Sunday, January 8, 2012

How to Cry at Work

How to Cry at Work: An Essay  

“Emotions and good judgment do not go hand-in-hand.”—A commenter on The Harvard Business Review Blog

To cry, to well up, to lament, blubber, keen,  or wail--all are unforgivable. Crying, one shows an unseemly level of engagement, a lack of ability to maintain objectivity and distance; one shows weakness, femininity and its inherent manipulations, that are you easily broken, that you are sickly in hue, a wreck, battered, without backbone, pallid and brittle and girly and irrational. That you are so willing to show your cards, so willing to crumble, that you would go unarmed into battle, stripped down to nothing, a mewling milksop in your soft pink skin, pouring out everywhere, inciting terror if you are a woman, disgust if you are a man, for weeping is the most ruinous of acts; better to embezzle, to stalk, to maim, than allow that most evil of elements, the unspeakable fluid, to stream from that which you have failed to weld closed against your enemies, that you have failed to shore up properly, that you have failed to forge and strengthen in the fires of rage and ego, that you have, through lack of willpower let become assailable,  a site of invasion for your impotence.

And more unforgivable even in women, for your strength is not for you but for those who come after, for those who will walk upon your proving-grounds, for those who must overcome their inherent failures, the mutations of their sex, the way they leak naturally from every pore, their proneness to flowing, like they are not indeed a kind of soldier, but beings receptive and astute. More unforgivable even in women, who can use such weakness as a weapon, who incite protectiveness, who are perhaps unsuited anyway to the demands, the pressure, competition, the machismo, the aggression, required to succeed. More unforgivable even in women, to fail all those who have come before, those who have marched forward in stoic competence, who have proven that instinct can, in fact, be vanquished. 

Therefore, if you are so beside yourself that you are unable to gather yourself, to collect yourself, to get your bearings, to pick yourself up, to pull yourself together, if you must cry at work, you must do so only in secret; you must allow yourself at most three minutes (to be deducted from your break), and two tissues of the rougher variety, and you must do so behind a locked door, preferably a bathroom stall, shrouded in dankness with the water running, all the while crippled with acute awareness of the humiliation you are bringing upon yourself, your gender, your teammates, your organization, your profession, your boss, and indeed, polite society, all of whom expected more from you, all of whom would find you in this moment the weakest and most threatening of beings. 

--Kristen McHenry


risaden said...

OMG, yes. Brilliant. I've so been there.

risaden said...

p.s. love the robot!

Kristin said...

Or I could claim an eye infection, which would explain the swelling and redness.

Great post!

Kristen McHenry said...

Thanks, Risaden and Kristin! (Hi, Kristin! I don't think I have seen you here before. I will check out your blog!) I have had several breakdowns at work over the years, and I hate it, but sometimes it can't be helped. My most recent one was at a new job, and it was very short in duration and mild, but it still made me feel weak and terrible as a person. Fortunately, I have worked mostly for somewhat touchy-feely non-profits, and there is more room for that sort of thing in those environments. What I found so amusing when reading articles about crying at work was the absolute horror with which it was summarily advised if it is some of guaranteed career suicide that you can never, ever come back from and not only that, it makes you a pariah. There is such an intense outcry against it--as if people can just automatically cancel the fact that they have feelings the minute they enter the door to their job. Personally, I feel that emotions ARE a form of logic and intelligence, and need to be acknowledged and felt (within reason) in a place of work.

Anyway, thanks as always for reading!