more people cry at work than you think

If you’ve ever cried at work, you probably felt mortified – and you might not have realized how far from alone you are. While we tend to think tears have no place in an office, the reality is that a lot of people cry at work at some point in their careers.

That shouldn’t be terribly surprising – work can be frustrating, and it’s often full of disappointments and strong emotions, and many people are deeply emotionally invested in their careers. But we’ve also been taught that “professionalism” means not showing certain types of emotions.

At Slate today, I wrote about crying at work — why it happens, recovering after it does, when it can become a problem, and how managers should handle it. You can read it here.

{ 214 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous Princess*

    I once cried at work after I found out an apartment I was in the middle of trying to rent fell through. There was a lot of other stuff behind it, but what I remember most poignantly about it, is that because my office had a big window facing the hallway, someone noticed me crying and came in. The next thing I know, I have 5 or six people in my office watching me sob, and that only upset me more to the point where I couldn’t speak enough to get them to leave so I could collect myself. It was one of the worst experiences I had at what was already an incredibly toxic workplace.

    1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      What? someone came in and then got reinforcements or what? I mean, I’m the kind of person that if I saw someone crying I’d want to check on them, make sure they were okay, but I certainly wouldn’t gather a bunch of other people (and would likely shoo said people away if they showed up uninvited).

      1. Anonymous Princess*

        Yeah, that’s how normal people would behave, but this group was far from normal. They just stared at me. Literally. Just. Stared.

        It’s not even like they were super compassionate people wanting to make me feel better. They were actually really selfish, terrible people, and workplace was rife with sexual harassment. I’ve been out of there for almost seven years, and the further I get from that time, the crazier it all seems.

      2. Lilo*

        the way i read it was that one person came out of curiosity and then maybe one or two more also because curiosity, and at that point it was the group that kept attracting people. still awful.

      3. Kathy*

        Everyone is different -the times that I have cried at work, the last thing I would want is people coming to ask me what is wrong. If it was work related; maybe it could be a argument with a manager, co-worker, or a project that went wrong, etc. Do I really want to explain, er no.
        If it was personal, in most scenarios, I wouldn’t want to discuss with my co-workers.

    2. Amadeo*

      For heaven’s sake. I lost my cat about a month ago and my coworkers all trooped in to bring me a card and some thoughtful flowers. I hadn’t been crying, but they had the beautiful presence of mind to hand these things off, wish my their sympathy and then let me know they weren’t going to stand there and stare at me and then filed almost immediately back out.

      That’s how you handle a coworker’s tears or threat of tears. Not freaking creating an imaginary set of bleachers and settling in for the show!

  2. Greg M.*

    I’ve definitely seen it. I’ve had a couple coworkers with anxiety issues who just need to do that sometimes.

    I’ve had customers do it too.

    My approach is to treat it like it’s normal, like there’s nothing weird about it, offer support and a drink of water and my one friend a hug. Never ever shame them or act like it’s weird.

  3. Amber Rose*

    I’ve cried at this job twice. Once after a very difficult doctor’s appointment, and once because I’d been in a car accident on my way in and the stress caught up to me when I got to my desk.

    The first time I was gently informed that if I needed to go sit in my car or take a short walk, I should feel free to do so. And the second time I was offered a chair in the accounting office and some water. I don’t feel too bad about it, since I have seen my boss cry at work maybe a dozen times and everyone just accepts it as a thing that happens sometimes.

    But it sure is embarrassing to cry in front of people, work or not, so I usually try to hide in the bathroom.

  4. Funbud*

    I really only witnessed this once when it was NOT related to a personal problem or tragedy.

    I worked briefly for an executive recruiting firm (multinational, well known). I did not love it. Too competitive and too high pressure. I was an assistant to one of the recruiters. One day I went into her office and found her weeping. She responded to my expression of concern with some embarrassment and said she ‘was fine”. Concerned, I went down the hall to her boss, who’d always treated me nicely, and told her that my boss was weeping in her office. She tossed it off, saying “Well, she needs to learn her place” or “She needs to know when to speak” or something like that. I must have had a shocked expression on my face, as she thanked me for being a kind and empathetic person but told me it was nothing to worry about.
    I went back to my desk amazed that anyone would cry over a job. I mean, seriously? There are more important things in life. I found a new job about a month later and left.

    1. Cube Diva*

      This feels… really unfeeling and mean? I’ve definitely cried by myself and in front of others at various jobs. For reasons including: terrible personal situation, difficult meeting that finally bubbled me over, general mental illness/anxiety, you name it.

      I think going to your grandboss in this situation wasn’t necessary… and what she said back to you was terrible. But to say, “I went back to my desk amazed that anyone would cry over a job. I mean, seriously? There are more important things in life,” is terrible. She may or may not have been crying ABOUT the job. And even if she were, it’s not your place to tell her she shouldn’t.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        I would have concluded that she was crying about work after the grandboss’s reaction like that.

        I worked part time and I forget the details but something happened at work that left me very upset. A friend basically told me that if a part-time job was making me that miserable? Then maybe it was time to move on.

        It’s probably normal and ok to cry about work on occasion. Work can be frustrating. But work is work and you shouldn’t be spending your days being miserable in pursuit of a paycheck. If you’re going to cry, let it be over important things like life. Breakups and death and love, not whether or not the boss liked the way you filled out the TPS reports. Who needs that?

        1. W.D.W.*

          Some of us can’t control it though. Or we can control it most of the time, but then it just gets too overwhelming and we either cry about it or throw ourselves out a window.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yeah, crying is my physical response to feeling very upset or frustrated–things that are not unusual to feel at work. It doesn’t happen often but I definitely have cried at work. Not because I think it’s the end of the world, but that’s just how I express my feelings. I can usually keep it in until I get to a place where I can cry privately, but if I feel like crying and don’t let myself cry–it is physically painful! It literally feels like there is an actual lump in my throat and it won’t go away until I let the tears flow.

          2. Ev*

            Exactly. Sometimes I am experiencing an emotion and it causes me to leak at the face. It’s not a choice, it’s a biological process that I have only limited control over. I’m not doing it on purpose and I’m not doing it *at* anyone.

        2. Marlowe*

          That’s rather short-sighted. Work matters a lot for many people, and many more would be upset at being treated badly by anyone, let alone someone in a position of power over us.

          It’s easy to say “it’s time to move on”. Finding a job isn’t always easy—it’s almost never easy—and losing one’s job could mean risking a lot of happiness and well-being if you suddenly don’t have the money for groceries or heat or rent. You place a distinction between “work” and “the important things in life” as though they were two circles that never overlap. But they often do.

        3. Mockingdragon*

          This assumes that crying only happens when a person is miserable. I routinely cry when I’m frustrated or angry, even when it’s not a super high level of emotion. It’s just a thing my body does, and trying to hold it back makes everything so much worse than just releasing that tension and moving on.

      2. Fundbud*

        I didn’t mean to sound mean. When I walked into my boss’s office and found her crying I asked “Is everything all right?” My first thought, honestly, was that someone in her family had died. She managed to say “No, no I’m fine” but kept on crying. I went to her boss without even thinking about it because I was concerned about my boss’s welfare. Maybe it wasn’t necessary to go to her but it simply an impulse of concern on my part.

        I never would have told her (or anyone) that they should not cry over a job. That’s not my place. Frankly call me hard-hearted, but, it seems rather pathetic. Jobs come and go. There are far more important things in life. Either suck it up or find another job, as I did.

        1. Doug Judy*

          Oh if only it were that easy to just “find another job” and “suck it up”. Maybe she had been looking for another job for a long time and hand’t been successful. And n0t everyone can afford to take a lower paying job just to get out of a bad one. Sometimes people are stuck. Everyone has a breaking point.

          1. anonners*

            The other thing to be mindful of is that a negative feedback loop at one job can make someone feel trapped or impede their ability to develop good work habits. It can be fairly difficult for someone to feel like they can get by in their current job or succeed in another job if they have experienced enough blows to their self-efficacy.

            I’m someone who found another job under messed up circumstances, but I’m also well aware that resiliency only goes so far. Having an emotional response and being able to pick yourself up and move on aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, and understanding that is important for acting empathetically at work.

        2. Yojo*

          I wouldn’t say hard-hearted–you sound downright cruel. Seriously, going straight to her boss? That’s messed up.

          Some people just don’t need a very strong trigger to cry–it’s not “pathetic,” ffs. It’s just how some people are wired.

          I hope you examine this contempt you have, because honestly it’s toxic. And take a look at your gender views–no matter your own gender. I’m willing to bet they’re related.

        3. Delphine*

          This is just…so unkind. And you don’t even know why your boss was crying. And your grandboss’s response was so callous. She needs to “know her place”???

        4. SarahKay*

          Describing your boss’s behaviour as pathetic is a bit harsh, though. Sometimes, even at the best of jobs, things can all get a bit much.
          I like my current job, and the people I work with (and, thank goodness, none of my bosses have been close to as awful as your boss’s boss sounds!) but a couple of times over the years things have all got on top of me and I’ve shed a few tears in private.
          Are there more important things in life? Yes, of course there are.
          But that doesn’t mean that work is entirely unimportant, or that even the best job won’t have bad days, and I’d hate to think my co-workers would consider me pathetic if they happened to see me crying on a particularly bad day.

        5. PlainJane*

          I’m not a fan of crying or other big emotional displays at work, but I have to agree with the other commenters that you seem pretty cruel here. She may have been crying over the job–interactions at work can hurt–but she may also have been dealing with something tough in her personal life, and something that happened at work was the last straw that overwhelmed her. People work through deaths of loved ones, divorces, and all kinds of other hard stuff that they may not want to share but that leaves them emotionally fragile. We’re human beings, and as much as we may want to compartmentalize, we still bring our whole selves to work each day.

        6. Divino*

          Wow. Your grandboss sure was wrong about you kind and empathetic, wasn’t she? Your comments here are downright cruel. How unpleasant!

        7. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

          Granted, the “knowing her place” comment is so far out there that the workplace may be irredeemable, but sometimes it’s just be a perfect storm that sparks the crying. I once worked in a lab with a lab manager that could be a grouch. One day there was a snowstorm and people wanted to leave, but there was a late shipment of samples arriving. One tech asked if she could leave early (she had one of the longest commutes and this way an area that doesn’t handle any amount of snow well and we could have handled the late samples without her) and the lab manager flipped her lid and berated the tech in a way that she wouldn’t normally (it doesn’t sound like much when I type it out, but trust me, nerves were fraying this day.) Anyhoo, I walked in on the tech crying in one part of the lab that was semi-private. I got her some tissues, told her that lab manager could be such an ash hole sometimes, and took care of some testing that she usually did so that she could recover in peace. Not a biggie, just a confluence of not goodness.

        8. Courageous cat*

          Dude… jobs are people’s livelihood. It is extremely important to have a job for most people. It’s pretty disingenuous to pretend you don’t get that. Have you never in your life been able to unable to find a job for a length of time?

