4 Highly Successful Women on Crying at Work

RS_4 161Ever had nasty words spread about you at work? And were those words published as front-page news in Politico, with your colleagues describing you as “a source of widespread frustration and anxiety,” “impossible,” and “disengaged or uncaring”?

That’s what happened to the first-ever-female New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson. She opened up to Cosmopolitan in a recent interview about the negative press (and her very public dethroning):

“I did cry after reading [that] article about me in Politico. I don’t regret admitting I did. The reason I wanted to do this interview is that I think it is important to try to speak very candidly to young women. The most important advice I would still give—and it may seem crazy because I did lose this job I really loved—you have to be an authentic person. I did cry. That is my authentic first reaction. I don’t regret sharing that.”

Despite the fact that crying has proven mental and emotional benefits, and that 41 percent of working women surveyed in 2010  said they had cried at the office in the previous year, the taboo remains. While Abramson didn’t specify where exactly she spilled her tears, a high-powered woman openly discussing her authentic emotions brings up the perennial crying-at-work debate.

We rounded up a few highly successful women’s thoughts on the letting the tears flow in the office:

“I think crying at work is inevitable. It should be done sparingly. It’s a non-issue. It happens from time to time, and it’s usually for a good reason.”
Real Simple editor Kristin van Ogtrop, author of Just Let Me Lie Down: Necessary Terms for the Half-Insane Working Mom

“Most people believe—and research suggests—that it is not a good idea to cry at work. It is never something that I plan to do and is hardly recommended in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, but on those rare occasions when I have felt really frustrated, or worse, betrayed, tears have filled my eyes. Even as I have gotten older and more experienced, it still happens every so often.”
—COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg, in her bestseller Lean In

“The last thing I or any other boss wants to hear is, ‘Wahhhh, I was just trying to be helpful, wahhhh!’ That’s why I officially banished crying to the sidewalk outside. You think I’m a bitch? Fine. Go sit on the street and call your friend and talk shit about me all day. Just get out of my office and stop psychically blowing my vibe and that of the others who came here to make money and be serious instead of being jokers. […]Once you enter a workplace, you’re surrounded by grown-ups, not friends. Your boss is not your boyfriend, and she’s not your therapist. She is a person who is paying you to do a job. If you (or she, for that matter) think otherwise, you will be burned.”
—Fashion publicist Kelly Cutrone in her book, If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You

“Some people say, ‘Never let them see you cry.’ I say, if you’re so mad you could just cry, then cry. It terrifies everyone.”
—Comedian Tina Fey, in her memoir Bossypants

The Huffington Post put together a great list a few months ago with even more successful women weighing in on the conversation. How do you feel about crying at work? Tell us in the comments.


  1. Kate Runyon

    Wow…I am quite certain that when the time comes to announce that Ms. Cutrone has passed, no tears will be shed…even outside on the sidewalk. Quite sad.

    July 17, 2014 at 7:04 am
  2. Patty F

    I rarely comment on public forums however reading Ms. Cutrone’s response left me feeling cold and sad for her. I can not imagine going through life with such little heart. Honestly, a good cry may be just what she needs.

    July 17, 2014 at 10:35 am
  3. Jeri L

    I agree with the ladies above. I would never want to work for someone like Ms. Cutrone. I wonder how many women are walking around kneeless because she cut them off?

    July 17, 2014 at 11:27 am
  4. Betty S

    I used to work in factories with lots of guys. If a guy has a flare up of rage, screaming, you name it, he’s encouraged to “walk it off”, even if it involved a physical altercation.

    If someone cries, male or female, even from physical injury and pain, everyone gets really awkward. Friends stage weird interventions. Bosses do big write-ups of what happened and why. The crier is usually seen as emotionally unsound.

    It’s not fair. It’s not right. But it’s how things go.

