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Crying in toilets at work

By EMEditor | 23 February 20 02:59pm | News and Views

What I learned…

This excellent piece was originally published on

First, the good news – sort of: You aren’t the only one doing this!

I am very lucky to be part of a large online community, and I interact with a lot of user experience professionals every day. I know for a fact that many of those people – amazing, dedicated and killer at their jobs as they are – spend more time that they care to admit crying in the toilets at work. It’s not crazy, it’s not ‘overly emotional’, and it may just be keeping you sane. It’s not an experience I really recommend, but it is shockingly common, especially in this industry.

But why should that be so? Isn’t it kind of ironic that the business who hired us to make them more people-oriented, who brought us in or trained us up (often at great expense) to design for people with real, sometimes messy thoughts and feelings, still have an internal environment that effectively demands that these feelings be bottled up until they have to be disposed of discretely in the Ladies’?

Why are we ashamed to cry at work?

I mean we are, as a people, past this right? I don’t really think we are. Most of the people you’ll meet who cry in the toilet will never admit it. Why? Because we’re self-conscious in all the wrong ways. The modern workplace simply isn’t comfortable with people sharing their emotions.

On top of that there is the hoary old idea of women being oversensitive and ill-suited to the workplace in the first place. In the end no one is allowed to cry at work, and that goes double for women. And so, ‘quietly, in the toilet’ is the only acceptable way to cry at work. For men as well, of course. (Yes, they do it too. But don’t ask them!)

When did ‘professional’ come to mean ‘unfeeling’?

It’s daft! This is the place where we need to use our emotions the most. It’s where we spend most of our waking hours, and it’s where we spend more time with people than anywhere else. We see our co-workers more and more often than we do family and friends. If there is anyone we should be able to be honest about our emotions with, it’s the people at work …but I doubt it will ever happen.

Where did this idea come for that professionals check their emotions at the door? That someone is less competent, less reliable, even less trustworthy if they think and feel like a human being? When did ‘emotional’ come to equate with ‘incapable’? This is one of those terrible ironies.

What you need to learn about crying at work

Simply put, the wellbeing of your team really ought to be your first priority. Not ‘the appearance of wellbeing’, but the reality of it.

The cold, hard truth is that if you’re not looking at how the environment at work is impacting how your employees feel, you are neglecting your duties. Not just as a manager, but as a human being. The thing is, so many people are OK with that. You’re also neglecting your duty to the company, though.

Employees who are comfortable enough to express themselves, especially ‘negative’ things like frustration and the occasional crying jag, are more motivated to improve your products or services. If they know the company doesn’t care about them, they sure as hell don’t care about it. And that, my friend, is costing you money.

Why I don’t cry at work anymore

I do recall breaking down in tears at work out of sheer frustration that my voice was not being heard. I haven’t done that in years, though, for two reasons.

First, I realised that if a person, a business or anyone/thing else is not set up to give you something, nothing is going to change that. Nothing. It’s not a failing on my part. It’s not something I’m not doing, or something someone ‘better at this’ could achieve. It simply can’t be done. Once you get that straight, the frustration vanishes.

Second, I’ve gotten much better at making my voice heard, and if necessary getting up and going somewhere else where it will be.

Also by LeahRyz: Transformation of Business from the Inside Out. 

Also relevant on Ethical Much … Employee Experience 

Read more of Leah’s writing, and access her consultancy services,

Photo by Christian Sterk on Unsplash

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