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Seriously. It sounds like Funbud or Fundbud or Fungus or whatever is both “hard-hearted” and staggeringly clueless.

          2. Kat in VA*


            I looked for five months – and I don’t *have* to be employed in the sense that we can do fine on husband’s salary if I’m iron-fisted with the budget. I wanted a job so that we could start building some real retirement and, yeah, I like shopping on Amazon on occasion. ;)

            All levity aside, it was five incredibly stressful tortuous upsetting months. And yeah, it was literally “just” a job to me. I am hard hearted and hard headed and even I cried at least 2 or 3 times. I know I whined constantly on the AAM open threads for sure.

            So, “pathetic”? No. There could be stressors and upsets that we can only guess at.

            Empathy is innate for some, learned for others. I’m guessing this unkind poster got low marks in the latter.

        9. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          People’s identities are often very much intertwined with their jobs, and having problems with work can be very personal. Most people in my field, for instance, don’t see work as just a job – it’s something we do because we love it. And it’s often very difficult to just go out and get another job, even a stop gap type. It comes across as very mean spirited to denigrate someone for crying about work.

          I’ve cried at work a few times when I had a very harsh boss who was very cruel in his criticisms of my work. As a new trainee being screamed at and told I was stupid for having trouble with some basics really did a number on my self esteem. If your boss was getting similarly harsh treatment from their boss then crying seems like an entirely reasonable response.

        10. ErinW*

          You know, the job doesn’t need to be toxic for you to cry at it. I’ve cried over lots of things that have continued to be part of my life (husband, pets, hobbies) because an individual moment was terribly stressful but part of an overall satisfying whole.

    2. KimberlyR*

      I have cried over a job before. It was a really stressful time and I wasn’t getting the help and support I needed for my workload. No one saw me, fortunately. Its not that easy to disassociate from work and not let it affect you sometimes. I hope you can find some compassion for those of us who do occasionally break down at work.

      1. SignalLost*

        I’ve cried over work at work, in front of my boss (once). I wish more male managers (and probably some female ones) understand that women can cry without being sad. I cry when I’m really angry and frustrated, and men who see that seem to think I’m sad. No, I’m furious!

        1. Damn it, Hardison!*

          I’m more apt to cry when frustrated (really, really frustrated) than sad, actually. That’s been the primary emotion behind any time I’ve cried regarding work.

          1. just peachy.*

            Me too. When I’m sad, I usually become numb. When I’m angry or frustrated, I’m a lot more likely to cry it out than scream and yell.

        2. Kate R*

          “I wish more male managers (and probably some female ones) understand that women can cry without being sad.”

          Me too! I once muted my phone so I could cry during a conference call because I was just so frustrated at being talked over while trying to explain a problem and proposed solution for my team. What I really wanted to do was yell, “STFU for a moment so I can talk!” But that seemed more unprofessional. I also sometimes cry when I’m feeling overwhelmed (I work from home, so I have more leeway with crying), but it’s really just to take a moment to process the emotion followed quickly by an attack plan. Crying doesn’t always need consoling. Sometimes it’s just an emotional release.

          (I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with being emotionally invested in a job I spend 40 or more hours a week doing)

        3. J.*

          Solidarity, SignalLost. I’m an angry crier, too, and it’s the worst. I just get more angry at the loop of having cried and people aren’t taking me seriously, too.

        4. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yup, angry and frustrated are way more likely to make me cry! And then I get frustrated with myself for crying which obviously just makes it worse. Super fun!

          1. Anonna Miss*

            Many women in America were socialized at a very young age that expressing anger is just not acceptable, but crying is. It’s very hard to break that socialization as an adult. (Boys are often socialized the opposite way – crying is just not done, but expressing anger is allowable if justified.)

            Not surprisingly, due to sexist attitudes, crying in the workplace is seen as a far worse offense than yelling or getting angry.

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              This. And it’s so frustrating to see people telling women that we should behave more like men, when really women are generally socialized to be better people. It’s much better to deal with people crying at work than with people yelling at work, which depending on the context can be downright threatening.

    3. Bea*

      I’m glad you’ve never been invested in a job enough to cry over it. What a boring detached existence to leave all emotions the door for over 40hrs a week.

      Especially if you’re given a vicious review and threatened with termination. I bawled and then went out and found a new job because that place sucked.

      1. Doug Judy*

        Or cried because you just found out you didn’t get a job you were a final candidate for and now your stuck at HorribleJob for the foreseeable future.

      2. Lissa*

        Wait, are you glad she hasn’t been invested enough in a job to cry over it, or do you think it’s a boring and detached existence?

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I mean, some people cry at emotional points in movies. It’s not wrong or weird to be more invested in your job than you are in a two-hour movie.

      If you’re not a crier, cool. But some people are. (And our ideas about the display of this particular emotion are drenched in sexism so….)

      1. SleepyInSeattle*

        Thank you! The sexism inherent in what we consider “professional” behavior in many circumstances is really important to acknowledge. Yelling is also an emotional reaction but it’s tolerated to a much higher degree than tears in many workplaces.

        1. Middle School Teacher*

          And also tolerated way more in men, it seems… either way, the sexism inherent in certain workplace emotions sucks.

    5. Wow*

      “I went back to my desk amazed that anyone would cry over a job. I mean, seriously? There are more important things in life.”

      Wow that’s… Really rude. Jobs are rarely just jobs, they involve your sense of self-worth/accomplishment and imvolve relationships with bosses/coworkers and affect your bank account. Literally 1/3 of your weekday is spent at work where you do best to be a good worker, meet deadlines, deal with problems, etc. Your job *is* one of the important things in life and it’s fair to deal with your emotions in that space. Obviously it’s not the only important thing in life but don’t devalue its place within many people’s value systems.

    6. Lizzy May*

      For many people a job is one of the most important things in their life. I’m not going to judge people who cry over anything but certainly not a job. People are often quite invested in their job and for good reason. A job is financial security, a social hub, and very much tied to one’s feelings of self-worth and success. All good reasons to be invested enough to cry.

    7. Observer*

      I went back to my desk amazed that anyone would cry over a job. I mean, seriously? There are more important things in life.

      For a lot of people that’s just not true. For a lot of people, it’s where they spend the largest chunk of their waking hours. For a lot of people their job is their means of survival (even people with well paid jobs.) For a lot of people their job is the key to really important things (starting from food and shelter through higher level needs like independence and self respect.)

      It’s good that you were able to recognize the toxicity and able to find another place. Please don’t look down on people who don’t have your choices.

      1. anonners*

        Yeah, there’s something disturbing about this attitude that I can’t quite put my finger on.

        I work in a field where most people have years of specialized post-graduate education and specialist domain knowledge, so they’ve invested a lot in their careers, even if working-to-live wasn’t what they set out to do. Chances are that work is the only place where they get their intellectual needs related to that body of knowledge met, or where they get the years of investment in their field and its attendant opportunity cost validated. Many of us can easily find jobs at related organizations, sure, but that doesn’t justify dismissing our investment in our careers and current jobs – for many people, that investment comes at a cost.

        If you can’t understand why this is important to people, I would hope that you aren’t in a managerial position.

    8. Close Bracket*

      > I went back to my desk amazed that anyone would cry over a job. I mean, seriously?

      Bless your heart, and may you never learn why people cry over jobs.

      1. SignalLost*

        Yeah, I loathe my current job and I still cried on a day I was absolutely set up to fail regarding staffing. I hate my job but I still want to do it well and not to be thrown under a bus.

    9. Totally Minnie*

      I’m really not trying to pile on here. But think about your scenario again. You saw your boss crying, so you went to your grandboss out of concern for her. Your grandboss’s reaction to finding out one of her subordinates was crying was “she needs to learn her place.” Have you really never done the math here? Because there are excellent odds that your boss was crying BECAUSE of your grandboss. I’m willing to bet actual cash money that her boss had just raked her over the coals for something. If you’ve never been yelled at by a boss until you started crying, I’m so very happy for you, but that doesn’t sound like it’s the case for the recruiter you were working for.

  5. Mallorie*

    Perfect timing for this. I had a break down last week and have been anxious about it ever since. I just can’t help it! I am a cryer when it comes to feelings of frustration or anger. And if don’t let it out, I just get more and more overwhelmed. Thankfully I have a boss who is super understanding and willing to be my venting “safe space”.

    1. Zona the Great*

      Yep. I cry when angry or frustrated. It’s awful and oh-so-common. I’m really working on it with Toastmasters and counseling.

      1. Amber T*

        The worst that happened to me was when I got misty eyed after a salary negotiation… frickin great timing. It was a combination of disappointment in myself for not being able to say everything I had been planning to say (I got tongue tied and distracted, even though I practiced and had it all planned out), frustration in the great-grand boss for talking over me and basically not letting me speak and making me feel I wasn’t worth it, and anger in my then-boss for saying he’d support me, then just sitting there silently and not going to bat for me like he said he would. Grandboss walked in on then-boss telling me how unfair everything was while I sat there red faced and semi-teary (NOT an appropriate reaction but I couldn’t just tell boss to leave) telling me that he had gone to bat for me after we left and told great-grand boss everything we had previously discussed. (I did get my salary adjusted because my work place is overall good! Then-boss was just blah and I get intimidated by great grandboss.)

      2. CR*

        I cried at the exit interview at my old job when I was talking about the reasons I was leaving. I was frustrated after being treated poorly by one of my supervisors and it all came rushing out. Luckily the HR rep was super nice about it, but it was not a proud way to go.

      3. Washi*

        I also cry when I am angry and it’s so annoying. I’m mad at you so why am I the one crying?? I’ve found that having a script I can stick to really helps, and luckily it’s mainly when the conflict feels personal, which isn’t as common at work, and which is something I work on in therapy.

      4. Alexandretheborrible*

        I cry not when I feel bad, but when someone is unexpectantly kind to me. My face turns red too.

        1. SignalLost*

          Heh, I had a really terrible week once (my best friend stopped speaking to me, I was on the scene of a shooting, and just something awful every day). I had an appointment with my GP scheduled at the end of that week, and I started crying because she was being nice to me. She gave me a referral to mental health services (VERY kindly – she asked if I wanted that and I said yes and kept crying). It was just so overwhelming that someone was being nice!

        2. ThatGirl*

          Oh, I have definitely done that – if I’m having a rough day or dealing with something stressful and someone says “are you okay?” kindly, there goes the waterworks.

    2. Midlife Tattoos*

      I too will cry if I’m really angry or frustrated, which will make me even angrier and frustrated. Years ago, I was being pushed out of my programmer job (by a male boss) and was asked to train a man on the team how to do my job. My head nearly exploded. I have never been angrier, and it brought a flood of tears which just made me angrier. I was already dealing with this sexist bullsh*t, and I felt like I was just giving that man ammo. I’d gotten a hold of myself once it was time to meet with HR, etc.

