Tuesday December 20, 2016

Crying at work could damage your career, study suggests

Should workplaces be more accommodating to emotional outpourings?.

Should workplaces be more accommodating to emotional outpourings?. (Alexander Lyubavin/flickr cc)

Listen 24:13

Read story transcript

If you've ever cried at work, you may want to hold back the tears. Researchers say crying on the job may hurt your credibility, and even damage your career.

The studies by Dutch researcher Niels van de Ven suggest crying at work changes the way a person is perceived by colleagues.

"What we see is that someone who cries is seen as warmer, but also as less competent," says van de Ven.

He adds that "the reduced competence makes people want to avoid them when something needs to be done."

Kimberly Elsbach, a professor of management at University of California, Davis, has interviewed hundreds of people who cried on the job and her findings support that there are often negative consequences on a person's career. 

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Have you ever cried at work? Tell us your story! (Mr. Samuel Body/Flickr cc)

"A woman we talked to, who was expecting to be promoted to the top position in her organization, cried in a meeting and that promotion never came," Elsbach tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

Related: Lean In to Crying at Work

"We have talked to many women who said that they ultimately felt like they had to leave the organization because they were labelled as a crier."

Elsbach says that their research also showed that the person crying is often perceived as being manipulative and it is believed that they are crying on purpose to get out of doing something unpleasant.

"I think it's important to know that people perceive you these ways in spite of the right or wrongness of these perceptions."

But Anne Kreamer, author of It's Always Personal: Navigating Emotion in the New Workplace, doesn't agree that crying at work will necessarily damage a person's career. In fact she says it could even humanize them in the eyes of their colleagues.

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Author Anne Kreamer found that in the past year, 41 per cent of women admitted to crying at work, but only 9 percent of men did. (flickr)

Kreamer believes tears are often a way of alerting bosses of important underlying issues.

"My research found that the majority of people cry at work not because they're sad, but because they feel angry about something and incapable of expressing that anger," Kreamer tells Tremonti.

"They feel frustrated a great deal of the time ... and they feel undervalued."

Related: ‚Äč9 Reasons You Should Never Feel Bad About Crying At Work

Kreamer and Elsbach both agree there should be more space for emotions at work.

"Obviously no one wants to cry at work," says Kreamer.

"So what we want to kind of do is to create an environment where people aren't ashamed of it, where they learn and have the basic tools.

"We're never taught how to handle emotions really when we go into the workforce and I think to be aware of the complexity of them ... and inadvertently judge them, can help us sort of move forward."

Listen to the full segment at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson.