I Cried at Work, Now What?


by Anonymous Author

I just committed the cardinal sin in the workplace for a woman- I cried. And even worse, I cried in front of a colleague. Yes, I cried and it made me so angry that I was put in that position and that person knew she had made me cry.

Photo courtesy of Africa / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of Africa / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have been in the workforce for over twenty years and there are only 3 instances that I have cried at work. I think as you get older you start to build a tolerance and protective shield so that you toughen up and you can take on whatever is thrown at you.  But sometimes, as professional and tough as I may think I am, there are the rare occasions when I breakdown and cry. I consider myself a professional and I do handle myself in that manner during confrontational meetings. However, looking back at the times I have cried there are a string of similarities in those circumstances – being caught off-guard, buildup of outside emotions and other circumstances, and an attack my personal character.

The first time I cried was at my first job out of college. I was really happy at the job and to be working with an amazing team. But about 6 months in, as soon as I was feeling comfortable and excited to be a part of such a great organization, the company laid off the entire department. I was shocked and a newbie to experiencing a layoff. As a recent college grad, I didn’t have a ton of bills or worries. In fact, at the time I was living with my parents so I had some breathing room as far as losing a paycheck. I cried from the fact that the layoff came out of nowhere. I was caught off guard so much so I started to cry.

But sometimes the crying episode is not the result of the trigger that made you cry but an accumulation of all other things occurring around you. The second time I cried was just that. My father-in-law had just passed away and we were dealing with the loss in our family. One of my coworkers who frequently said mean and rude comments to me happened to say a yet another mean comment to me. Typically, I simply ignore the remarks but this time I just broke down and cried. It was not that her comment made me that upset but I think that it was just the accumulation of so many emotions that were going on in my life and that were out of my control. Her mean comment was literally the straw that broke the camel’s back to set me in a crying frenzy.

And now I present to you scenario number three. I entered the conference call thinking that we were discussing updates from the department director about the project we were both working on. The call started with pleasant small talk and I even inquired about how her family was doing. Then out of nowhere she proceeds to tell me that she actually set up the call to discuss a more personal agenda. She continued to explain and provide examples of how she felt that I steamroll her in meetings, that I put her in the spot on calls, and that I fail to acknowledge her. Mind you she is the more senior level person on the call. I was completely caught off guard because I believed we had a good working relationship. Where was this coming from? This is not who I am! I am an easy and considerate person to work with. Her allegations questioned who I was a person, my character NOT the delivery of my work. This is when the tears started coming in. I can take criticism on my job performance but when it comes to questioning my character I lost it.

I can’t turn back time to erase the fact that I cried in front of this woman that I will still have to work closely with. I need to think of her comments as constructive criticism despite the fact that it felt like a personal attack. Obviously, I will adjust the way I work with her to ensure I don’t walk over her even though I will now feel like I am walking on egg shells when I am in a meeting with her. In the end, I can’t continue to beat myself up about crying in front of her. I just need to dust myself off and know that it can happen to the best of us.