Yes, It’s OK to Cry!

Baby squalling

I read a post on job hunting and came across something in the comments that caught my attention. The post itself suggested that “It’s OK to cry” when frustrated during a job search, and here’s what a commenter said in response:

It’s okay to do a lot of emotional things, but I would not put crying on my list of things to do when looking for a job. And if I have to be told it’s okay to cry, then I need more than job counseling. Bottom line, cry if you want, but it’s irrelevant to whether or not you will be more or less employable. This may sound insensitive, but I’ve had more than a few bumps in the road, personally, professionally and health-wise. Crying over one’s woes is self-pity and I have no time or patience with that.

Wow — now that is harsh.

Crying is a natural response to sadness, to loss, to pain. It is not whining, nor should a person feel like emotions should have to be controlled by “having a stiff upper lip” or by “sucking it up.” For some, crying can be a good release of emotions that will then enable them to have a better focus on what needs to be done to get another job instead of being distracted by their feelings.

My biggest beef with this comment is that there is zero tolerance for individuality. Some people are naturally emotive; others are stoic. Some people have been laid off for two weeks; others have been laid off for two years. Some people worked for 10 years at their jobs and loved their places of employment; others were looking for a way out of their work situation. Because of those (and other) differences, the methods in which the ebb and flow of emotions are handled will vary from person to person.

Let me be clear: I am not suggesting that it’s OK for a person to cry for hours on end, to go on crying jags most days of the week, or to have break-downs in public. That would be excessive, and I would strongly recommend that anyone who is feeling despondent about their employment status should talk with a professional who can help work through those issues. Depression will derail your efforts to find work, so it needs to be dealt with.

So you feel the need to cry once in a while? I say, “Yes! It’s OK to cry!”

What do you say?

Image courtesy of brokinhrt2

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  1. William Powell
    Twitter: LeadrshpAdvisor

    I certainly hope the comment to which you referred in your post wasn’t made by someone looking for a leadership position. If they govern themselves that rigidly, then there is a significant chance that is how they will attempt to govern others.

    It’s this seeming need to strip emotion from the workplace that concerns me. Emotions are a part of our humanity. To diminish the possibility to express them healthily is to diminish our humanity…something we desperately need more in business and the workplace.


  2. Mark Williams says:

    I tweeted on this topic Monday. The Harvard Business Review believes one should NOT cry at work and I am of the same opinion. If you must cry, step away from your office. MWilliamsRHMR RT @HarvardBiz: How Not to Cry At Work, Even If John Boehner Does

  3. Melissa Cooley
    Twitter: TheJobQuest

    @William: Thank you for visiting and for your comments! If I recall, the person left the comment anonymously, so it’s anybody’s guess as to his/her position. I agree with you that “emotions are a part of our humanity.”

    I especially didn’t like the part of the comment that said, “Crying over one’s woes is self-pity.” The judgment and lack of acceptance regarding how a person chooses to handle a blow like a job loss is truly sad.

    @Mark: I also thank you for visiting and for your comments! I can appreciate your (and HBR’s) perspective regarding crying at the workplace, especially if it was engaged in regularly. (I would hope that if there was an extreme situation and a person wasn’t able to make an escape that a one-time cry would not be held against him/her forever.)

    The post I read, the comment to it, and this post are referring to how to handle a job loss or frustrations with a job search. Given a person’s employment status at that time, the show of emotions would not happen at the workplace. I apologize if the distinction was not made clear.

  4. Jake LaCaze
    Twitter: jakelacaze

    “Some people are naturally emotive; others are stoic.” — When I read this quote, I was reminded of a line from my hero Robert Smith, the magnificent lyricist and singer of The Cure (unfortunately, I can’t remember the exact quote and so I have to paraphrase): “If you’re willing to admit that some people are smarter than others, then you have to admit that some can feel more than others.”

    As you said, we all deal with things differently. I try not to get very emotional. I try to keep my composure, but the truth is that no matter how hard I may try, I have days when things finally get to me and I take a little time to mope. When others reach that point, they may cry. But as long as we get it out of our systems and move forward, I think that crying or having those emotional moments can be very helpful and therapeutic.

  5. Melissa Cooley
    Twitter: TheJobQuest

    And that’s exactly it, Jake — everyone has a different way of purging the negativity that holds us back. I have a brother who fits the stereotype of a logical/analytical thinker, and he is cool as a cucumber. Always. I’ve no idea how he does it, but I don’t recall ever seeing him cry. And I’m an emotional person. I cry and get mad — and then I figure out what I need to do to change the situation.

    Crying doesn’t have to be the same as wallowing. If a person needs to use it as a tool to move to a more productive state, I don’t see the harm.

  6. Crying at work not a good idea, imho.

    Crying at home when it’s what you need? Go for it.

    How much crying is “okay” probably depends on you and what you are crying about. Grieving the death of your spouse or closest friend can involve daily crying for quite a long time. There is no quick remedy here.

    Crying over work/career frustrations–well, thankfully, those are the kinds of problems can be worked on and fixed (maybe not immediately, but they are fixable!).

    A good cure to crying is, indeed, taking forceful positive empowering action of some kind.

  7. Crying at work? Definitely a bad idea. Crying about work? Well, who hasn’t?

    I would say, however, that crying about anything is not terribly productive, so don’t spend a lot of time doing it. :)

  8. Melissa Cooley
    Twitter: TheJobQuest

    @Working Girl: Good to see you here!

    You have an interesting thought here — “A good cure to crying is, indeed, taking forceful positive empowering action of some kind.” I agree — it certainly can pull you out of the doldrums and get you moving beyond the sting of the painful event.

    @GD: Hello again! :)

    I think we are in agreement. Excessive crying about a job loss is not productive, and can serve to keep a person more focused on the pain than what needs to be done to deal with the situation. As I said before, the thing that irked me the most about the comment that spurred this post was the sweeping generalization that “crying is self-pity.” I definitely don’t agree with that.


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