Is It Ever OK to Cry at Work?

For years now, we've been hearing that crying at work is a bad idea -- especially for women. We've heard that it makes you look less professional, weaker than more stoic colleagues. So it is ever OK to shed a tear at the office?

Deborah Milstein at the Harvard Business Review blog network argues that it is, in very select circumstances.

In this, she's directly contradicting the advice of job experts like her HBR colleague and "Great On The Job" author Jodi Glickman, who wrote of John Boehner's famous tearfulness, "Even though the highest-ranking congressman in the land does it, you still can't."

Milstein disagrees: "...while crying at work is neither pleasant nor pretty, true feeling shows engagement, commitment, and heart. What more, really, could an employer hope for?" She offers the example of the sudden death of her boss and mentor. For months afterward, she sobbed at the office, leaving exhausted at the end of the day and embarrassed at having made such a public display of emotion.

Her husband, a CEO, reassured her.

"You're not crying because you had a bad review, or you messed up, or you're bad at your job," he said. "Someone died, someone close to you. Don't be so hard on yourself."

So how can you make sure crying is appropriate? Follow the advice of Cynthia Good, CEO of career resource site Little Pink Book: "Keep it out of the boardroom." Then, as long as you're not crying because of the aforementioned bad review or work screw-up, you can feel free to weep away.

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