      1. Washi*

        Ugh that is the worst – being consistently mistreated and then if you ever crack and show how upset you are, you’re the irrational emotional one and you’ve lost.

    3. Stella*

      I think this is what’s going on with me at work. I’ve always been a fairly easy crier but never at work except about non-work crises… until the last couple months. I’ve been dealing with a difficult project team and I am finding myself just SO. FRUSTRATED. all the time that I have started crying during regular meetings. I’m so embarrassed but I can’t seem to stop. I can excuse myself but once we get back to work I’m just as frustrated/angry/pissed because we still haven’t made any progress so I’m likely to start again.

    4. zora*

      Yep, same here. I started tearing up when boss at Toxic Job sat me down to fire me. I was crying because I was so angry I hadn’t had a chance to quit first, but she of course thought I was so sadddd, and got all “oh, I know”, reached over to give me a hug, etc. Argh, that made me even more angry! grrr.

  6. Kat*

    I try not to cry in front of people at work, but it happens. In my current job, I have only cried (just a couple of times) about things totally non work related (my kiddo went through a series of medical, psychological, and academic crises last year and it REALLY wore me down) and I am lucky enough to have the flexibility to slip out for a few minutes to compose myself and clear my mind. I’ve cried a few times in front of people in other jobs and although it was embarrassing, but never turned into a big deal. At one toxic workplace, the culture was so intense that people cried ALL the time. In fact, when I gave my notice and told my team that I would be leaving they all started to sob and I felt like I was expected to cry too and I am sure I looked ridiculous trying to squeeze out tears like I was so sorry to be quitting when I was actually happy for the first time in over a year!

  7. CR*

    I cry when I’m angry or having really intense emotion, so once when I was treated unfairly in a meeting I teared up! It was awful, because I just looked sad and pathetic, when really I wanted to defend myself and look strong.

    1. froodle*

      Yes, the curse of the rage crier is so real! I’m not sobbing because I got my feelings hurt I’m sobbing because I’m furious!

      1. Midlife Tattoos*

        I’ve always wondered why we tend to cry when in a rage. It’s completely involuntary — in fact, it’s usually the exact opposite of the way you want to react. Do men ever do this? I’ve never heard of it happening to men.

        1. BadWolf*

          Or maybe they’ve just been “better” conditioned at an earlier age to suppress it? I feel like young boys are probably told to stop crying much more than young girls.

        2. zora*

          Yeah, I don’t know why, but any intense emotion comes out my tear ducts!! It’s so frustrating.

          My dad doesn’t rage cry, but he does cry more than most men, lots of his emotions come out as tearing up, especially happy ones.

        3. AliceBlueGown*

          Hoo boy. Generally speaking, men are allowed to express anger (in some circles, it’s the only emotion they’re allowed to express without censure, so every other emotion comes out as anger), and it looks to others and feels internally like they’re gaining control of a situation. Women are acculturated not to express anger, and when they do, it looks and feels like they’re losing control. While crying in women is also seen as losing control, it doesn’t seem to be as much of a threat as when they get angry, so it’s “safer” to express anger in tears rather than [fill-in-the-blank: shouting, scowling, pounding the table, etc].

        4. SignalLost*

          I actually had a traffic ticket dismissed because the judge was such a crap sack that he kept arguing with me about why I hadn’t done X and I got so mad I was crying. He was so uncomfortable he had to leave the room and I don’t even remember that he sat back down to dismiss the ticket. I was absolutely livid that he kept telling me I should have pulled over (on a road with no shoulder in heavy traffic – it WOULD have caused an accident). I’m sure he thought I was sad or trying to manipulate him. Which I guess I was, if you consider “trying to get you to listen to the words coming out of my mouth and not argue with me” to be manipulation.

        5. Dr Wizard, PhD*

          It was the norm for me as a kid, but I was heavily conditioned out of it. A lot of social pressure from school, parents, and other kids.

      2. I Love Thrawn*

        Yeah. I do this too. Not that often, thankfully. But WHY??? It’s so aggravating. I want to stand up for myself, be firm and get my point across, but then I just get teary.

    2. PM Punk*

      I feel you on that one. My worst cry at work was after I’d been screamed at for doing my job. I was so angry and tried to hold it in, but the pressure just built up until it all came flooding out. My boss and coworker talked me down, but another coworker just stood there and gaped at me, making me angrier.

  8. epi*

    I think crying in a one on one meeting is the worst-feeling way to cry at work. However IME it takes a real ogre not to at least try to be kind about it. Even one of my worst bosses ever, after telling me he wasn’t going to report the behavior I was crying about because the person was a department head, gave me a tissue, thanked me for trusting him with the problem, and otherwise didn’t acknowledge the crying.

    Thanks to the type of behavior that created the need for Me Too, I think we can all assume that lots of people cry at work. It’s kind to ignore it unless they are in a situation where they need a tissue or to wash their face and you can help them discreetly. If you want to ask if everything is OK, it’s better to do it later when they’re composed.

    I highly recommend being prepared if you’re going through a stressful time at work. Face wipes or those Vicks tissues will cool your face down so you can get relatively cleaned up discreetly at your desk. I like the “Yes to Carrots” wipes because they have a lid that snaps shut, so they will stay moist for a long time if (as I hope) you rarely or never need them.

    1. A Canadian*

      I had a boss who would make me cry on purpose and then call me emotional. He loved the power trip. I guess that makes him an ogre…

      1. JeanB in NC*

        I had a friend – sorry, “friend” – that did that. As soon as she got me to cry, it was like, job done!

  9. Janey*

    The example with the individual about getting feedback and was used to not having to deal with negative feedback — that totally happened to me.

    1. KHB*

      Oh, me too. Once upon a time in our monthly department meeting, the boss declared out of nowhere that he was going to “try something new” and publicly critique everyone’s work from the previous month. He proceeded to go through everyone’s projects one by one, explaining how they were all pretty much OK, except for mine, which he did not care for at all.

      I knew it hadn’t been my best work. And I know (or at least I think) that he didn’t mean it as a personal attack. But it’s hard not to take something like that personally – of all the months he could have chosen to try this new approach, he had to pick the month that the project he didn’t like was mine.

      I at least managed to keep it together, thankfully, until the meeting was over and I got back to my office. But then something triggered me – maybe someone asking me if I was OK – and I just completely broke down.

      That’s the one time in my 12 years on this job that anything like that has happened. (There have been a couple more times that I’ve gotten a little choked up, but I’m not sure that even counts.) Apparently, according to some of the manly men in the comments on Slate, this makes me horribly unprofessional. OK, bros.

    2. Anonymous for This*

      Long ago, I interviewed for anposition in another department within the same company. I did not get the job. I asked for feedback from each of the interviewers (3 managers in that group) and one of them gave the kindest feedback: if it were she, I’d be hired. But the other 2 managers felt an MBA degree was needed and weren’t willing to take the risk on someone without, regardless of experience or ability. I was crushed at the “unfairness” and just started tearing up! I was mortified and apologetic – the feedback provider was very understanding. My rational brain understood and accepted the decision but my emotions just ran amok. I still cringe when I think of this.

  10. Midlife Tattoos*

    I have an employee who tends to cry a lot, particularly when I’m giving her constructive feedback. I’ve just learned that this is what happens, so I always make sure to have Kleenex. Sometimes I will leave her to collect herself and then come back. She generally listens and incorporates the feedback, though, and that’s the important part.

    Years ago, though, I worked with a woman who cried over EVERYTHING. And when she wasn’t crying, she was whining and complaining. She drove me batty. I always wanted to yell, “There’s no crying in IT!!” a la A League of Their Own.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Oh god, I cry more often than I want to when getting constructive feedback. By which I mean probably twice a year? It’s generally when I know and agree with the feedback, and almost always when I’ve been slipping at work because of general mental health stuff, so it’s just frustrating.

      Also by “cry” I mostly mean “tear up.”

      Luckily most of my bosses have been extremely sympathetic and kind, but I still HATE IT.

  11. Bea*

    My first job told me that we would all cry at least once during our rush season. Floral industry, Valentine season. They didn’t lie needless to say.

    Every time you put hard deadlines and high dollars on the line it’s a recipe for tears.

    Then all the times that I’ve seen companies spiraling during the recession. Hours being cut and layoffs. Lots of tears on this end.

    Then I full on sobbed when I had to tell everyone a coworkers mom has died. And when my bosses wife told me his dementia diagnosis.

    Yeah. Crying certainly happens.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I also worked in the floral industry when I was younger. I don’t remember there being tears at Valentine’s Day as much as I recall consuming gallons of Diet Coke, thorns in every finger, and listening to The Big Chill soundtrack almost endlessly while we cranked out vase after vase of flowers. (I can’t hear “My Girl” without subconsciously smelling flowers). Now I’m having nice memories. Thanks for that!

      1. Bea*

        We were the wholesaler. Lots of demands from clients and vendors sending rotten crappy stems then screaming at the credits we kept sending them with pics of the garbage they tried selling us.

        I still frown at roses when I see them in stores. Long hours and all for a messy holiday.

    2. CMart*

      I cried a handful of times during my career in the restaurant industry, always during incredibly high-volume times when nothing explicitly awful was happening to trigger it. It was just unsustainably busy.

      There’s just a lot of pressure to perform to the standard you’re used to, but not enough time or energy to actually do so. And it’s incredibly frustrating and demoralizing to get to the point where nothing you can do will be good enough to make all of the people counting on you (coworkers, customers who are there to pay for a certain standard of service/product) happy.

      1. Bea*

        My brother is a kitchen manager. And he’s had fits of tears on many occasions. Between balancing the back with front and the customers who say sht like “no, i don’t want a complementary dessert, they’ll probably burn the ice cream.” haaar haaaar haaaar. I’ll stay doing year end every month for life than a day in service.

    3. about nine quails*

      As a teenager I worked as a counselor at a week-long sleepaway camp. Some wisdom passed on to the new staff each year is that it was pretty likely you’d cry at least once. Things go wrong, people get tired, stuff gets to be too much. It happened to everyone from first-time staff to the old hats. (All the counselors were teens so there was a pretty hard cap on how much experience one could have.)

      Having to excuse myself to cry things out on top of the mountain wasn’t fun but it helped to think of it as being my turn and not a failure on my part.

  12. Unprofessional*

    I have cried at work for a work related thing! I was working in a stressful human services setting and I had spoken to a client to reschedule due to being held up at an emergency elsewhere. After the emergency I returned to my office. This client had called my boss and stated I’d no call no showed our meeting. Unfortunately my boss believed the client despite the proof of the phone call and the length of the call I’d shown them. I went back into my office, shut the door, picked up the phone to call the client and apologize for no call no showing her as I’d been ordered to do, and before I dialed I burst into tears. Unfortunately it was about a week after I’d split from my husband and I just kept crying. At some point, a coworker poked his head into my office and asked if I was okay. I told him no and continued to sob, at which point my boss stuck her head in and said “Oh, I thought I heard somebody crying. I just figured it was a client.” and went back to her office.

