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It's OK to cry at work

One physical reason women cry more than men at work is that female tear ducts are smaller then men's. While men's eyes may just well-up when they cry, tears stream down women's faces.

Image of It's Always Personal: Navigating Emotion in the New Workplace
Author: Anne Kreamer
Publisher: Random House (2011)
Binding: Hardcover, 256 pages

It's an unspoken rule: No matter how unhappy you are at the office, no matter how upset you are about your pay or anything else -- the one thing you must never, ever do is cry about it at work. And definitely NOT in front of the boss. But maybe things are changing. Sheryl Sandberg told the Harvard Business School commencement this year that she's turned on the water works at Facebook. And she's the COO!

Anne Kreamer, author of "It's Always Personal: Emotion in the New Workplace," thinks that crying in the workplace is more acceptable today. In her research, 41 percent of women reported they had cried at work during the past year and 9 percent of men. The surprising finding was that crying made no difference whatsoever in terms of a person's success; people at all levels of management reported crying on the job.

So where did this idea that crying at work is bad come from?

"I think when women entered the workforce, the dominant sector was obviously male," Kreamer said. "And I think there was an acculturation of men in the workplace that 'Hail fellow, well met, stand up, be strong.' And women had to adapt to that norm when they entered the workplace or risk being ostracized in some way."

Contrary to some expectations, male managers reported to Kreamer's survey they were fine with female employees crying. Kreamer found that it was actually female managers who were harsher against crying female employees.

"Women viewed it as an unforgivable sin," she said. "They were far harsher against other women than against men."

Kreamer said that crying at work does have some value.

"Tears are kinda like the check engine light on your car dashboard kind of," she said. "When you feel yourself about to cry, it's telling you something: You're frustrated, you're overworked, you're feeling undervalued, you don't have enough resources. It's a real tool for analysis. It can actually help you perform your work more successfully. If instead of ignoring and tamping down the tears, you can go, 'Oh wow, what is this telling me?' And it's good for the employee and the manager in that situation to think about it."

Learn more about Kreamer's finding in the audio above.

About the author

Tess Vigeland is the host of Marketplace Money, where she takes a deep dive into why we do what we do with our money.
Image of It's Always Personal: Navigating Emotion in the New Workplace
Author: Anne Kreamer
Publisher: Random House (2011)
Binding: Hardcover, 256 pages
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So says the women who is the CEO of a company founded by MEN 20 years younger then her.

Horizonstar, it seems you need to do some research of your own.

Ok, it's one thing if your grandmother dies or if you're a social worker in the orphans-only oncology ward. But if you're crying in a normal workplace for work-related reasons -- male or female -- you're in the wrong job! Why not quit and find one you actually like??

Also, quick question for this Einstein you interviewed. If men are supposedly hiding their tears in these overly large tear ducts, where does all that saline go? Does it just sit around in the ducts forever? Are there tiny space aliens desperately seeking salt water who plumb the hidden depths of our lower eyelids on a daily basis? Or is it more likely that your author read 3.5 sentences of a 40-sentence Wikipedia article and then declared herself an expert?

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