Saturday, October 01, 2005

No Crying in the Workplace---Hogwash!

“Cry and you’re out of here. Women in business do not cry, my dear,” warned Martha Stewart to a contestant in her new apprentice program. Is she tuned into reality? Showing tears due to joy, frustration, anger and sadness are a part of the human landscape. Let’s get over penalizing each other for our natural human tendencies. That’s old industrial economy history. Time to move on and embrace reality as it should be. Emotions, not just logical reasoning, are a critical part of connecting to each other and building great things together.

It’s true, according to researchers, that women tear up on average four times as frequently as men. But, let’s lay the blame where it belongs---hormones and genetic predisposition. We are hard wired with certain tendencies and preferences. Each of us has a natural way of orienting to the world based on gifts from our parents and many before them. Instead of deciding which ones are ‘allowed’, let’s celebrate all that we bring to any situation, provided the outbursts or displays of emotions are not hurtful to others.

Some of us like Martha, whether male or female, don’t cry easily. We’re more left-brained relying on and favouring logic, facts, step-by-step thinking and detail. We get annoyed with overly emotional people and we like to ‘cut to the chase’. Enough already of ‘active listening’ and paying attention to others’ feelings. We want to get on with the decision-making and action plan.

Some of us wear our emotions on our sleeves. We cry readily at the plight of others as well as during weddings and celebratory events. We are more sensitive to the ‘vibe’ of the meeting and organization as a whole. We bask in generating and tossing around crazy ideas at the 30,000 foot level. Details give us headaches. But, if we must, we force ourselves to get into them. We always want more time spent on the process of decision-making to ensure we’ve identified the right patterns and connections among a range of viewpoints. We don’t like to be hurried.

Then, there are the rest who walk the middle ground between logic and intuition, reasoning and emotion. We can see both sides and try to strike a balance between objectivity and subjective feelings. We are relatively comfortable in both worlds. Fortunately, we don’t tear up as easily as our very right-brained colleagues.

Put together, in the workplace, we have a healthy mix of all kinds of thinking and learning preferences, including various emotions. It’s the variety that helps great decision-making.

I am always touched by a leader who shows his emotions. He seems more real, more human. I can connect him to my life and challenges. He’s less distant from the rest of us. He walks with us.

Frankly, I’m not too keen on going the extra mile for someone who controls her emotions so well, I haven’t got a clue who she really is. Deep down, I know that the workplace is full of drama and the rush of feelings as we pursue our dreams together. I simply can’t relate to a person who stands on the river’s edge and doesn’t get in the water with the rest of us.

So, back to Martha. There is no credible evidence that a workplace is more productive and better without a few tears. A “no crying” rule while on the job reveals Martha’s preferences based on her innate talents. It’s quite possible she can’t fathom why others cry when she just shrugs of the situation. She views the reaction as a weakness. Others are moved by the struggle and feel joined by the emotional display. For many, tears respectfully shed enrich the work environment.

William Blake sums it up:

“Man was made for Joy and Woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro’ the World we safely go,
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.”