Workplace Crying: How is it Perceived?

By: Marie Donlon

Crying in the workplace can damage a woman’s career, according to Professor Kimberly Elsbach of the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Davis.

Looking at over a decade’s worth of data, Elsbach examined possible reasons for why women experience criticism for crying in the workplace and much of it has to do with perception. Women crying at work are often labeled emotional, weak, unprofessional and, in extreme cases, manipulative.

“For most women, crying is really not in their control,” Elsbach said. “We know that boys are socialized not to cry and don’t have to think about it when they’re adults. But most girls aren’t socialized not to cry.”

On the other hand, men who express their workplace frustration with a raised voice or other such manifestation instead of tears are perceived differently, according to Elsbach.

“So when you see Harvey Weinstein, who’s widely known to be a bully, yelling at someone, that behavior may actually give him status,” Elsbach said.

“There’s no reason why it should give men stature,” Elsbach continues. “We make specific attributions of behaviors because we have learned to over time. And these are so hard to undo. It will take generations and generations to unravel.”

For more on the findings, go to the Academy of Management Discoveries.

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