Why you should care
Because if you tell women to lean in, then please yell, “Timberrr!” to get other people out of their way.
When a highly competent, highly educated, highly impressive friend of mine, Diana, went off to work, she got some advice from an older female mentor. Don’t bring baked goods to the office. And don’t cry.
Of course, those are just two of a litany of rules women should follow in the workplace to be “taken seriously.” There’s also: Don’t ask for a room in which to breast-pump, don’t wear anything too cute or sexy but also make sure it’s attractive, and, oh, lean the fuck in. But seriously, whatever you do, don’t cry. It makes people think you’re “weak and incompetent,” says Beth Bechky, a professor of management and organizations at NYU’s Stern School of Business. Her research on crying in the workplace shows that both women and men judge weepers poorly. Unless someone’s died.
What about the stigma against making someone cry? Otherwise phrased: Why isn’t there a taboo against (mostly male) assholery, or ostracizing of the occasional (usually male) office villain, or the boss who blazes through the office, leaving a trail of tears in his (yes, his) wake? Thus I suggest that workplaces adopt a crying jar, in which the inducers of weeping place dollar bills when they commit acts of douchiness. The higher your status, the more you owe. All proceeds go to Planned Parenthood.
Because the truth is that this happens a lot, probably more than you could publicly count. The instant I posted a Facebook status asking women to talk to me about crying in the workplace, I was deluged with emails, texts, and messages. Women wanted to talk about angry customers reducing them to tears, jerk bosses, jerk colleagues, jerk subordinates. Many work in high-pressure environments: finance, politics, academia, medicine. And yeah, even Sheryl Sandberg has said she cried at work.
The issues Bechky sees: First, some might figure the jar’s a joke, or even take macho pride in it. Or: “Who’s going to blow the whistle?” That’s what Diana said, too. She’d prefer private apologies and personal relationship-mending. And Bechky suggests shifting to an overall culture of being “more accepting of emotions in the workplace.” In the end, though, it’s a larger question: Can you always pin blame on only one person? Sometimes it’s all about just the “daily work stress,” and you can’t make Toxic Work Culture drop coins in a jar.
Maybe what we need is a children’s book called Everybody Feels, in the vein of the classic Everybody Poops. Take Hanna (who didn’t want her last name used for the same reason as Diana) — she worked on a Senate campaign and cried on election night when she found out her candidate had lost. So, not even because someone yelled. But in her case, people responded poorly. She told me that men said stuff like, “Have you gotten that out of your system now?” The thing is, though, they’d just lost everything they were working toward for over a year. As Hanna puts it, “I was kind of like, why isn’t everyone crying?”
Go on, take a shot in the comments. You won’t hurt our feelings.