    July 17, 2014 at 12:19 pm
  5. Gilty

    This post was incredibly timely for me. Though I’m naturally an emotional person, in the workplace, I usually keep it together. My boss however has become increasingly abusive and manipulative and YESTERDAY berated me for what, in the grand scheme of our business, was nothing significant (nor even my fault). Instead of remaining professional when discussing his concerns, he attacked me on a personal level, questioning my integrity, honesty, and trustworthiness. The second he crossed what I felt was “the professional line”, alligator tears swelled up and plopped from my eyes. I sat there taking the ridicule, but there was no stopping those tears. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed. Had he been professional, I never would have cried. And hey, I don’t think crying is “professional”, but often our colleagues and bosses are more than just people with whom we work, they are our friends and confidants…if someone you trust as a colleague attacks you in the workplace in a way that is beyond reproach, the occasional emotional response is inevitable. We may be professionals…but first and foremost…we are human. It is my humble opinion that businesses who appreciate that their employees and clients are humans are more successful than those who treat them as robots.

    July 17, 2014 at 12:30 pm
  6. Aisha Milburn

    I’m a Cutrone type. I think there’s a time and place for everything. Personal tragedy/trauma aside, if your tears are related to work in any way, take a deep breath and suck it up (or go outside).

    July 17, 2014 at 2:57 pm
  7. Rosr Thornton

    You suck Aisha!

    July 17, 2014 at 7:17 pm
  8. Keta

    I’m not a cryer – at work or at home. I generally choose rage when I’m REALLY upset or feel betrayed. But I had this boss once who would cry at the drop of a hat. It was very uncomfortable for me especially and the other folks on our team too. Now that I no longer work for her, I see that she was a big emotional manipulator with those tears. They were simply a way to reel you in and divert you from her real motives – which were quite cut throat. I always felt sorry for her – until she lied about me and almost got me fired. She definitely had issues. Now I totally mistrust crying in professional environments and say tears be damned ! :D

    July 17, 2014 at 8:47 pm
  9. rebecca

    Look, it’s not appropriate to cry at work. If you need to cry, and trust me, I’ve been there, it’s what bathrooms, locked offices, and cars are for. I’ve cried in all three.

    July 18, 2014 at 11:56 am
  10. mitchell

    sometimes i get really frustrated it makes me just want to cry but i had to suck it up and go on w/ work as usual. i like Cutrone ( her unbiased use of words and Sherman ways ) – i had a boss just like her and everybody’s terrified except for me. staff meetings (about 100+), she used to always point me out for whatever reason – even if i have not done anything wrong…she somehow helped me become the person i am today – tough enough to deal w/ just about anything, anywhere, anytime, anyone…i just cry on my way home…

    July 18, 2014 at 12:53 pm
  11. Kristie A

    Simply put Ms. Citrone is a bitch no one should work for. Quite a nasty attitude

    July 19, 2014 at 10:27 pm
  12. Jinjin

    I agree with Kelly Cutrone and with 17 years of work exp. there have been times I wanted to cry my heart out. I tell my reportees- all ladies that they can talk to me but no tears allowed, not in front of me and definitely not at their desk in the cube farm. I have in the rest room, twice in front of my manager and I still regret most breaking down in front of him.

    July 22, 2014 at 4:09 am
  13. lin

    I cry easily and I don’t know what to do about it. Part of it is physical; my supersensitive eyes are always watering (it’s not allergies, it’s any kind of irritation, and often no reason at all) and my tear glands react to the least emotion. When I had surgery near there I pleaded with my ophthalmologist to remove them altogether (no dice).

    So what do you do if you’re in the middle of a convo with your boss and you feel tears coming, just run out past everyone with your eyes welling up? Everyone knows you’re crying, and in the bathroom or on the street you’re even more public than in your boss’s office. I think if you go somewhere to cry, you’re going to cry a lot more than just a few tears leaking out. And then what do you do about the red eyes and ruined makeup?

    I do find that if I have something difficult to say, rehearsing it enough times can defuse the emotion, but sometimes you’re caught off guard.

    July 22, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s