What Crying At Work Says About You & America’s Work Culture, According To Experts

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Most of us, at some point, have felt like crying at work. Whether your personal life is making your 9-5 stressful, your job is high-pressure, or if your work culture is toxic, the occasional need to spend 30 minutes in a stairwell with a box of tissues is understandable. Crying at work is extremely common and nothing to be ashamed of, but it can also be a signal of other things going on in your life, too.

Research indicates that women are penalized unfairly for displays of emotion in the workplace. Dr. Kimberley Elsbach, PhD, a professor at University of California, Davis, who's done extensive research on crying at work, tells Bustle that many women had experienced negative consequences for weeping on the job. "Some consequences were relatively minor — being treated with kid gloves," she says. "In other cases, women were pulled off high-profile projects, not given plum assignments, or in a few cases, been so severely ostracized that they left their jobs. The best case in our studies was that women were treated neutrally — neither more positively or negatively — because their crying was seen as justified in the circumstances."

However, experts also tell Bustle that crying can help performance rather than hinder it — and that understanding why you're crying at work can give clues about your emotional health and what's really happening in your workplace.