From the Desk of Jayne Battey

She was midway through her practice-run for the board presentation. She was on fire —articulate, determined, visionary and passionate. I was with her completely. And suddenly there was a gasp as her words caught in her throat. She took a deep breath and a heavy sigh and turned her face down to the floor. And a few moments later, as I stood by quietly, she looked up with tears and said, “I am so sorry. What just happened?”

Last year, over a series of about three weeks, I found myself in various situations with people who told me about crying at work — or who actually started crying telling me about their work. Crying in anger and in frustration. Crying because they hadn’t eaten a good meal with laughter and friendship in months. Crying in exhaustion from too many hours spent trying to meet the latest work challenge. It seemed to me there was entirely too much crying at work. Wasn’t it time to find a new place to work, or a new way to work, if it brought you to tears? My mind went straight to one of my favorite Tom Hanks’ movies, A League of Their Own (1992):

“Are you crying? (no) Are you crying? (no, sniff, sniff) ARE YOU CRYING? (no, tears flowing) There’s no crying! THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!” Video Clip

 I think there is a fair amount of crying at work these days. Some of it is good crying, and some of it is bad (and some of it is very bad). You know the difference. Bad crying is about working too many hours and often it is about a failure to take care of yourself and/or set limits. It is sometimes about working with hostile or negative people and being in a place that drains your energy and spirit.

If you are in the bad-crying-at-work category, it might be a good time to take a long, hard look at how you can change that. Sometimes the change needed is about the workplace or the work, but often it is about you and how you manage your time and energy. Before you brush up your LinkedIn profile, ask yourself — Are you crying about work or about how you manage yourself at work? Otherwise, no matter where you go, there you’ll be.

So here’s the thing about good-crying-at-work (like my friend at the top of this post). Good crying is a pretty special thing. It comes from a deep-rooted passion to do great things in the world. It’s an emotion we only get to experience when we truly align ourselves with the work we believe we were meant to do. It’s that deep tug on our heartstrings that humbles us and reminds us, in the words of Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

I was about to write a post a few months ago rallying against crying in the workplace. But since then I’ve had the chance to do some good-crying-at-work myself, and to witness some pretty special people doing the same. So next time tears well up, ask yourself — What just happened?

Be honest. Be courageous. Dig deep. Listen to your body. It’s trying to tell you something.