Research has shown that crying at work comes off as unprofessional and weakens your promotion prospects — and surveys suggest that people cry at work a lot, anyway. So how can you balance your human emotional needs with the necessity of presenting yourself as a productive unit of gut-flora for the transhuman, immortal artificial life form that has absorbed you?
In a 2016 paper published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, a group of business-school researchers led by Harvard doctoral candidate Elizabeth Baily Wolf present the results of a study on how people perceive their co-workers' tears, and which emotional explanations are most favorably perceived.
They evaluated five notional explanations for crying at work — fighting with co-workers, being assigned undesirable work, being discriminated against, negotiating for higher pay, and being overcome with passion for your job — and found that subjects viewed the final explanation (overwhelming workplace passion that spills over into tears) as reflecting the most workplace competence.
Of course, this strategy only works for work-related tears, and sometimes people cry at work for personal reasons (though if spotted, you could try to pawn it off on the job). Nevertheless, this dynamic tends to truly crystallize in the performance review, the best known venue for workplace crying. If involuntary tears start welling up during harsh criticism from the boss, instead of apologizing for getting emotional, blame them on passion for your job. The boss might perceive the tears as noble, even endearing, rather than weak.
Workers are generally told to leave their tears at home. Jennifer Porter, a managing partner at the Boda Group, an executive coaching firm, advises clients—particularly women—not to cry on the job.
"If you can find strategies to not cry at work, it's in your career best interests," she said. Wolf's research confirmed that holding back tears still beats all other options. In one of her experiments, when given three options for a potential project partner, participants chose the person who hid distress over someone who admitted to crying—no matter what the reason.
Managing perceptions of distress at work: Reframing emotion as passion [Elizabeth Baily Wolf, Jooa Julia Lee, Sunita Sah and Alison Wood Brooks/Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes]
The Expert's Guide to Crying at Work [Rebecca Greenfield/Bloomberg]
(via Naked Capitalism)