    I also cried once when I worked in retail after showing up for my 14th straight day without a day off and being told I was early and couldn’t I read and what was wrong with me?

  13. CanCan*

    I cried a lot at work when going through a divorce. Used to hide in the bathroom stall for 15-20 minutes at a time (including some time after stopping the crying, so my face wouldn’t be quite so puffy). I don’t think anybody noticed, but it wouldn’t have been hard to work out.

    At work about work – only once. I’d been stressed and let some files slip. Broke down while getting the well-deserved negative feedback. Boss saved me the extra embarrassment (the office set-up was that there was nowhere to hide) and said I could go home for the rest of the day.

  14. Monday Anon*

    Doesn’t everyone have a particular bathroom stall they use for crying? My preference is the 9th floor, last stall on the right.

    1. TheWonderGinger*

      3rd floor, I duck under the Out of Order sign, (vacant floor so they don’t clean it) and get it out. I’m also one of those people who cries when they are mad.

    2. CMart*

      3rd floor, “visitor’s” bathroom with the thick marble-style walls and completely enclosed stalls that is nearly always empty since we don’t really get too many visitors and they definitely aren’t coming to the 3rd floor. Stall furthest away from the door.

      Also my stall of choice when battling GI distress and pregnancy-related sickness.

    3. Lissa*

      I’ve never been able to sustain/plan crying like that! If I cry, it’s a sudden tear-up and generally won’t last very long. I’m interested that other people have enough advance notice – usually if I feel it coming I can control it, it’s the times when it surprises me that i can’t, so a bathroom stall wouldn’t do me much good! (I’ve never cried at my current job but when I worked in retail/food/etc it happened…)

  15. Roker Moose*

    I cried several times at oldjob— thankfully I had a reasonably private cubicle space and I don’t think anyone noticed. There were some terrible bullies working on my team, and some days it was just too much.

    More recently I cried when I found out my gran passed away. Tried to hold it in, but I couldn’t. Happens to all of us at one time or another.

  16. ragazza*

    Thanks for this. I said something about crying at work on Twitter and someone said I must have severe emotional problems. I was like dude, nearly every woman I know has cried at work, and maybe the men just won’t admit it.

    1. Bea*

      It’s vile to tell someone who cries they have severe emotional issues. Unless you’re in the military, you shouldn’t be conditioned to switch your emotions off. I’ve seen doctors and nurses break too and they’re conditioned against the emotional investment given their jobs. It’s part of being human.

    2. Justin*

      Yes, we just don’t admit it. I cried when i got fired at 18, and again when I was 21. Not in the decade since but still, it happens to us.

    3. CMart*

      I lurk restaurant industry forums and it’s sadly common to see the “cried in the walk-in cooler today” posts inundated with people scoffing at the notion of ever letting work “get to you” enough to cry. And if working at a restaurant is enough to make you cry then maybe you should go do something else. Yes, even if it was an isolated even.

      I don’t know who these robots are who can be on their 12th hour of work having eaten nothing but saltine crackers all day while running their asses off who then get screamed at and called names who can just laugh it off, but that’s certainly not me.

      1. ragazza*

        “We’re going to force you to identify work as the most important thing in your life, pay you as little as we can get away with, and make you spend most of your waking hours here, but require you to never ever show any sort of human weakness.”–yeah can’t see why this isn’t a reasonable proposition.

      2. Totally Minnie*

        If there’s even one person in the world who’s had a customer service job and never once cried at work, I’ll eat my hat. And the hat stand it’s hanging on. Customers can be ridiculously mean over absolutely nothing.

        1. Lissa*

          When I worked in customer service it was always the nice customers on a bad day who made me cry – the breathtakingly rude ones I could handle! I remember a random woman screaming at me that she’d never eat at this restaurant because I was fat, and just…bursting out laughing after she left, because what even… but the awful grinding days followed by unexpected kindness? Tears!

  17. cleo*

    The only job I’ve cried at was teaching at the college level – to be fair, that was my longest job too (17 years). I cried at a one-on-one in front of my boss when I didn’t get a position I was up for (and I was mortified but she was very gracious about it). I also cried a couple times in front of colleagues when I was really stressed about other things. And I saw a few colleagues tear up over the years as well. Including my boss once.

    I never cried in front of students (thank goodness) although many students cried in front of me and I never thought less of them – and now that I think about it, I know I got choked up talking with students, if they told me about a family tragedy or illness.

    I also sobbed in the bathroom on 9/11/01, after watching the 2nd tower come down on the library tv. (And then I washed my face and went to my classroom and announced it to my students.)

  18. Sandy*

    Oh the timing on this is fantastic.

    Like one of the posters above, I am someone who cries when I am highly stressed or frustrated AND have managed to disappoint someone. One on one meetings with my boss are my version of hell.

    I resolved that I was really REALLY going to work on it over the last ew years, and I had some major successes!

    …cue a meeting a few weeks ago, where I JUST made it out of a difficult meeting with my boss without crying (MAJOR WIN) and made it back to my office on the other side of the building before the tears came spilling down like Niagara Falls. Well, guess who dropped by my office 5 min later to drop off some paperwork? Yup, my boss.

    I was supposed to be free! I was supposed to have my MAJOR WIN! Can we all agree that after a difficult meeting like tha, you wait at least an hour before dropping off paperwork??

    Ugh. So close, and yet so far.

    1. Birch*

      Ha! I’m exactly the same way. I actually conveniently “couldn’t find” a webcam for weekly Skype meetings with my supervisor for TWO YEARS, just so I could leak silent tears of frustration and overwhelm and hope he couldn’t hear it in my voice. I adore him and he’s warm and fuzzy but still, it’s even more frustrating when you just want to be able to keep it together! I think part of it (at least for me) is tying feelings of personal worth to work success. Definitely working on that.

  19. working*

    I cry at work more than I’d like to admit – and last week HR told me that I’m a better crier than she is (I have had a really tough year for a bunch of reasons)

  20. KateHR*

    I had a manager once who admitted that she liked to make people cry at work. It made her feel that they were really committed to their job. WTF! I was shocked. I finally found a new job a couple months after that. That place was toxic!

  21. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    Further to the first letter writer, whose team is over-worked and stressed, and it sounds like not a whole lot of effective measures are being taken:

    When you cry about your generally miserable work situation (and I include a horrible boss in the possible scenarios here), and you have no authority to change that situation, and no one else is moving quickly to address it for you, and that goes on and on for quite a while… It is time to look for a new job, in my opinion. This is especially true for typical office jobs that are not life or death situations. If that job situation makes you cry, and you don’t normally cry at work… That is your wake-up call, my friend. A typical office job should not bring you to the point of crying. Red flag!

    1. London Calling*

      After 40 years in the workplace I have one cast iron rule – if this place is making me cry (and my current place is doing just that) it’s a sign to move on, no ifs or buts. No job is worth that.

      1. Notlob (it’s a pun)*

        Agreed. I came unglued last week — some family issues, not enough sleep, yet another colleague had just announced they were leaving for a better laying position which meant we were all going to get yet more work…if I would take on X project for 6-9 months and maybe permanently. I started crying: X was a project I’d wanted to work on for years, literally; had been told no because this colleague or that colleague needed to learn it; had just this year gotten put on a project I wasn’t interested in (I have the skills for it) but my project team turned out to be fantastic and it made me interested in it. So NOW, now when they’re stuck and there’s no one else to take on project X, now I’m suddenly worthy of that project and by the way, can’t really keep the new project or the new colleagues. WTF. So frustrated and angry.
        I went to my office, closed the door, and spent half an hour looking at job ads. There’s a difference between crying at work, and crying because of work.

  22. Hush42*

    My mom called me two weeks ago while I was at work to tell me that my grandfather had three blockages in his arteries and needed open heart surgery ASAP. I has stepped into the hallway to take the call. One of my employees was coming back from lunch and saw my face right after I go off the phone and asked if everything was okay. I promptly burst into tears. She just gave me a hug and said she would go in and takeover training my new employees (her team mates) for a little while while I collected myself.

  23. Bereaved and Confused*

    I posted about this on the open thread some time ago, but earlier this year I spent several weeks crying at my desk after my long-term boyfriend died. My boss denied me any bereavement leave at all (not even a single day, as the funeral was on the weekend), refused my request to take some vacation time to get my head together, and we are a small office with no HR so I just had to muddle through. Our workspace is open plan with minimal privacy. I initially was excusing myself to go to the bathroom when I felt the tears coming on, but I started to get in trouble for being away from my desk too lunch, so I just cried at my desk. I wasn’t sobbing or being disruptive, but several times a day I would get choked up with tears running down my face. I did get written up for being “unprofessional” due to the crying, and the relationship with my boss is still pretty tense. (I managed to control the tears so they only started to flow when I wasn’t with clients or in meetings, which my boss interpreted as evidence I could control them altogether if I really wanted to.) I’m still not sure what else I could have done here, other than turn into a robot with no feelings, given that I was not allowed to take time away from work or even away from my desk.

    1. Former Agent Molly Sands*

      If you haven’t left this job, you should start looking. This manager has no heart, is not going to suddenly grow a heart, and probably will only do other heartless things. This is is not a good person to work for/with/near.

    2. Quackeen*

      What a horrible boss and a horrible workplace. I am so sorry that you have been treated so badly, and so sorry for your loss. I hope you can get out of there soon. that is NOT normal, for them to treat you that way.

      1. Teapotty*

        I’ve cried at work several times – when I was fired, when I have been tired or under stress from poor management, overwork or personal issues. Oddly enough I didn’t cry when I worked in social care but my already dark sense of humour became enhanced as a coping mechanism.

      2. Teapotty*

        At one of my Old Jobs, we used to advise people to go to their GP and ask to be signed off work sick so they could get paid as bereavement leave was 3 days for ‘close’ family members but the majority of the staff were from overseas so 3 days was insufficient if they had to travel.

    3. Courageous cat*

      What… the fuck. That’s so awful and I’m so sorry, your boss is garbage on MULTIPLE levels.

  24. Lagomlightly*

    This is what surprised me the most about becoming a manager — how many people came to me about something and just started crying. I spent most of working career trying to keep it together and not cry in front of my managers but it is so common. One thing I take with me is that when someone on my team does cry, I am genuinely compassionate and want to help them, which I wish I could bring with me when I’m feeling like I need to keep in emotions at work. But I also know, from talking to other managers about this, they are not always as compassionate about it as I am.

    1. Birch*

      I recently had this experience too. It’s so humbling and is definitely motivation to be a more compassionate manager, knowing how your team members feel. Having had the experience of feeling like never being enough, I always want my reports to feel they can come to me with problems rather than hide things and marinate in fear and frustration!

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      My father once said the worst thing about being in management was people coming to his office and crying. And I was all, what, people do that? Because I was young and stupid. Now I know better. (I’ve never cried to my boss, though. I have cried *about* my boss.)

