Last week, on 60 Minutes, John Boehner lost it several times. There is open debate whether he is just emotional, or plain crazy. It doesn't matter, because men can cry. Or yell, or act superior, or laugh or pretty much do whatever they want at work. They are men.
I've been in the workforce now for 30 years. When I was 14, I started my first job at a small ice cream shop called Frosties. It was near my home and a perfect job for a young kid. All my friends stopped by, I learned how to handle money, practice my customer service skills, and be away from my parents.
Frosties served delicious homemade sandwiches. On Saturdays, Cindy, my boss, would make gigantic batches of sauce and meatballs and other stuff to be ready for the week. She was 9 months pregnant and had just cleaned the cooler. I picked up a big five gallon bucket of sauce, swung it up and over the lip of the cooler with my knee, and promptly spilled the entire bucket. Sauce went everywhere. Cindy lost it.
I was too shocked to cry on the spot and offered to clean up the mess. I think the last words she yelled at me as I cowered home was, "NEVERMIND! I will do it." I cried all the way home, and for several hours thereafter. The next day, everyone had calmed down, and we both apologized. Me, for the spill, and she, for her reaction. By the way, she and I still dear friends. We just laugh about it now.
Years later, I was working for a local non-profit organization and we had an auction every year. After the auction event, we hauled everything back to my office. One of the gift baskets that had been purchased contained some donated wine and cigars, as well as a gift certificate to a local restaurant. They'd paid more than $500, so it was not a cheapie. Unfortunately, in the shuffle, someone pushed the basket too far under my credenza and it spilled over, dumping out the cigars and crushing them.
At the time, I was making barely enough money to survive. I had a real bitch for a boss, so I knew that going to her for sympathy, or more money to replace the cigars was out of the question. I took the basket home, repacked it, and the next day, stopped by the cigar store to replace the items that were crushed. $30 later (a fortune at the time), I was on my way to the donor's home to deliver the basket.
About the time I pulled into their driveway, it started pouring rain. Not just rain, but big 'ol fat rain, as Forrest Gump would say. I tried my best to shield the basket, but by the time I got to the door, it was soaked. As soon as the man opened the door, I tried to speak, but all that came out were sobs. I tried to explain what had happened, he just looked back at me with an unsympathetic stare. Not acknowledging my predicament, my tears, or the rain, he just grabbed the basket without saying thanks and shut the door.
Another time, I was working as the assistant to the state director for the Gore campaign. There were 20-somethings everywhere, each on the phone calling people in their assigned precincts, trying to sew up the vote for Gore. One night, during "call time" as it's known in the biz, a female co-worker got a phone call on her cell phone. She started screaming, crying and acting hyterical. Her cries were somewhere in between a hyena and a dolphin. I kid you not, she was causing quite a commotion. I got her out of the big call room she was in and drug her outside, just so the others could finish their calls. Afterwards, I learned that a very close friend of hers had been diagnosed with brain cancer. I can tell you for sure that everyone who witnessed her meltdown that night remember her crying more than her work.
I've cried at work. Sometimes out of frustration or humiliation or anger; sometimes I got bad news over the phone such as the death of my grandmother. I've cried while trying to explain my side of a situation. I even have the annoying misfortune of crying when I laugh too hard.
I've been on both sides of the manager-employee equation. Here are some generalities that I've come up with for females in the office when it comes to crying.
- In the vast majority of cases, it is best NOT to cry at work. Period.
- Some people will see you as weak if you cry at work. Period.
- Men are seen as warm, caring and kind when they cry. Women are not.
- Women who cry at work undermine their own credibility.
- If you cry over a personal matter at work, do not talk about the reason you are crying. All anyone will think about is how much time you're spending away from your job to be upset.
- If you are upset about work and feel a good cry coming on, get out of the office, preferably for the day. It's just as hard to explain why your face looks like you've been bawling than to explain why you are bawling.
- If you tear up unexpectedly, cough hard and grab a kleenex. Pretend that you have a cold.
The only real exception I could come up with is if something really horrible and unexpected happens, like the death or injury of a loved one.I know I am going to hear a few opinions on this, and I welcome your comments. Do you agree that women should not cry at work? Are there any exceptions?