We all know there’s no crying in baseball.
What about crying in banking though … or accounting … or sales?
Some might assume the famous ban on bawling from A League of Their Own applies in any field. You’re supposed to take whatever the manager (or the colleague or the client) dishes out and keep a stiff upper lip. At least until you escape to a private place where you can shed a tear or two sight-unseen.
Not so, if you believe the panel of technology and start-up leaders at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit.
Headline—It’s Okay to Cry: Women Own Vulnerability in the Workplace to Fight Impostor Syndrome.
Really? Yes, really. Fortune quoted the chief strategy officer at Promise: “I think of crying as a cleansing release.”
The founder and CEO of Riveter lays claim to “the right to be sad.” She acknowledges though, “While a good cry can be cathartic and provide a level of clarity, business leaders do need to be careful about who they lean on in such moments.”
The CEO of Climb Credit also advises some caution in choosing just when to let it all out. Catharsis is one thing, but it’s best not to boo-hoo with someone who works for you.
Still, when we’re overwhelmed at work, she says it’s important to get those feelings “into the universe and out of your head.”
Well. This is a switch, isn’t it?
The first time I remember being in trouble for crying was when I was in First Grade and Mrs. Howard ordered me to “turn off the waterworks.”
As an adult, I can’t tell you how many bosses, co-anchors, and other colleagues told me over the years I was too emotional. Too sensitive. Too, well, too teary.
Apparently, I was ahead of my time. Now it’s okay to cry in your cubicle. Or is it? Depending on your own experience, you might feel uncomfortable with the suggestion that workplace tears have become acceptable.
My guess is there’s a generational thing going on here. The Boomer women who put on power suits and those silly bows and worked hard to find a place in the boys’ club of business were advised to toughen up, Tootsie.
And it wasn’t bad advice, when you get down to it. Those who weren’t tough enough (I was one of them) were often criticized for being so sensitive.
The tide turns slowly, but it does turn.
Top-down, I-make-the-rules, command-and-control leadership is falling out of fashion. Today’s corporate leaders are expected to have a heart too … sometimes they even let it show.
Emotional intelligence is increasingly valued. Companies actually bring in coaches to help the hard-core develop their softer side. And hiring managers interview and assess candidates for their E.Q.
More women have more power in more companies.
It’s an open question whether the current, more balanced, command-and-connect leadership style is a cause or a result of the increasing female presence among senior executives. Chicken, meet egg.
And now we have young women sitting on a panel at a major business conference advocating the cleansing release of tears.
Instead of seeing them as weak, Fortune counts the panelists as among the most powerful next-gen women. And describes them as “Owning vulnerability and learning how to turn it into power.”
It’s a good time to be a woman in business, isn’t it?
It didn’t happen by magic though. The women who went before this “next gen” paved the way. Fought some battles that young women today won’t have to fight. Set the stage for this more balanced approach to leadership and to corporate culture.
It all sounds good. And still, I’m going to stick with my notion that crying doesn’t serve me well in business. It’s okay, maybe even essential, to express my feelings. I’m pretty open in my personal and professional lives. And, it’s been a long time since I teared up while I was working, and I intend for it to be longer yet.
Your reaction to all this may have much to do with when and where you started your career.
Maybe you’ve had your share of emotional moments at work. Or maybe you were taught to tough it out and you learned the lesson well.
And what about guys? Is it really “okay to cry at work?”
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