It’s my workplace and I’ll cry if I want to

Okay, I really need to read her book. Thanks Tracie Egan Morrissey, of Jezebel, for yet another insightful review and interview: Sheryl Sandberg on Why It’s OK to Cry at Work.

I’ve cried one memorable, work-related time at the office, due to immense frustration and feelings of abject helplessness and injustice.

Two colleagues (a man and a woman) and I were meeting with our supervisor (a woman) over our department’s annual review process. Individual performance reviews had been completed, and we needed to submit our plan to the HR department for new titles and amended job descriptions for our myriad public affairs functions. We were going back and forth about titles, trying to encapsulate what it was that each of us did. The man in the room said that he could be “New Media Manager” (it was the year 1999 or 2000, I think, he fancied himself an internet guru). I too, wanted “Manager” in my title, but before I could name a title for myself, the man suggested, “Oh, well she could be ‘Vice President of Good Feelings.'” I had no idea how to respond, I think my mouth probably hung open and I glanced at my supervisor, whose mouth also hung open. We moved on… in the meeting.

I, personally, did not move on. I ended up meeting with my supervisor about the episode, which unraveled into a big mess of a talk about job responsibilities and whether the man on our team was pulling his weight. (Let me be clear: he was not. Much of his internet expertise came from day trading. He left our organization within a year of all this.)

I talked with my supervisor about all of this. I couldn’t believe he thought or even joked that I was all about “good feelings” and he was all about “new media.” I broke down and cried. I was not yet 30 and felt at once brilliant and cocky while feeling stupid and insecure.

It was not pretty. It was youth.

Ms. Sandberg, in discussing the issue of crying at work with Ms. Egan Morrissey, says the following:

“Look, I’m not suggesting that the way to get to the corner office is to cry as much as possible. Nobody is going to publish the next Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and say that crying is one of them. But I am saying that it happens. It has happened to me. It has happened to me more than once. It will happen to me again. It happens to other women. Rather than spend all this time beating ourselves up for it, let’s accept ourselves. OK, I cried, life went on. And I think that’s part of the message of Lean In, like we are human beings, we are emotional beings and we can be our whole selves at work.”

Does crying–being yourself–run the risk of diminishing your likability? Probably. Should likability be a factor in a woman’s success? No. (Only because there is a mess of successful men out there who are utterly unlikable. Some of them are even psychopaths.)

Crying happens, it’s true. Emotions–they’re not going away. I accept that I cried at work, I don’t feel badly about myself for having done so. But I do wish that the person who drove me to tears hadn’t had the power to do so. I had given him that power. I wish I had not.

I wish I had been older.

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