Readers Respond! Holding Back Tears in the Workplace

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Monica Gabriel Marshall
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Last week, I asked Verily readers what they thought about letting a tear or two slip while on the job.  Should women who have a stereotypically female emotional response (aka, tears) have to "man up" at work?  I received some helpful insights from our readers, so I thought I would share them with the class!

Cathy points out that some of our most feminine literary heroines would never be caught crying in the office…or the drawing room for that matter:

"I'm not sure that suppressing tears is necessarily masculine. For example, I have always been impressed with the poise and emotional control that women in Victorian novels possess. Maybe that, too, was an instance of women imitating men but it always seemed to me like an inner strength and maturity that women today could use a strong dose of."

Caitlin comments on Facebook:

"...we could discourage the other sorts of emotional outbursts, too. Might moving away from the acceptability of condescension and shouting be more productive than focusing on accepting tears? I agree that there should be a gender-balanced perspective, but all of these should be the exception, not the rule. You don't want to feel like you have to walk on eggshells all day at the office."

Dr. Greg Bottaro was kind enough to share a thoughtful examination on the subject:

"As a man, I can learn from women how to make up in the areas I fall short.  Women can learn from men where they fall short.  This is how we can be coeducative.  I definitely would not say it’s wrong to shed tears or be choked up with emotion sometimes in the workplace.  As an added note, I also agree that there is a double standard with “angry” emotions being allowed, and “sad” emotions not being allowed.  I don’t think emotions can be divided up between men and women, but I do think certain emotional displays have been (unjustly) given a pass while others haven’t.  For a healthy workplace, or home, or anywhere for that matter, the proper balance between feeling, expressing, and compartmentalizing emotions is necessary.  It is important to acknowledge the ways that men and women can learn from each other about how to handle different kinds of situations.  Sometimes a situation at work calls for more rational thinking with the emotional response compartmentalized, and sometimes a situation calls for more of the heart to be involved – especially when “acknowledging a person” is necessary.  So, should a woman “man-up” at work?  Maybe.  But only insofar as a man should “woman-up” as well."

Dr. Greg Bottaro also offered some thoughts from a letter to working women written by the late Catholic Pope, John Paul II:

“Thank you, women who work! You are present and active in every area of life–social, economic, cultural, artistic and political. In this way you make an indispensable contribution to the growth of a culture which unites reason and feeling, to a model of life ever open to the sense of "mystery", to the establishment of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity...”

Thanks for engaging with Verily. We love to hear what you think!