  25. KimberlyR*

    I recently cried while on the phone with grandboss…I was so embarrassed! But she was very nice and understanding about it. It was partially due to bad news about work but mostly high stress stuff at home (that she knows about). I told my coworker, who admitted she has cried while talking to her before as well. Apparently, if you have to cry in front of someone, she’s a safe person to do it to. I still hated it.

  26. Anonynewb*

    I had a full-blown panic attack at my last job – sobbing, shaking, could hardly breathe… it was awful and embarrassing.

    Myself and my coworkers in the same position had been telling our manager for months and months that we needed more support, there was way too much work for so few people and that we were all burning out… and nobody took us seriously or cared about it – they just wrote it off as us “whining”. I’m pretty sure all of us had a full-blown panic attack at work at least once, and definitely had close calls many other times.

    I finally got out of there about 5-6 months ago… so grateful.

  27. Girl friday*

    I’ve seen both women and men cry at work. Sometimes, it’s a matter of people confronting themselves for the first time. Sometimes, it’s emotional manipulation. If it’s not due to transitory reasons, then it’s a sign of emotional instability and needs to be addressed. Looking forward to the suggestions on how to do that! I just wanted to mention two reasons that may not come up in first person examples, but are common.

    1. Jess*

      Agreed. I completely understand crying at work. It’s a physical reaction; it just happens sometimes! I once barely made it to the restroom before breaking down for hormonal related reasons, and I’m sure at least one person heard me. But I have also seen people coming from a place of emotional instability and crying/running out of meetings whenever anyone else so much as disagreed with them. This was, of course, part of a larger pattern of behavior, but repeated bouts of crying/leaving whenever things don’t go your way is not acceptable behavior in an office, just like angrily yelling all the time wouldn’t be acceptable either.

    2. Lissa*

      I think it can be either emotional instability or the job could be a really bad fit. If I found myself crying at work all the time – that’s really out of character for me, I’m not typically a crier, so I’d be looking at what was going on and if it was something going on with me, or something with the job.

      I think it also really depends on what is meant by crying. I think tears welling up occasionally is completely normal, where you can still keep a conversation going or offer them a tissue. Full on hysterical sobs/wailing is different.

  28. Saucy Minx*

    I worked freelance for a family-owned newspaper. One evening I had come in to copy edit & was passing the time of day w/ my boss before settling down to work. Somehow our conversation veered into my mentioning that I had just broken up w/ my beau.

    Her brow furrowed, she looked concerned, & she said something kind & caring.

    I blurted out: “Oh, please don’t show me sympathy!” as I struggled w/ tears.

    Instantly she barked: “What the hell did you ever see in him anyway?!!”

    Well, that took care of the tears, except that then I laughed until I cried w/ merriment over her judgment of a man she had never met.

    1. Amber T*

      LOL I’m very much the same way – don’t be nice to me if I’m on the verge of tears… I can hold it and manage it but as soon as you’re like “it’s okay – do you need a hug?” nope… out come the water works.

      I was on the verge of a panic attack when I had to get an MRI with contrast and they had trouble finding a vein and they kept poking me with needles and was really close to bursting out into tears like a toddler at the tender age of 27. They sent me back out to the waiting room while they called another doctor, and I was so close to tears. My mom had driven me and was waiting for me, so when I came back out she was concerned. I sat back down and muttered “don’t be nice to me.” Loud enough so people could hear, she said “what’s wrong, bitch?” One woman snapped her head in our direction so fast… I burst out laughing that I almost forgot why I needed to cry (til they came to poke me again).

      Moral of the story – be neutral, unless you know the person really well, then maybe be mean :)

      1. Amadeo*

        I am so glad I’m not alone in that someone being kind or thoughtful to me when I’m emotionally fragile and on the verge of tears to begin with will cause the overflow.

    2. SarahKay*

      Oh, sympathy is the killer for me, too. Your boss’s reaction was fantastic, though, well done her!

      1. BadWolf*

        I broke up with a long term SO and adopted some cats (I couldn’t have them with SO). A friend came over to visit the cats and when I said something sort of controlled neutral over the breakup and then getting kitties, she paused and then said, “Cats are better anyways.” It was really the perfect response at the time.

  29. Anonyna*

    My organization has been going through a period of change that has not gone well. As in, making national headlines on a regular basis not well. Crying at the office has become almost par for the course at this point, as awful as that sounds. On the plus side, you don’t have to try to get to the bathroom unnoticed. As long as you’re not full on hiccupping and sobbing at your desk, chances are a coworker will pass you a tissue and take a minute to literally or figuratively hold your hand until the moment passes.

    Good God I’ll need to recalibrate my perception of normal once this is all over.

  30. Damn it, Hardison!*

    I’ve cried 3 times at work. Once was when I screwed up a communication that had been printed and laminated; I ended up having a little cry in the restroom (I hated that job). The second time was the same job and both my manager and I were crying in her office about how much we hated our workplace. It was in the context of me telling her I was applying for another position at our large academic institution, which she encouraged me to do with no hesitation (she was an awesome manager). The third was at my current position under my previous manager who was difficult, moody, and liked to change her mind but pretend that’s what she wanted all along and I clearly got it wrong (emails to the contrary be damned). I just had it in the middle of a meeting in which she was alternately interrupting me or telling me I was wrong. I excused myself and cried a little in the bathroom. Not surprisingly, I didn’t cry when she got laid off a few months later (I did feel badly for her, but also so relieved for me).

  31. SleepyInSeattle*

    Thank you for normalizing this. I’ve cried at work many times. Including in front of my boss a few times. And have had many people cry in my office over everything from getting genuinely bad news like hearing they won’t be getting a promotion or are having serious performance issues, to hearing pretty routine neutrally worded feedback and other low stakes conversations. It’s a normal physiological response to all sorts of things including stress, anger, sadness, frustration, joy etc. I honestly don’t see why it’s such a big deal.

    I would stress in people who don’t cry easily not to make a big deal about it when others do. I’ve heard so many people say they think tears are “manipulative”. In my opinion, it’s a very rare adult who is capable of crying to manipulate and if they really are that manipulative, you likely have much bigger issues on your hand than tears. If someone is really sobbing, step away and give them a minute. But sniffles and a cracking voice? Just pretend you don’t notice! They do not want to be crying any more than you want to see them crying. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Just keep pushing forward.

    I did have one employee who cried excessively. To the point where it was disruptive and people didn’t feel they could bring up any issues, conflicts or problems or give her any feedback. I generally have an “all negative feedback is done in person” policy with my staff. But with her we made an exception and she agreed to getting that type of feedback via email. She could then process her reaction before talking to the person about it and my staff no longer felt like they had to hold their tongues to keep from upsetting her so visibly and frequently.

    If tears are happening daily or weekly at work and there isn’t something pretty major going on in your life outside of the office to cause them though you probably do need to ask yourself if you are in the right position for you. the one time I found myself in that position I started job searching ASAP. Leave before you get the reputation as the person who sobs in the bathroom every afternoon. No one should be that miserable at work! There are other jobs! Get out!

    But occasional tears are not a professionalism issue. People have emotions. It’s normal.

    And someone might have mentioned this already because I’ve seen it in many a comment thread about this but as a tip to my fellow cryers…ladies at least I don’t’ know if this works for dudes….kegels. Start doing them when you feel the first signs of your throat tightening. Someone gave me that tip years ago and I swear it works! Shuts off the waterworks for all but the biggest emotions for me. Another friend told me she would pinch her hand between her fingers and had the same effect. Like she was pinching off the tears. I think it’s mostly having a physical distraction that helps.

  32. Amadeo*

    I’ve cried at work only a handful of times. Like most folks, it’s usually been about a personal problem or tragedy at home (loss of a pet, loved one, stress, etc.) but once or twice it’s been *about* work, although those tears are more often than not the sort that mean “I’m crying because I’m trying not to kill you” and not something else.

  33. Colorado*

    Oh gosh, I’ve cried many times at work. Granted, no one knows because I don’t make a scene but rather get up and go outside or to the bathroom but I cry easily when angry, sad, frustrated, happy, empathetic, you name it. Hell, tears welled up just reading these comments (and in many other AAM’s, esp updates ;-)

  34. Geneva*

    Good to know I’m not the only one! I tend to cry when I’m angry. The most recent time was at my last toxic job. The big boss blew up at me in front of the team for speaking during a client call (seriously, that’s all I did). I managed to keep my composure, until he stopped by my desk a little while later to reiterate that I had apparently ruined the meeting and made him look bad. The tears flowed immediately. I said TIME OUT, and walked away to sob in a bathroom stall. It was either that, or chuck my stapler lol. Later I explained that I was dealing with a buildup of stress from constantly being condescended to, but the damage was done – from then on he labeled me as hyper-sensitive, and suggested I wasn’t cut out for his office, or even the industry. Had he listened to my very real concerns that day instead of shaming me, I might still work there. But I quit and haven’t cried since ; )

  35. roisin54*

    I’m a huge crier: when I’m sad, really happy, angry, tired, frustrated, when I see or hear something truly beautiful, certain sad songs, when I read pretty much any story on the Good News Network…the tears start flowing. I actually find it to be quite cleansing.

    So, obviously, I have cried at work many times about both work and non-work related things. Most of the time it’s just a few tears that I can easily dab away without anyone noticing and that’s it (I also have seasonal allergies which are a huge help in covering this up.)

    The full-on heaving sobs have only happened a few times, and they were almost all work-related issues caused by the same manager (my grandboss.) The lone exception, which happened after she retired, was when my grandfather died. My mom decided the best time to notify me of his passing was right before I left for work (it was literally five minutes before I walked out the door.) So it goes without saying that it took me a while to compose myself once I got in.

    On the rare occasions that people at work have witnessed me crying, they’ve been really good about it. When I was on a public desk during one of the heaving-sobs incidents my boss covered the desk for a few minutes while I went off to compose myself. She was kinda pissed off on my behalf by how grandboss had treated me so she was very understanding of my emotions. I apologized anyway but that’s just my nature. I hate it when people see me cry.

  36. Yojo*

    I have a trick that I use, like, all the time–I fake a coughing fit. I can even do it while crying, as a precaution. So if somebody walks by, then obviously I’ve just got watery eyes from all the coughing, and “haha, I’m okay, a sip of water just went down the wrong way” is all it takes.

    I’m a pretty good actor, and I don’t think anybody has ever gotten suspicious. It sucks that cultural norms are such that I need to use this, but i thought I’d share.

  37. Murphy*

    I cried when I found out I didn’t get a promotion. They told me at the end of the shift. I told them I was leaving, and I got out of the building before the floodgates completely opened. But I cried in the parking lot, and I don’t think I completely hid it on the way out.

  38. I meant in extreme situations, dammit*

    Ooh boy, I recently told an interviewer that I don’t like confrontations because of my tendency to cry when stressed.. Unsurprisingly, I did not get the job.

