasn’t used to dealing with these things, was caught off-guard, and was frustrated by how the conversation went.

  32. Teatime*

    i must be thick skinned, i did not find his comment nasty at all. I find being argumentative in an interview offensive. However, i would have appreciated the honesty of your arguement. I hired a person who “debated” in an interview – i found it assertive and can do. I thought here is someone i wont have to “micro-manage” she can get the job done. Turns out – she debated everything, from rest periods, to spreadsheets, to hours, to work that was delegated to her, etc. etc. Needless to say – the staff decided they couldnt work with her any longer.
    Crying – for me – has no place in an office any more than anger. Both human emotions. i do not mean violence, but some peopel their voice rises their face gets red and their tone changes and gets louder. This is how they experess stress or hurt. i have felt like crying plenty of times due to stress on the job. Maybe even have a little cry on my break. But not infront of my peers. I hate to turn this into sexist, but how many “criers” are male in this thread? and if we want Equality – why is it only when it suits us? Same pay, same job title as Bob, but hold my door open, and let me cry – because i am female? i dont understand. BUT – i am glad you got the job. Clealry the VP holds Jane in respect and her hiring decsions. He was just givng advise. Perhaps in this coddling world we live in, it came off blunt and rude. Congrats.

  33. Jessica*

    I’ve cried twice at work (no sobbing, just tearing up). The first was when I felt helpless with rage at an off-site supervisor. I tend to tear up with anger than anything else (rather, I tear up when I can’t do anything about my anger), and I just finished my phone conversation with her and walked to the bathroom to wash my face off and cool down. The next day, my on-site supervisor called all of us who were also under the off-site supervisor (only four of us had two supervisors) and told us, “There is to be no crying at work. I heard that there was crying in the office yesterday. There will be no crying in the future.” I was never so glad to leave a job as that one. (That’s also the one where a client was throwing pencils, staplers, tape dispensers and whatever else he could get his hands on directly at me while both the on-site supervisor and the security guard hid in her office instead of coming out to help diffuse the situation, which was her creation in the first place.)

    The second time? A couple years ago when I found out that my grandmother had died. I teared up, told my boss I was leaving soon and would be gone for a couple days, finished my work, went home, and started sobbing at home.

    Point being, some people throw things when they are full of anger. I tear up and remove myself from the situation, so I do NOT throw something. I’m pretty sure my way is less destructive. ;~)

  34. Stephanie*

    I once had a boss who cried while terminating my employment.

    No sobbing, but red, watery eyes, trembling chin, and a hoarse catch in the throat. I’m female, he’s male, go figure.

  35. Stephanie*

    I have seen tears running down an interviewee’s face. It wasn’t readily explicable since we were a low-key company and I was doing what I thought was a typical, softballish interview, as I had done many hundreds of times before. The candidate offered to work for 40% less than the position was worth and also expressed his discomfort with being dependent on his girlfriend due to protracted unemployment. And the tears just flowed and flowed.

    It wasn’t just me – the candidate did this with all the other interviewers. Because of the crying and also the lowball salary proposal, as well as secondary factors, we did not make an offer.

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