I cried at work yesterday. Not a full scale, dramatic meltdown or anything, just a 2 minute toilet cry. It’s been a tough couple of months with a huge project landing on Monday and when a couple of last minute obstacles reared their ugly head it all got a bit much. One of those awful moments where bad news is delivered and for a couple of seconds, while to try to process that new information and come up with a reasonable, mature, non-tantrum like response, you feel that tell-tale lump and wobble in your voice creep in, leaving you no option but to excuse yourself and duck into the nearest loos. Everyone knows you’re having a quiet sob in there, and if they didn’t, your puffy red face gives you away the minute you walk back out pretending nothing just happened! I got straight back on it as soon as the moment was over, my boss was absolutely fine about it and I felt a hell of a lot better afterwards. So why can’t I shake the feeling that I’ve committed a mortal sin – or career suicide?
It has to be said that I’m a very emotional person. When I’m excited I bounce of the walls. When I’m mad I want to smash things. And more often than not, when I get frustrated, I cry. It isn’t that I’m suffering deep emotional torment or that I’m a fragile little butterfly, that’s just how I deal with it. Maybe it’s just that over the years I’ve managed to get on top of that part of me that wants to smash things and it simply comes out as tears! Either way on the (thankfully rare) occasions it happens I tend to beat myself up over it, even though I wouldn’t for a second consider a colleague unprofessional or unbalanced if it happened to them. In fact I take issue with the very idea that crying in the workplace is ‘unprofessional’ because to me that suggests that you’re choosing to display a type of behaviour – I don’t choose to cry, I simply can’t help it.
So why am I so tough on myself? I’ve built a career, admittedly, in an industry where you’re expected to put on your ‘customer face’ and leave your problems at the door, but even though the customer facing part of my job ended some time ago I still feel obliged to maintain a cool, collected demeanor at all times. So then when I do show a moment of ‘weakness’ I immediately feel the need to march round the office informing everyone that I’m soooo fine, absolutely fine, not cracking under the pressure or failing to cope, just fine fine fine fine fine. Fine. Normally with a double thumbs up, which we all know makes everything 10 times more convincing. And COOL. So in a nutshell make myself look more unbalanced than ever!
If you’re lucky enough to be one of those people who can keep the crazy in at all times, good for you, but my advice to the more temperamental like me? If you feel like you need to cry, just cry. Don’t, like, dissolve into a snotty, weepy puddle in the middle of an exec meeting or anything, that would just be weird. But a quick sniffle in the ladies? Sometimes that’s the only way to get through the day, so don’t beat yourself up over it. And if all else fails, there’s always wine!