Yes, There is Crying at Work

Coaching an executive.

Her mother is dying.

She’s reluctant to share at work for fear she might cry.

For God’s sake, there’s a time to cry.  This is one.

Too often I fear we don our executive coats of armor and leave our humanity at the office entrance door.

But as one of my colleagues humorously puts it: Research has shown that many business executives are actually human beings too.

  • We are people first
  • Business persons second
  • Business includes roles that we play. But we are more than those roles.

Connect with the person first, and the professional second. Business flows from there.

A few years ago I coached an executive, when an immensely popular manager in their office died in a car wreck.

The leaders of the office made an announcement but didn’t do much else. No offer for counseling. No opportunity for expression of grief. No chance to collectively mourn.

If there was ever a time to show humanity at the office that was it. Opportunity to grow, bond and help folks through an extremely difficult time was lost.

Yes, work is work and the office is no place for group therapy. And leaders are not therapists nor should they try to act like one.

But there are circumstances that cry out for a human response.

Like mom dying.

I advised my client share as you wish with whomever you wish. You may need to miss work or go out of town suddenly and some folks will need to know in advance so they can prepare and be ready to carry on without you.

And if you cry a bit in the telling? No problem. Most will appreciate you and your expression of your feelings even more.

And by chance some can’t handle it? That’s their problem. Not yours.

Questions for reflection and application:

  1. Do you check your humanity at the office door?
  2. If so, why?
  3. How can you be more a person and less of a ‘role’ at work?
  4. Who needs you now more than they they need the role that you play?

Bottom line: Contrary to Tom Hanks’ famous line, occasionally there is crying in baseball. And in the office. Because life circumstances dictate it. And sometimes, embracing our collective humanity is simply the right thing to do.

Dr. Gary Bradt is a dynamic keynote speaker on change and leadership.Videos and info at His latest book is The Ring in The Rubble: Dig Through Change to Find Your Next Golden Opportunity. You can contact Gary at and follow him on Twitter @GaryBradt.

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