From Our Readers There’s No Crying…In The Boardroom From Our Readers

Hey women – is self-doubt still a thing? I read this INC article about crying at work and it got me thinking.

As a newly-minted working woman, it is for me. (Warning: prepare for biased generalizations based on my own experiences!) Having been called everything from “little girl” to “expert” to “arrogant” in the workplace, I find myself often battling an exhausting combination of ambition and self-doubt. And yes, sometimes it leads to crying…in the workplace, in the car, in the grocery store (okay, we’re getting a little distracted with my crying issues. Moving on).

I hope you’re not expecting to learn ways to battle the urge to cry or to be more confident at work from this article (but if you have them, leave them in the comments so I can learn something!); this is more of a whiny, question-asking situation here, folks.

Does anyone else constantly battle with themselves? Sometimes I think maybe I’m not alone in this and other times I think I’m the craziest person in the world.

I grew up wanting to be a writer, always stuck somewhere in between a teacher’s encouragement and a family member’s vociferous opinion of my “reality” – that it would never happen. I think that’s where self-doubt begins – ironically, on the outside. There will always be people who don’t agree, who don’t believe and that’s okay. It’s even a little motivating. But suddenly you grow up and there is this collective conscience reinforcing that kind of doubt because of your gender – or your sexual orientation – or some other trait people can use to single you out. I recently had a job interview where the man felt the need to warn me that if I’m sensitive, it won’t work, because he can be mean and tough on people. I appreciate the warning, but just because you’re tough on me, does that mean it’s an end all be all because I’ll take it personally sometimes? Isn’t that how we learn and grow? Does he warn men he speaks with about this? If he knows he’s difficult, shouldn’t he hire someone sensitive to teach him a new way to handle things? So many questions!

Let’s talk gender for a second. I’m pointing this out because this sensitive/crying thing has become a stigma mostly associated with women – we cry in the workplace (note: see the Hillary Clinton reference in the INC article).

In a society where, despite consistent strides forward, women still have to fight their ways to the top, I guess it’s natural to navigate feelings of inadequacy both within yourself and without, where the prejudices of others tend to keep us down more times than not. If we’re to “make it” we are expected to buck up (again, biased personal experience). Be that strong woman in the workplace  - the woman whose heart is seemingly ice and who can withstand most everything and not be bothered by condescension or collective disapprobation (or maybe that’s just the movies talking – hello, Sandra Bullock in The Proposal and Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada). Maybe we do cry more. Maybe it’s because we’re fighting our own lack of confidence on top of the stigma surrounding us, and it’s exhausting. Or maybe we have our period, right? Clearly that gets in the way of rational thinking, or whatever.

The point is, I get worried when I watch that kind of strong, important woman on TV or in the movies. The woman my mom consciously raised me to be (or tried to). When I see that, I feel like I should confess.

I’ll never be her.

I’m sensitive. I doubt myself everyday, I underestimate myself, I know I’ll go places in life, I often feel like I’m drowning in self-doubt, I love myself. You think that’s confusing? Try being in my head for a day. I’ll have you crying in no time!!How can caring what other people think and always striving to learn and be better truly be considered a bad thing?

What’s more, why is that viewed as a negative female trait? Most of the time I know that caring doesn’t make me weak. I have bounced back a million and two times from setbacks without cowering in a corner and hiding from the world. It didn’t make me any less sensitive, but didn’t make me any less strong, either. It made me work better, strive more, and reach my goals more effectively. Other times, I’m told that taking things personally is negative – something to be grown out of and overcome – something that is so utterly female. Excuse me, but why do I need to grow out of my gender?

I’m not saying all women should be able to cry all day at work when things get hard, just like men can’t pound their chests and smash things to prove their manliness all day either (really working the stereotypes here).  I’m just wondering why we have to pretend like we’re not human in the workplace. I’m wondering why we have to change. Work is the place we spend the most time, where we’re surrounded by an almost “second family” of co-workers 40-60 hours per week. Why should I pretend like I have no emotions? Why can’t I be ambitious and sensitive? More urgently, what does my personality have anything to do with my gender? Have you never seen a sensitive guy? Because I sure have and I’m sure he has a job somewhere. How do people respond to him?

It’s not even overall sexism at work that I’m concerned about – even though it may sound that way. I think sexism has a lot to do with it, but I also know that’s a much larger issue that will take plenty of more years and work to tackle. I’m concerned about why it is, that sensitive members of the female sex are viewed as setting the collective “us” back?

What I’m really truly wondering about, though, is self-doubt. It’s self-imposed a lot of the time, yes, but other times, ingrained by observations and interactions around and involving us. Second guessing yourself is, of course, a natural and oftentimes productive part of life, but sometimes it feels as if women carry just a little bit more of that burden. And if we don’t, if we project a sense of calm in knowing exactly what we’re doing, we’re considered “cocky”, “arrogant”, or worse – gasp! – “a feminist”. That strong woman in the workplace – she’s revered, feared, maybe even disliked because she’s good at what she does and doesn’t get emotional Like Madonna said, “I’m tough, ambitious, and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, okay.”

