Monday, June 30, 2014

Tears in the workplace

I spent some years working in a patriarchal work setting. I recall times when I just wanted to cry because of the sexism. But I was so determined not to cry in the office. I wanted to show my professionalism. And besides, I could take whatever came my way just like a man, right?! I did my crying at home, thank you very much.

Just recently, however, I talked with a friend about how some workplaces are beginning to realize that the old ways of doing business are not only not good for women, they're not very good for men either. There's a growing awareness that some corporate policies are inhumane. Too much is simply expected of people. My friend said that some women in top management are advocating that women (and men) be real, be human, be who they are—and not leave their emotions at home. Some women are saying it's not only acceptable to cry in the workplace; it can be healthy.

I've been thinking about that a lot. I do know that tears moisten our hearts, soften them, make us more open to others. Might that be good for a workplace? Hmmm, perhaps it is time to stop expecting people to be robots or superhuman—leaping tall buildings in a single bound—in the workplace. Maybe it really is time to see that when we let employees feel respected, fully human and all of who they are (partners, parents, daughters, sons, whatever else), everybody wins. When workers feel cared for, supported and respected, they'll give all they can to that job. That's quite different from the old joke, "The beatings will continue until morale improves."

Workplaces can change. They can add heart to the emphasis on head. Maybe we need to start with tears?

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