Now That Men Can Cry at Work, Why Can’t Women?

The cultural climate may finally be changing for men—which could be good news for women in the workplace. In a recent New York Times article, Jim Windolf makes the case that “the cultural bias against male tears” may be a thing of the past. This bias equates tears with weakness and treats the ability to “quash or conceal sadness or pain” as a manly virtue and a sign of strength. I have always felt that suppressing tears and quashing feelings cuts us off from full and authentic self-expression in the workplace. The author agrees that “crying is part of being human, and men are probably just as human as anybody else.” Windolf notes that these days male politicians are practically required to show their humanity by shedding a few tears in public. He recalls that Barack Obama cried in public before he was elected in 2008, and Newt Gingrich, Mitch McConnell, and John Boehner have cried in public, too. While it is true that Boehner still gets teased about how easily he cries, he may have done more than any other politician to normalize the sight of a strong male leader crying. Windolf goes on to identify other examples of men “slipping out of the emotional straitjacket” by crying in public, including Justin Timberlake, Kanye West, and several sports figures such as Wilmer Flores of the New York Mets. Why could this change be good for women?  I have written in a past article about the pressure my female clients are under to suppress their tears at work. They have been told that it is bad to be seen as “too emotional” and that “leaders don’t cry.”  Yet tears are a natural form of expression of a wide range of feelings from intense joy to deep frustration. I offer tips in my past article about how to handle authentic emotion in the workplace. Being able to express a full range of emotion is part of effective communication and authentic leadership. Let’s hope the emotional straitjacket is finally coming off for both women and men in the workplace. I know we’re not there yet, but the signs of change in the larger society are encouraging. Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at]]>

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