Is it EVER Okay to Cry at Work?


For years I worked as a high school principal in one of the most toxic environments I have ever experienced. I was used to a world of trust and changing lives, only to essentially wander into the world of L.Ron Hubbard disguised as a job. If you’re looking for the backstory, check out my July 7th, 2019 post,  “Can You Be in an Abusive Relationship with a Job?” There’s all the tea in the world supporting my time in the cult. Before I wrote that post and was finally free, I had several breakdowns and quite a few were at work, in front of coworkers and subordinates. This leads me to the question, Is it ever okay to cry at work? 

Let’s circle back to my second year in a tough academic business. I’d survived my first year as a principal, with a ton of battle scars. I was finally on my way up, with a great team. The original saboteurs of the building had either left or quit, and it was actually a good second year until the very end. My director called me to say I was being audited for cheating. I was shocked. They sent a person to go through the entire building looking for documentation of cheating. As usual in this particular company, you’re guilty before you’re innocent and so I just snapped. Coincidentally, my team had just handed me a gift card for an amazing steakhouse and when I opened it, my emotions just stormed the place. It wasn’t pretty crying, it was the ugly kind. My poor troops just hugged me or stared at me and tried to murmur words of comfort but I was just too raw after an emotional two years. Was this professional behavior? 

I pulled myself together that day but I’m sure I lost count of how many times I sat quietly sobbing in my office, only to have my security specialist walk in and catch me mid-sob. I confess I’m emotional. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I cannot stop the tears once I get that tight feeling in the back of my throat. I cry when I’m angry or sad or happy. I’m just mush. Nevertheless, if I had to do it all over again, I would stick a pin in my leg to keep from showing such raw emotion. Just like there’s no crying in baseball; there’s no need to cry at work. Perhaps if you’re crying at work (about work specifically), it’s not right the job for you.

I learned that the hard way, after taking my family and friends on the longest emotional rollercoaster ride known to man. I know men are taught not to show their emotions, and for Pete’s sake, men don’t cry! Perhaps that’s why my counterpart (who was a man), could say and do whatever he wanted, while I was questioned about every move. Tad Williams once said, “Weak dogs become bones for other, stronger dogs.” If this is true, I was one tasty bone. I showed my superiors that they could hurt me, and get inside of my head. Having finally left, I can see that even co-workers took advantage of my emotional state.

I return to the original question. Is it ever okay to cry at work? NO. If you don’t want to have a mental breakdown at work, or in front of people, find a bathroom, go to your car, slide under your desk, lock the door but letting them see you cry does not help at all, and could, in fact, jeopardize your job or future promotions. What’s your opinion? Have a story? Please share! Comment below!


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  1. I’m sorry you had that awful experience. I’m an educator, but not in administration. I have wanted to cry at work, but like you stated, I know that I can’t show weakness in that setting. This past week I did cry at work, but about a student of mine that was diagnosed with an inoperable brain cancer. I think that may be the exception, we can cry if it’s about an illness or a death, but not as a result of stressors of the actual job. The first is seen as us being human and loving educators. The second is taken as a sign we’re unfit for the rigors of the job.

  2. I’m so sad that you had this experience at work. What a mess. I worked in Oncology for many years. So, yes, I have cried at work. But, for a totally different reason than your experience. In my work environment, it is hard not to get close to a patient now and then. I tried hard not to get too close, but sometimes failed. And when things weren’t going well with them, I cried. That being said, I did this alone in a bathroom or closed exam room. Pulled myself together so I could continue to care for the others.

    1. I would not make it in your shoes! I think your line of work is extremely emotional and crying makes you very human instead of cold.

  3. Thank you for this post, and thank you so much for sharing your personal experience at this absolutely horrible job. I can’t believe you were accused of cheating, what a nightmare! I’m a very emotional person too, and I cry at the drop of a hat (especially after a very emotional day). I wish crying weren’t a sign of weakness, and that society would let people cry if they needed to (I read somewhere once that crying is actually good for processing and releasing pent up emotion). I hope that your next job doesn’t make you want to cry at all, so it won’t even be an issue.

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