A tear at work would cop you a tsunami of taunting
Never have I cried at work. Not when I was passed over for a promotion. Not when my first marriage broke up. Not even when I was slammed with a written warning from a priggish managing editor for a grievously misplaced apostrophe that should’ve been spotted during editing.
“Your’e a twat, yo’ure a twat, y’oure a twat,” I may have muttered silently as I returned to my desk, but the tears stayed stuck. For 20 years, I’ve fought hard to curb any office eye-prickling (there’s been the odd tissue dab in the loo).
“I’m sure we’ve caused you a few tears over the years,” a formidable London editor guffawed as he gave me a pay rise, having realised the apostrophe-challenged Antipodean could actually do her job.
“I’ve never cried in this office,” I responded indignantly. “The canteen, maybe, but you’d also cry with laughter if you saw Eric from accounts shovelling a third serve of spotted dick into his cavernous gob.” (Except, I didn’t say that, of course, because this was the boss and I was on my pinstripe-best behaviour.)
Imagine, then, my shock – no, my hysterical tears – upon hearing the patron saint of corporate women, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, is all for a good blub at your desk. Or at the watercooler. Or in the boardroom.
“I’ve cried at work,” she revealed – ironically, just days after Mark Zuckerberg would have rubber-stamped her share options. “I’ve told people I’ve cried at work. I don’t believe we have a professional self from Monday to Friday and a real self for the rest of the time.”
It’s all right for Sandberg – “It’s my company and I’ll cry if I want to” – but imagine if Beryl on reception starting bawling over a broken nail. Or if Trev the courier had to pull over on the freeway after Trace had a right go at him.
Perhaps I’m peeved because now I work from home, I can blub whenever I want – and I do. Often. Interviewing parents who have lost a child, national disasters or reading elegantly woven words unravel me. But crying in front of the boss?
I’m all for bringing your “authentic self” to work. Having spent the ’90s in bodysuits with crotch-pinging poppers, I’d happily rock up in jeans, hair plaited, with a tray of ginger slices (it’s good to win people over before they deal with your hapless punctuation).
But isn’t crying – except when you’ve heard bad news or stapled your own thumb – a bit preschool? Career coach and Punch contributor Kate Southam agrees: “Crying at work is still not a good move,” she says. “People might say, ‘There, there,’ to your face, but behind your back make a mental note: she can’t cope.”
But a friend who heads a PR company is all for Sandberg’s ‘tear and share’ culture. “People dump on me because I’ve opened the floodgates myself,” she says. “I like the openness and I’ve heard it all: affairs, threesomes, forgotten birthdays.”
Although women dampen their desks more than men – 41 vs 9 per cent – it’s not career suicide. Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is in demand, says my banking bigwig mate Tom: “It’s no longer about being a corporate warrior, it’s about communicating authentically.”
But surely having a high EQ means you know when to wind up the weeping? Because there’s a reason I never cried at work. Just 22 and fresh out of uni, I was spotted having a sob in the office car park. “Mind her,” I heard one bloke say. “Must be time of the month.”
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