It was one of those credit committee meeting days when all relationship managers had to give a status report of their customer balances, Cabal, as its popularly called as well as update the committee on the performance of loans within their portfolio. Ifueko sat still, her stomach kicked by her unborn baby and hands inconspicuously tucked behind her handbag in a bid to conceal its constant quivering. She had not met her target this month and a contentious facility under her management was sliding into default. The committee members were inevitably going to shred her to pieces with harsh and often derogatory words. By the time they were done, her eyes had swelled as she struggled to avoid to the involuntary force of tears streaming down her face. The abuse, the pressures of her job and the constant barrage of threats of loosing a major source of income was just too much for her to bear.
Most people view crying at work as unprofessional and a sign of weakness and one that should never be allowed to happen no matter the pressures one face. But is crying really that bad in all circumstances? A recent research conducted by Anne Kreamer for her book, It’s Always Personal: Emotions in the new work place suggest otherwise as most people (men and women) who had experienced crying at work see no negative effect in their professionalism and productivity. Whilst this may be so, crying at work may evoke negative perception from onlookers a situation that often leads to stigmatization. So when then is it ok to cry at work and when is it not?
As he addressed his volunteers following his win in the presidential elections last year, President Obama teared up as he thanked the young people who had helped him in no small measure secure victory. Most people viewed that in the positive light and showed a humane side of the president. That display of emotion is often characterized with victory or success for a venture or milestone that you have so worked hard to achieve. In such circumstance the effect of crying is viral in a positive way as it pushes your subordinates or colleagues to acknowledge the importance of what they have come to achieve pushing them to achieve even more collectively. It has a way of bonding the group together.
Contrast this to the case of Ifueko above who was close to crying in front of her bosses and colleagues following her perceived failure to meet her targets and under a barrage of criticisms. Crying in such circumstances is viewed as inimical to confidence and mostly viewed by onlookers as a major sign of weakness and admission of failure. Psychologist advice people that rather than display emotional weakness, Ifueko should cast her mind to the successes, no matter how little, she had achieved during the period and under her condition. Whilst her superiors may not acknowledge her efforts, she could draw encouragement and inspiration from the fact that they are also under pressure to deliver and may simply be transferring aggression.
In the early eighties a governor of the southeastern state of Imo State notably wept while trying to get the federal government to pay more attention to his state following a flooding incidence. In a situation where people are passionate about getting things right crying can be a very good motivational tool and an effective force if getting things done. This often works effectively when charismatic leaders with very good oratory prowess carry it out and viewed by people with respect. It can be a very useful tool in a work place that is struggling to find a rallying force for change.
How often have we found ourselves crying after a disastrous failure in attaining a desired goal? This could result in either abandoning our goals for fear of another failure or trying harder until things we attain success. The difference between the two outcomes is passion. When we have passion for a venture, there is no amount of failure that can deter us from eventually succeeding. One of the motivational factors instigating continuity and perseverance is our ability to cry and accept failure as a launching pad for an even greater success.
An ineffective and dubious use of crying is when it is done to exploit and manipulate situations. Some people are very good at this and will deploy such methods to outwit colleagues who they perceive as threats to their success at the work place. This should be discouraged at all times as it only promotes mediocrity and favoritism. Crying in front of customers and competitors should also be avoided at all times. Imagine seeing your employees crying in the face of pressure from customers or clients. Such do not bode well for the company’s image and will only attract irritation rather than compassion.
When under pressure and it does seem that crying is nearly inevitable, it is often advisable to pretend to cough and excuse yourself for the bathroom. Prevention after all is better than cure.
This article originally appeared in Nairametrics in April 2013