This Is the Real Reason Women Cry at Work

crying at work advice for women1

You thought you were going in for a simple meeting with your boss about the Q2 client roster. But suddenly, he’s calling in Marty to “help” you with the outreach and nobody’s listening to your idea about the thank-you gifts and OMG, why are they both texting while you’re talking to them??

Cue the waterworks.

It’s no secret that women sometimes cry at work. But there’s actually a very specific reason why we do it: anger. That’s according to Evelyn Rodstein, an executive coach with her own practice in big companies, middle markets and nonprofits, who also works with budding startups through the coaching firm Neuberg Gore.

Says Rodstein: “Women can get progressively frustrated when confronted with minor slights over a long period of time. They can get cut off from expressing themselves in meetings, left out of crucial back-door conversations or be hesitant to take a controversial or strong stand. The result is a slow and growing anger. When their sense of efficacy gets slowly eroded, they feel helpless.” And that’s when they cry. 

So how should you handle this influx of emotion? The first step, she says, is to acknowledge your anger. “Often, women will not allow themselves to identify as angry because they think they should be nice.” And while niceness might prevent you from screaming your head off, it won’t keep you from feeling anger, which, in turn, comes out in the form of tears.

The next step is to try to manage this anger when you feel it coming on. “First, take a deep breath, ground yourself and take a pause, a drink of water or a bathroom break.” Rodstein also recommends a calming form of physical self-soothing. “Whenever I think I’m going to get upset or talk too much in a meeting, I take my thumb and push it into the palm of my hand. It relaxes me.” 

But what if the floodgates open and you do cry in front of your superior? If you’re lucky enough to have a boss who’s interested in your emotional well-being, feel free to talk about the tears. But if your boss is uncomfortable, Rodstein advises, “Don’t get embarrassed and don’t get defensive.” And most important, do what you can to make the other person comfortable by turning the conversation away from you and back to the matter at hand. “Say something like, ‘Oh, I feel strongly about this issue. Ignore the tears. What’s important is to resolve the business issue.’”

In other words, by making light of the crying and staying focused on the things that caused your initial anger, you can both resolve the problem and make everyone feel more comfortable…including yourself.

jillian quint

Editor-in-Chief, Avid Reader, Wallpaper Enthusiast

Jillian Quint is the Editor-in-Chief of PureWow, where she oversees the editorial staff and all the fabulous content you read every day. Jillian began her career as a book editor...