The sensitive woman? She’s weak, maybe even a little less effective at work in the eyes of others. But really she’s no different from others – maybe just not as good at hiding her emotions. Maybe she throws her heart and soul into work and is affected by the results. Why is that a bad thing? When do we get to be liked and respected for who we are, at work and in society?

Any ideas?

You can read more from Amie Baumwell on her blog.

Featured image via.

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  1. Let me start by saying I am so happy/relieved/joyous/crying right now that someone else has cried at work.

    In my own personal experience, I work in media (live sports, internet, social media, television, etc). This happens to be a traditionally, though changing, male dominated industry. All through high school and college, I pushed and achieved and committed myself to my work more than those around me. I was told how intuitive and fast-acting I am. How smart and “In-the-know” I am. How blunt and occasionally rude I was. But I ALWAYS got the job done. I was a bitch to be around, but the project/shoot/job was always completed to a required standard.
    The people that I have worked with on productions know who I am. I am sweet and polite and thankful before and after a production. I bring food and drinks, make sure the schedule works as best as possible and have extras of everything and a backup person to run emergency errands. During work/production: I am short with my answers, patient with my talent, and harsh with my crew when they fuck around set. But the minute we’re wrapped, I’m happy and sweet and take everyone out for beer.
    A lot of my guy friends/colleagues never completed their own work, but would come to me for the “bad-cop” routine I had down to a science.
    Men and dirty jokes do not phase me. I expect to be an equal, so treat me as such. I’d rather they not even see me as a lady, because then the real work can begin.

    “_____ is tenacious and never says no to a challenge,” was actually written on a letter of Recommendation by several of my teachers. When I got my first post-college job in media (at a small, albeit known production company) my future employer said he LOVED my tenacity and “balls-to-the-wall spirit.”

    Exactly 3 months after working for him, I began to be called into the office. Every. Single. Day. Sometimes I would get the call before I even walked through the door. And I would have to sit and be told how stupid and ignorant I am in the ways of television and business, even though I was LITERALLY going by exactly what I was told to do. It didn’t matter if I had emails or notes on my assignments. And like a fool, I tried to speak up for myself. Which made the yelling worse. I broke and cried so many times in that building, but only once in front of him. No sobs. Just silent streams of tears.

    That was the day he told me I was a “dog that needed a shock collar, so that she can learn her place.”

    But I’m not a dog. I’m a human being. A person whose creativity, spirit, confidence and tenacity have all been broken by his assault of words.

    If this happened to anyone else in the office, they’d either 1) not say a thing except yes sir or no sir 2) tell him to shut up, they’ve got it under control (btw: these people have been working for him for 8+ years) Which my boss then says ok, get to it. (WTH?!?!?!?!)

    If we’re not treated the same, how can we be expected to function the same?

    Now, every day I question my actions. I quiver and quake at his phone calls and his voice. I have no confidence behind my actions or decisions, so I look like a lost puppy.

    I still work for him because I need the money. And despite everything, I have impressed those around me to the point that my boss has promoted me to a position that few of my peers have achieved thus far.

    I cry at work, because that is the only way I can contain my screaming. All I want to do is yell at him, but I know I will lose my job in a heart-beat. I want to speak to him rationally, and have a conversation, but you can’t speak with an irrational person. I cry, because that is the only way I can keep from exploding.

    The men I work with act out in their own ways. Some cheat on their wives (really seen it happen). Others nurse alcohol (I unfortunately fall into this category). While the rest bury their faces in smoke or food. Out of all of these vices (and everybody has one) crying has GOT to be the healthiest form of coping.

  2. Oh my gosh, so many good points!

    First off, women are so not more sensitive than men (my own experiences here). I have multiple 35+ year old men who whine and cry and call their mum’s – one was in the special service army in Afghanistan, he was tattooed, muscley, outwardly he was a big tough guy, but in his own home he was more emotional than I knew a person could be. Others were similar.

    And the point about those tough, “strong” women who are ice queens and ‘act like a man’ … um, being a strong women – to me – means being and embracing all things womanly, not supressing your womanhood and acting like a man.

    I don’t think women cry more than men, I just think we are less shamed by it than men. It is not the end of the world to get teary in a shopping centre because you saw something that reminded you of someone, etc. It is “okay” for women to be emotional because that’s just what women do, clearly. (Sarcasm) but seriously, I think it’s generally thought that a woman crying is less shocking than a man crying, therefore if a man is seen crying he is less of a man.

    And in terms of the workplace, somebody once said that men are more outcome driven … once they get a goal in mind, other things are of less importance (like happiness of workers, communication) in business it’s all bottom line, results, etc that matters, not the general constitution of staff. Business is dominated by men and has become that way because of that. Not sure of the relevance, but I thought it interesting.

    Women and men are different. We are. We are wired differently, we’re built differently. We think differently. We are different. That is something to be embraced not supressed.

    Anyway yeah, everything you said I totally agree with, and I love your writing.