    I’ve never actually cried at work – because of work, sure, – but aside from some slightly wet eyes on a few occasions, I’ve saved the tears for the privacy of my own home. Mostly I just feel like crying when I get very stressed; my throat closes up and I can feel a burning in my eyes. That’s not a great feeling, or tactic, when dealing with conflict, hence the avoidance. But I do know how to calm myself and power through! I have done that! I even thought it during the interview, but the words just did not reach my mouth.

    I also have not cried about missing out on that job.

  39. another anon for this one*

    I’ve cried at work two memorable times; once I was 17 and it was my first “real” job at the school I was attending (not as a student worker but a real full employee). My boss visited my class while it was in session to see if I was there, pulled me aside in front of all my classmates, and asked why I’d missed work that morning (I was post-op and couldn’t walk to work, but could catch the bus which started after my work to attend a class). The next shift I was promptly fired. It was all very traumatic because I’d just had surgery and was physically not 100% and I’d lost my mother only six months before so I was still emotionally on edge. I just could not hold in the tears and once I was out of the building bawled for the rest of the day. Thankfully it wasn’t too embarassing because my coworkers all felt I’d been delt a crappy hand and were supportive, and since I was fired I wouldn’t have to see them again regularly so no embarassment.

    The second time was when my planned honeymoon leave was denied (I’m the LW with insomnia, FMLA, and a honeymoon planned). If you know the story there you can imagine why I cried. Only two people noticed I’d been crying then, and it wasn’t too embarassing because they knew why. So I’ve avoided embarrassment there thank god.

    Thankfully I’m not a loud or obvious crier, and the few times I’ve been on the edge I can go to the bathroom and breathe deep and let it pass, but sometimes the tears well up before you can control them. I’m definitely an involuntary crier and I hate it! But I do try to control it when I can.

  40. TheMouse*

    I “cry” all the time at work – because I have terrible allergies (and probably a weird sensitivity to light) and my eyes often start watering out of no where. I can usually stop it if I put in eye drops but sometimes that just makes the situation all that much worse. We were in the middle of a stressful event planning meeting and I was tired to boot and had to keep wiping my eyes and went through almost an entire box of tissues and I think people still think I was crying from stress. It’s awful and embarrassing to have to explain to my boss or other people around me that I’m not sobbing, my eyes are just uncontrollably leaking :(

    1. Avocado Toast*

      This happened to me when I was teaching undergrads while in grad school. I don’t even know what caused it but I had been outside and I started “crying” uncontrollably as I walked into the front of the classroom.

      1. just peachy.*

        My eyes water very easily when I yawn (and even worse if I try to suppress that yawn). So if I yawn a few times in a short amount of time, here come the tears. I’ve had people ask me so many times if I’m okay and I’m like, “yes I’m sorry, my tear ducts are triggered by yawns!”. I’ve gotten used to carrying tissues with me at all times when I’m super tired because I figure I’ll be yawning a lot.

  41. Been there, seen that, the T-Shirt doesn't fit*

    Unfortunately, in my office stress crying among a certain group of co-workers is considered part of bonding or being a team player. Along with oversharing all kinds of gross medical and personal information. And frequently gifting up to the manager who is at the center of the cabal. I’m considered not a very nice person because I don’t join in.

  42. Scubacat*

    Once I walked in on a co-worker crying. I was returning an item to the storage room, and found her bawling. After seeing that she wasn’t injured, I asked if she needed space. She did. So I left the room and forgot about the situation.

    A few days later, the coworker had a conversation with me. She wanted to thank me for my professionalism. I assured my coworker that emotions were normal. Sometimes we cry at work, and that’s okay. Emotions processed, and moving on…..

  43. Avocado Toast*

    One of my last days at my Old Job, my boss felt that I hadn’t handled something well (I think it was really under control, but perhaps not the point….). This involved a phone call and an email miscommunication, not like losing billions of dollars. He came into our (open office) and was raising his voice at me and it took everything in me not to cry because WHILE HE WAS YELLING AT ME, I had an intern at my desk that I was trying to review work with. I’m positive the intern knew I was choking back tears but I felt SO unprofessional crying in front of him. Oy.

  44. LQ*

    When I’m exhausted beyond reason I cry. Or rather my eyes release tears for about a minute at a time randomly until I finally get some darn rest. It’s weird because everything else is perfectly normal (aside from the overall exhaustion) but I get seriously leaky and it’s hard to explain when I’m jovially going along having a conversation or listening and trying to be fully engaged in a presentation, or even just at my desk working and I leak for about a minute and then stop. And of course those are the times when it would be hardest to just step away every time I start leaking because usually I’m exhausted from work. I get leaky when I get tired seems to do ok, but I think because I’m genuinely upbeat during those times or trying to appear so at least and not seeming otherwise down.

    The biggest cry cry I had was I was in my office with my door closed after a really tense conversation with people 4-5 levels above me about all kinds of bad things on my project. My boss came in to talk to me about it and I was still crying. He didn’t quite know how to handle it, and the I need 30 seconds hadn’t work, I think it was a long time coming. So we talked about what the problems and concerns were. It was really shitty all around, but hopefully it didn’t make him think less of me (I don’t think so, but I’ve got years of experience with him before that).

  45. Delta Delta*

    I had a job where I was frustrated and felt unappreciated. There were lots of days I felt like crying. I was always able to hold it until I was in the car, and then I’d cry all the way home. When that happened a few times a week I decided it was absolutely time to leave.

    Likewise, I worked at that same job with a woman who cried at her desk almost every day. Unfortunately, she had a very light complexion and couldn’t cover very well. Even if she didn’t sob her face would get quite pink and blotchy (which, unfortunately, made things worse because then she felt bad that she was crying). It was hard for the rest of us, because it was never totally clear what would cause her to start crying. Even though the place was toxic, it didn’t help that you never knew if you could so much as ask to borrow her stapler without her starting to cry. She eventually left and I hear is quite happy with her new position, which makes me happy for her.

  46. Crier*

    I work in a high-stakes job, where screw ups can be catastrophic. AND I am a crier. A few months ago, I found an error in time to literally save a life. I handled it, got everything squared away, person was alive … and then I broke down. An awful coworker who was about to retire told me that I wasn’t good at my job because I cried *after* the crisis. My boss told me that’s what makes me good at my job — that I give a s—.

    Not only do I cry often, but my face gets red and eyes puffy for hours. No pretending I didn’t. At 38, I’ve pretty much accepted it as part of who I am. Rather annoying, though.

    1. Totally Minnie*

      I’m a “cry afterward” person, too. I feel like my body sort of goes into crisis mode and takes care of what needs to happen, and then once the adrenaline has worn off, the floodgates open.

      True story: I was on fire once. Literal fire. I put it out and cleaned myself up, determined that the burns weren’t too bad, and went off to a meeting I was late for. It wasn’t until several hours later that I actually processed what had happened and started crying.

      1. Crier*

        Yes! I assisted at a fatal bike vs car on the way to my own birthday dinner a few years ago. I was fine til I got home and got in the shower and it hit me. But I had a lovely dinner in the middle.

  47. Anonymosity*

    I’m glad I’m actually home today and not at a job, because I found out the StL job I wanted rejected me and yes, I cried. I would probably have had to go to the bathroom for a bit if I were at work and couldn’t explain why.

    The entire day after the election, I cried, but at least it was in spurts. I was able to compose myself when dealing with coworkers. Work crying is embarrassing AF no matter what. I really like the boss in the last anecdote. What a fantastic way to handle the situation! If I ever have to supervise anyone, I’ll remember that in case I run into a situation where somebody cries for whatever reason.

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      Thunder and tarnation! Sorry to hear that, in other words. It’s cold comfort to say at least you’re getting interviews.
      Good vibes and hopeful thoughts. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      And here is a template in case you need to do any additional cussing: #$*%&@!

  48. Jaded*

    Crying in the bathroom because of work-related awfulness seems to be pretty normal in my field (finance). I’m now – thankfully – in a place financially where, if it should ever happen again, I can and will resign next day – but for many years I was stuck in those jobs by a mortgage and financial downturns, and my heart goes out to all the people who are still in that position.

  49. LurkieLoo*

    I cry just about every time I am super stressed (always work related) and my boss goes all nice on me. (During layoffs, for example.) Or if my boss apologizes for yelling (which happens rarely) almost immediately after doing it.

    I can handle the mean by just shutting down and processing later, but I just can not seem to handle niceness in the moment.

  50. ArtsNerd*

    OldBoss: “There’s no crying in the entertainment industry!”
    Me, from the other room: “Baseball! You’re thinking of baseball! The entertainment industry runs on tears!”

    1. CMart*

      And the baseball phrase was coined pre-Cubs winning the World Series again ;) There’s plenty of crying in baseball!

      I’m pretty sure there’s crying in every industry. Some just more covert than others.

  51. ch77*

    I was the crier once, and I’ve witnessed it once in a one-on one.

    When I did: First job, worked for a boss who was a yeller. Horrible temper. I was a favorite, but didn’t stay long because of this. We were doing something related to evacuation due to a hurricane and I was working 18 hour days dispatching buses statewide (Note: I was hired to write a newsletter). I got in a yelling match with the boss over speaker phone in an open cube environment when he refused to turn the bus dispatch over the FEMA. We had it out, a crowd formed (he was well known for yelling at people, and people yelled back constantly). When the fight concluded, I went to the stairwell and cried. Oddly, we worked great after that and state officials made him let FEMA take over anyway. Yes, I was actively job seeking within that week.

    When I witnessed it: I knew it would be a hard conversation, so it wasn’t entirely unexpected. A problematic employee kept asking for raises weekly, while having horrible performance. She had been “promised” a raise 6 years prior that never happened. Now, don’t get me wrong, 6 years no raise is awful. But why did you stick around? Also, the person who promised the raise had no authority to do so, and had left on bad terms already. The conversation about the raise turned into a conversation about performance – basically if she wants a merit raise she needed to do better work, but with specifics of what needed to be improved. Also framing the situation – that it was too bad that the situation happened 6 years ago, but to succeed here she needed to move past it, improve her attitude and performance. She cried, I gave her kleenex, asked if she needed some time, and then kept going with the conversation.
    Of note – she has done a 180, and she got a raise within 6 months.

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      Well done! You spoke a hard but helpful truth; she heard it and responded constructively. You may have empowered her far beyond the scope of her present position. Good going!

  52. DataQueen*

    I cry ALL THE TIME at work. I apologize to my boss, but guess what? I’m emotional and I care about my job. And i happen to be a kind-of villain in the grand scheme of the organization, so sometimes people are personally mad at me for work issues. There’s absolutely nothing wrong about it. I don’t cry in front of direct reports, but I do in front of my boss (who is the worlds most amazing manager) all the time, and my employees have cried in front of me. Oh and by all the time, i mean a few times a year – maybe once a quarter. If it was more than that, it could be too much.

