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Is It OK To Cry At Work?

Facebook's COO, Sheryl Sandberg told Harvard Business School graduates "I've cried at work. I've told people I've cried at work.... I try to be myself." What do you think?

Posted on June 3, 2012, at 12:07 p.m. ET


"As you graduate today, ask yourself, how will you lead. Will you use simple and clear language? Will you seek out honesty? When you get honesty back, will you react with anger or with gratitude? As we strive to be more authentic in our communication, we should also strive to be more authentic in a broader sense. I talk a lot about bringing your whole self to work-something I believe in deeply."

-Sheryl Sandberg


"I don't believe we have a professional self from Mondays through Fridays and a real self for the rest of the time. That kind of division probably never worked, but in today's world, with a real voice, an authentic voice, it makes even less sense."

-Sheryl Sandberg


"I've cried at work. I've told people I've cried at work. And it's been reported in the press that Sheryl Sandberg cried on Mark Zuckerberg's shoulder, which is not exactly what happened. I talk about my hopes and fears and ask people about theirs. I try to be myself. Honest about my strengths and weaknesses and I encourage others to do the same. It is all professional and it is all personal, all at the very same time."

-Sheryl Sandberg

According to author and former executive Anne Kreamer's book "It's Always Personal," women cry four times as often as men on average. This isn't just cultural -- women generate far more prolactin, which is the hormone that controls the receptors in our tear glands. Women's tear ducts are even anatomically different, resulting in a larger volume of tears. Kreamer conducted a survey with J. Walter Thompson and found that both women and men tend to divide themselves into two distinct camps -- 25% say they cry "regularly" and 75% do not. Interestingly, while women are somewhat more likely to cry on the job, they are also more likely to consider others who cry "unstable," whereas the same plurality of men see crying at work as only "slightly unprofessional."

"If the crying is about something at work, it will almost always be seen as a weakness. For the most part, people want to be supportive. But the little demon of doubt will prevail and you will be remembered for crying and not so much for your contribution."

-Ruth Mott, executive coach.

Martha Stewart is famous for saying “Cry and you’re out of here. Women in business don’t cry my dear," on the Apprentice. It seems that crying while on the clock has always generally been frowned upon, but that might be changing as more and more women continue to enter the workplace and hold positions of power where they can make their own rules, like Sandberg.

What do you think -- is crying at work ever okay? Have you ever cried on the job?