Top Female Execs Tell Us Whether It's OK To Burst Into Tears At Work

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg gave a speech to Harvard Business School in which she said it was OK to cry at work.
Work can be stressful, and people do cry. That goes double in the advertising business, where clients can be capricious with deadlines and creative types often have huge, fragile egos (and the tempers that go with them).
Not everyone agrees with Sandberg that the occasional meltdown is OK. When someone starts sobbing at their desk it can bring the entire office to a halt. It’s tough to ignore. People want to know: Has there been a death in the family? Is work too stressful? Is this person unable to handle the job?
Crying at work has, traditionally, been regarded as a weakness. It’s especially something that men don’t do. Forty-one percent of women have done it, but only 9 percent of men.
So we asked a handful of senior female ad execs in the agency biz what they thought of the issue.
Before we get to them, here’s what Sandberg told Harvard:
I’ve cried at work. I’ve told people I’ve cried at work. And it’s been reported in the press that Sheryl Sandberg cried on Mark Zuckerberg’s shoulder, which is not exactly what happened. I talk about my hopes and fears and ask people about theirs. I try to be myself. Honest about my strengths and weaknesses and I encourage others to do the same. It is all professional and it is all personal, all at the very same time.
YES, BUT … —  Marla Kaplowitz, CEO of MEC North America: “Just don’t let it become habit forming.”

We spend a lot of time in the workplace where we are passionate and committed to doing great work and receiving recognition for a job well done. This creates a variety of emotions and on certain days, some people just need a good emotional release that can include crying.
During my first year out of college, I worked in an entry level role for a very tough person. I knew I would learn a lot and that she would potentially make me cry – as she had done to others. And cry I did one day! But it was the greatest release, and from that moment on, I was stronger in dealing with her as well as with challenging situations.
So if crying is what you need to feel better and move on – and maybe even make a statement (help – I’m exasperated and at a breaking point!) – then cry away. Just don’t let it become habit forming.

NO — Sara Rotman, Founder, CEO & CCO, MODCo Creative: “It’s really only acceptable privately in one’s office (with the door securely closed) or in the ladies room.”

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