  53. Nervous Accountant*

    I cried as recently as last Monday when my mgr had a tough talk w me. I think he handled it right but felt bad for making me cry. I cried at my first (and only) write up that my boss gave me a few months in to my job. Other than that, and the normal tax season tears, the worst has to be I think tearing up at my desk thinking about my dad. Its been almost 8 months and it happens at the most random times. I don’t go in to full blown tears and stop myself before it does escalate.

  54. jackie*

    I cried when my patient abruptly had an MI at the end of the surgical procedure, and died on the OR table.

  55. ThatGirl*

    Hooo boy. Prior to last month the last time I got teary at work was when I was telling my manager I needed to leave ASAP to meet my husband at the hospital for an MRI – he turned out to be totally fine but in the moment I was emotional and manager totally understood.

    Last month I had a rollercoaster of a month at work, and in one week I a) held my department together nearly single handedly b) had my beloved team lead get let go unexpectedly and c) was expected to train a brand new person almost entirely on my own along with some minor personal stresses. So in my first one on one with my new manager, she (nicely) let me know that she’d overheard me venting a tiny bit and that I may have been a bit loud; I think I handled it well enough but then I started to tear up as I was apologizing. Totally mortified.

    The worst bit was the NEXT one on one I had with her, I started tearing up again, for totally different reasons (was letting her know my brother was in the hospital in case I needed some time off). Really hoping I can finally get through a one on one with her in a good mood so she doesn’t think I’m a perpetual crier.

  56. TechServLib*

    I cried at work this morning. I got a parking ticket at work that I thought was BS so I tried to appeal it, but instead I got a nasty email saying my appeal was rejected and my fine was now overdue so it would be doubled. It seems minor, but the whole parking situation here is incredibly frustrating on a daily basis and I’m on a really tight budget so the extra fine means I have to dip into savings to buy groceries this week (not looking for pity, those are just the facts). Of course my a$$hole coworker came by right as I was crying and could not take a hint that it was a bad time to chat. Ugh. Totally agree with other comments here that the best solution is to leave the person alone!

  57. amp2140*

    My boss is absolutely amazing. He’s witnessed me crying twice ever. Once, he noticed I was off and realized that I had been going through a break up, my parents were divorcing, and I was barely keeping it together outside of work. Then recently, I just was so incredibly overwhelmed by being yelled at for not hiring, while being in a hiring freeze, and I was being expected to do 3 positions myself.

    He’s an awesome work dad when I need him to be. I use those experiences to be a better manager to my people. You never know what’s going on under the suface.

  58. Well, that was embarrassing*

    I cried last week at work because I’d been up all night with a vomiting toddler, then got called by my back-up care, saying they needed my to pick up my kid because she wouldn’t stop crying. I was right in the middle of a 16 hour shift after not sleeping for about 24 hours and I’m 25 weeks pregnant with a surprise baby, who has made me overwhelmingly emotional. I was running a large public event and had to brief the staff (think 100+ people). My husband just started his job as a professor and was teaching a 2 hour lecture at the same time as my briefing. I called everyone I knew in town to see if they could watch a sick kid for a few hours, but no one was available. The two people who could feasibly have taken my place were out of town with family emergencies (and had been for over a week, so I’d been doing their job too). My boss reacted, saying that it was a little weird for me to be holding my child during the briefing. Much to my horror, I started to cry at the break room table, in front of half a dozen people.
    My child actually did great for the rest of the day. She was so excited to be at work with me, that she charmed the rest of the office.

    1. Observer*

      My boss reacted, saying that it was a little weird for me to be holding my child during the briefing

      Rolling my eyes. What did he want you to do? Not do the briefing?

  59. Nova*

    I’ve done it twice, both due to the effects of getting on/off hormonal birth control.

    I really learned a lot from that. I am NOT emotional at all on a normal basis, so I would get annoyed at “criers”. But once my hormones were all messed up, I realized that it’s *so* not a choice for some people. So it should be treated with kindness.

  60. peachie*

    I get very frustrated with the “crying is unprofessional” takes. There certainly are ways to cry at work unprofessionally–not trying to find some privacy if possible, etc.–but, generally speaking, no one who is crying wants to be crying. And crying is also not usually a choice; it’s a physiological reaction. There are so many things that can trigger tears–life/personal issues, depression, stress, insomnia, frustration, etc. Hormone levels can also have a huge effect on whether a person cries more or less easily, and these can be inherent or part of a medical condition or treatment or any number of other things.

    Empathy is under-practiced and under-valued.

  61. phedre*

    I cried at work a couple of weeks ago – my boss had given me some feedback about communication style (when I get excited I can interrupt, which is not great) and I burst into tears. I’m not a crier at work so I was pretty mortified, especially because she wasn’t mean or rude about it – she framed the feedback as “you are an absolutely stellar employee, but this is one area of growth that would take you to the next level.” But I was exhausted and stressed and just burst into tears. I know it’s silly to be embarrassed because we’re not robots and sometimes emotions happen, but as a woman in the workplace I especially don’t want to cry because of stereotypes about women being emotional.

    I think the key thing is to cut yourself some slack and realize everyone is human, and also make it clear that you can take criticism. I was really clear with my boss even as I was crying that I appreciate her feedback and take it very seriously and I don’t want her to ever think that she can’t give me criticism just because I burst into tears once. Decent people understand that sometimes crying happens, and they’re especially willing to cut you slack if you have a good reputation to begin with and you take what they say seriously.

  62. just peachy.*

    Before my last job, I think I had only cried once in my professional life and even then it was just a few tears that I couldn’t suppress the morning after I had gotten dumped just a few hours prior, but I was able to pull it off as allergies. This was a feat because I’m a really sensitive and empathic person, and I even get teary-eyed over super sweet, happy commercials or eulogies of people I didn’t even know personally.

    At my oldjob, I cried mostly over work-related things. I work in the nonprofit sector and we had a massive mailing appeal every year that was probably more complicated than it should have been. Every new development person cried (including me) during our first one because of some mistake or another or just due to being overwhelmed, and once I had been there long enough and became a manager, I used to give them a hug and joke that it was a rite of passage, which at least put a smile on their face and made them feel less mortified.

    There were two separate weeks where I’ve cried more than I ever wanted to at work and just couldn’t stop the tears- the first being a particular week in Nov of 2016 (but I wasn’t the only one crying as soon as I walked in the door- my boss and I hugged and cried together), and the other was a week when like 6 of my colleagues, including my closest friend at work, and my two favorite supervisors all left. I think I was just overwhelmed at all the change and felt somewhat blindsided.

    After that huge turnover we got a really toxic boss, but I managed to last a few months before I broke down, except I never cried at work- nope, I just cried inappropriately during my commutes to/from work. I would try super hard to keep it together on the train but then would start bawling as soon as I got in my car. I knew it was time to quit with no job lined up when one night, I came home and cried so much, I used more than half a box of tissues. My dad came over and I couldn’t even eat dinner without tears running down my cheeks and I couldn’t even enjoy playing with my nephew without crying some more and he was like, “I think this job has broken you down and stripped you of who you used to be” and I knew then I would rather be unemployed than work there any longer. Unemployment hasn’t been easy, it’s been downright miserable many times, and yet I still don’t regret it and I’ve yet to cry as much as I did while working at that old job for my joke-of-a-boss.

    So, if you find yourself crying as soon as you wake up because you don’t want to go to work, crying on your way there, having an anxiety attack at work, and crying on your way home and you can’t even enjoy things that normally give you joy when you’re not working, it reallllly might be worth it to quit your job. It took me at least two months to fully mentally recover.

    1. just peachy.*

      Also fingers crossed that I may get called back for the last round of interviews at a new place this week, otherwise yeah, there’ll be some crying in my future. Just at home. :)

  63. Totally Minnie*

    I had a toxic, manipulative boss for just over two years. I would estimate that I cried either at work or about work at least once a week. And I was very far from being the only one. In fact, there was a storage closet that locked from the inside that not many people had keys for, and we designated it “the crying closet.” On the day she announced her two week notice to go work for a competitor, it became “the dancing closet,” because we threw a silent dance party in there. It wasn’t easy to fit that many people into a storage closet, but we made it work.

  64. Empty Sky*

    I don’t think I have ever cried at work – I have a very strong emotional lock-down reflex and rarely cry for any reason. I have been close a few times though. The most significant was in my first management role, which came with no real training or support. I had also fallen into some bad work habits in my previous job, so I was determined to address them by working hard and accomplishing everything I needed to. Unfortunately my new manager’s style was to load people up with more and more work without regard to workload or capacity unless they pushed back, so I couldn’t have picked a worse time for that resolution. I felt like I was constantly treading water, and I was also dealing with some family problems that meant I had to take time off periodically (which made it worse).

    It all came to a head one day when I was about half a dozen levels deep in interrupts (with high priority tasks being superseded by higher priority ones) and talking to two or three people at once. I suddenly got a very strong feeling of being overwhelmed and not being able to handle my job, and my manager happened to pick that precise moment to come and tell me about a new high priority task that I needed to accomplish along with all the other ones. I held it together, but I was unable to reply to him (or anyone else) and had to retire to the kitchen alone for a while before I could go back to my desk.

  65. LuJessMin*

    I’m sure I’ve cried at work many a time, but I’ve blocked those in my memories. I do remember that I did not cry at work the day I was laid off. I refused to let them see how mad I was (though it did come out when an HR person asked if I needed help and I yelled, “NO!”, and when I threw my badge at my manager when she asked for it.)

  66. kalico*

    “It’s causing other workers to feel manipulated and bullied.”
    Ugh to the trend of people using “bullied” to describe any behavior they don’t like.

  67. kalico*

    I have cancer and am on and off a drug that affects my moods and causes serious depression (aside from being in several other drugs, and you know, having an especially deadly and aggressive form of cancer), and I cried in a meeting where my work fucked me over so badly on something related to my illness. When not at work, I was crying 3-4 hours a day.
    Guess what? I didn’t give two shits about crying. They were being awful to me at a time when I needed kindness, and I was on the verge of tears all day, every day to begin with.
    It’s the only time I’ve cried at work in front of someone, done it plenty of times in the ladies room.

    1. Cat Herder*

      I’m so sorry , Kalico. I hope the treatment will help you. I hope you have people in your life who are taking care of you.

  68. Moon In Scorpio*

    Well, this is very timely because I cried at work yesterday. Last week, I learned that the building next door to my workplace has been releasing carcinogenic emissions for years. My workplace also chose a holiday weekend to roll out a new system that was glitchy as hell, plus most of our equipment was broken. Let’s just say that it’s very hard to make a customer’s tea when all of your chocolate teapots are broken except for the one that the big boss is hoarding in their office. On top of that, we keep falling behind because of the rollout, so I ended up working through my lunch break to catch up.

    I was frustrated because I was trying to follow the new system and bending over backwards to assist customers without working equipment. The final straw was an angry customer who I caught “sampling” chocolate teapots and putting them back on the shelf, which is not sanitary. I told her I needed to know which ones she had contaminated so I could remove them; she responded by unleashing all this rage on me, calling me rude for not letting her have a sample. She then stalked me across the building, yelling at me that she was going to get me fired, complaining about me to every employee she came across until she got to my big boss. My boss told me in front of a number of other employees that I should not have been rude, I should have handled it better, and that the woman could sample as much as she wanted to.

    I’m pretty tough. I didn’t cry at my mother’s funeral or when I saw Titanic. I went back to my workstation, felt the tears coming on, and made a beeline for the nearest bathroom. With 20 steps to go, I passed one of the assistant managers, who told me, “I don’t care what that crazy woman said. You’re awesome.” And that’s when I burst into tears.

    Bless his heart, he quickly whisked me into his office so I could cry it out in private. But we had to pass HR to get there, and the next thing I knew, the head of HR followed me in to bring a box of tissues. I was able to get the tears under control quickly, but then I spent the next half hour hyperventilating. It was not my finest moment, but now that I write all this out, I can see that I was pretty much facing the perfect storm of workplace stress.

    To be honest, I had started my day debating whether or not I should quit immediately due to carcinogens, but it’s clear to me that the air is not the only thing toxic at my job.

  69. Vermonter*

    I’ve cried in front of my boss a few times. Once when my coworker literally trashed my workspace, pulling things down from the walls, leaving stuff scattered across the floor, etc. Once when the same coworker sent me a super long “This Is Why You Suck” email on a weekend. (No, it wasn’t valid criticism of my work. It was stuff like implying I was lying about a medical condition I’d taken time off to visit the doctor’s for.) Once when a volunteer hired/trained by that coworker (his personal friend) humiliated me in front of clients.

    Rather than thinking,” wow, this person making my employee cry is a real jerk,” my boss decided I was “fragile” and “sensitive.” The last person in my position quit because of him – literally, she said in her resignation letter that he was the reason she left – but sure, I’m definitely just a wilting flower.

  70. TX expat*

    When in grad school, I had an undergrad working with me one summer who cried ALL the time. Any time she was stressed (speaking in front of more than one person, namely) she would just start tearing up. It was just her physical reaction to stress. I talked to her about it, to make sure she was ok, then just spread the word amongst our lab to ignore it and keep talking like normal to her. She was embarrassed that she couldn’t stop it, but treating it like just a normal thing (like, if she stammered while speaking some or couldn’t help blushing) helped. And I think it was good experience for my advisor – I cried in front of him a couple times, and after the undergrad had gone through the lab, he handled it way better.

  71. Courageous cat*

    I’ve def cried at work. When someone tells me I did something wrong and then keeps at it, hammering the nail in as hard as possible, that’s when I have trouble holding back. I’m fine with constructive criticism but past a certain point it just kind of becomes pinata-hitting and my stress reaction takes over.

  72. Chaordic One*

    When I worked as an Admin at Dysfunctional Teapots, Ltd. they hired a lot of people as contract workers and they had a bonus system where people who worked a certain amount of hours would qualify for an extra payment over what their contract specified. What ended up happening all too often was that people would sign up to work a particular contract that had enough hours to qualify for the bonus. Then at some point someone else with a non-qualifying short-term contract would back out of it and the hiring manager (desperate to fill the spot) would start calling people begging them to trade contracts and fill the opening (which would usually have an earlier starting date) and tell them that doing so would be the biggest favor for them and for the institution (without pointing out that the new contract didn’t have enough hours to qualify for the bonus).

    Many people who weren’t savvy would fall for this and trade for a contract that disqualified them for the bonus. At the end of the season Dysfunctional Teapots would have a big party to celebrate their successful season and where the bonuses were to be awarded. There would always be a number of contractors present who would find that they had traded away their bonuses. Many of them would cry. Some of them were men. (But hey, the hiring manager would buy them a drink on the company dime, so it was O.K. and there was always next year to look forward to.)

    I came to dread the those parties and to loathe the hiring managers. I knew that there would be a number of people who would find out that they weren’t going to get the bonus they had anticipated. (Yes, they should have been paying more attention to what the hiring manager was doing to them, but I really feel they were misled by the hiring managers.) So glad I don’t work there anymore.

  73. TheTallestOneEver*

    It’s only happened to me a few times, but on the rare occasion that I’ve cried on the job, it’s been due to a perfect storm of fatigue, hormones and frustration. There was a project that I fought to implement, then it took almost a year to procure the software we needed, and then the work got delayed due to staff shortages. By the time I had the availability to actually start the work, my new boss canceled the project. I’d already been experiencing insomnia, and I just couldn’t stop myself. I had to ask my boss to leave my office and close the door behind him so I could compose myself and leave for the rest of the day.

  74. Formerly Known As*

    I have ugly cried at work in private before (out in my car or hidden in an empty conference room), and nobody has noticed–or if they did, they didn’t say anything. Once was after receiving devastating health news in a rather cold way from my doctor’s office. I then called my mom and cried for a good 45 minutes or so.

    But only once have I cried at work in front of someone, and that was last year. I just reached the end of my rope with work stress, and I cracked. It was me and our team lead (senior to me, but we report to the same manager). I was crying over a project we were all assigned, and I was struggling with my part of it. I kept apologizing, and she just let me cry it out, no judgment. It was awful, but we worked it out. I got help with the part I was struggling with.

    Mostly, I hide my stress/anxiety. I take my legally prescribed Xanax and go hide in my car or the bathroom or a conference room for a few minutes if I need to.

  75. Ja'am*

    I cry so easily. I’ve cried in front of my bosses in every job I’ve had (I did it recently).

    This article is nice, thank you. I never really knew how to handle it in the moment or the aftermath. Now I have something to say as a way to address it instead of feeling awkward and thinking that they must feel awkward too, and wondering that what they must think of me now is not positive. :/

  76. PseudoMona*

    This is a very timely post for me. My entire department is being laid off, and next Wednesday is the last day of my notice period. I’ll be leaving a job I’ve had for 9 years, with a fantastic manager and a good group of coworkers. I tear up just thinking about it, so I’m very sure there will be many tears next week.

  77. Look Back In Ingres*

    I think it’s worth remembering as well, that emotions have a purpose and can alert you to the fact that things can’t continue as they have been.

    I once burst into the most embarrassing tears as soon as I walked into a meeting room with a very senior person at my org (I had asked to meet with them to talk about cover as it looked like I was going to be doing All The Things with no support all summer for a very demanding team). I was so, so mortified, but at the same time, the person was very kind about it (I remember she even said “I usually do that in the room next door”) and I think my outburst actually highlighted that a. I cared a lot about my work and b. I was seriously worried about my ability to keep doing it well. And things did change! The senior person put lots of things in place to help me out during my Summer of Awful.

    I’m lucky to work in quite a supportive environment, but yeah, I’m kind of not that embarrassed about it tbh? I think most people would’ve folded in some way under that kind of pressure and this is just how it came out for me. I’m in a much better place now and I’ll always be grateful for the nice person for treating me with kindness on that day ^^

  78. JZ*

    Thank you so much for posting this! I’ve been at 4 companies in my career and at each of them I’ve cried in front of someone at least once. I thought I was the only one and have felt like a complete loser, wondering why I can’t stay professional like everyone else.

    Most embarrassingly, I cried while handing in my resignation at 2 of these jobs (did not see that coming either time — I guess I invested a lot in both of these jobs, and everything just “came out” once I decided to leave).
    These bosses have given me great recommendations, and I’ve honestly wondered if they were doing that out of pity. Now I know that they’ve probably seen this plenty of times from other people, and might even see it as a sign of how committed and invested I am in my work.

  79. Probably Nerdy*

    I never cried at work much (ever?) until my last abusive job. The last straw was when my boss told me that I was unmanageable and no one wants to work with me (because I didn’t remind him to do his job on time). I turned in my resignation the next morning and he was beyond floored and tried to tell me it was a bad life decision to quit without something else lined up. Maybe it is, but staying there was a worse life decision.

    During my exit interview I ripped them a new one, to the point where the director looked visibly uncomfortable. He ended with, “Well, thanks for your feedback…”

    Felt good.

  80. c*

    i cried at work about a week ago. i have a really bad back and anxiety which can sometimes be a hell of a mix. I work in admin and pull notes for where i work, the notes i needed were being left all over the floor in messy piles (they were supposed to be being kept in bundles in date order but they were not) and i was being expected to dig through them to find the sets that were needed and was gettting no assistance from the people who’d left them in those messes. i was overwhelmed and in pain and went into my managers office and just immediatly started crying trying to explain, she was in a meeting but her assistant calmed me down and said she’d come and get me as soon as my manager was back. the issue was sorted after that but i was still really embarrassed even though all my managers have all been really understanding and helpful anytime i’ve had an issue.

  81. The (Robot) Hobbit*

    I’ve never cried at work due to work-related stuff – but I’m basically a robot, or so rumor has it, but I don’t see anything inherently wrong about it. People are human and all. As long as it’s not like in the case if that letter writer whose coworker wanted people to start their answers with ‘I’m so sorry’ and complained that people were ‘mean’ to her.

    I have cried at a previous job once, but it was because my then-boyfriend had gotten a positive HIV test back (turned out it was wrong, he didn’t have it, but his immune system was in bad shape when he took the test). Apart from someone dying, I can’t remember crying so much and so desperately in my life.

  82. Mockingdragon*

    I’m so glad to hear so many other angry-criers here! And the general sentiments…you guys are so lovely and understanding. I’m in the boat where I just cry utterly involuntarily when I’m upset, angry, anxious, frustrated…you name it. My ideal reaction from other people is to just pretend I’m not, get through the awkward, and resolve whatever’s happening. Usually if I go away to compose myself, when I come back to the problem it makes me cry again….so the only real solution is to deal with the trigger.

    I know that’s not always workable….which is one of the reasons I want to freelance/telecommute. I’m sick of derailing other peoples’ day. I can’t get a lot of people to just leave me alone, I can’t control the cry, it’s become a problem in the past because everyone can hear me in stupid cubicles.

    I’m just glad to see other people understanding. One of the biggest things that gives me anxiety is knowing that so many people see someone crying and assume it’s manipulative…I don’t want to make anyone behave any differently.

    1. Mockingdragon*

      I also meant to mention that if I can’t cry, my body turns to self-harm…I’ve never hurt myself badly, but I used to scratch at my arms with a pencap or paperclip to try to break through the fog of “NEED TO CRY CAN’T CRY NEED TO CALM CAN’T CALM”. Being allowed to cry does absolute wonders for my mental and physical health.

  83. Cry Baby*

    I cry a lot and it’s so frustrating. I’m usually able to keep it at bay until I can get to some place private. It makes me feel like an idiot child. I’ve tried therapy and meds. I’ve aleays been super sensitive and quick to tears.

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