Aug 3, 2005 – Cox News Service – (note: this story has been published in the Palm Beach Post, Seattle Post Intelligencer, Orange County Register, Monterey County Herald, Indianapolis Star, Winston Salem Journal, The Day, Contra Costa Times, and Charlotte Observer) – By Tim O’Meilia – There is no crying in football. Not if you’re 21 years old, 6-feet-6 and weight 329 pounds. Not in a profession ruled by machismo, intimidation and stoicism. Not even if your coach hollers loudly and at length when you neglect to bring your helmet to the practice field, as Miami Dolphin head coach Nick Saban did to rookie defensive lineman Manny Wright last week.
Wright bawled, tears running down his cheeks, and left the field. Wright has been immortalized on ESPN SportsCenter. Again and again and again. To his credit, he returned to the practice later.
There’s no crying in the boardroom either. Or up in accounting. No blubbering out on the loading docks. Or in the vegetable fields. Not in professions ruled by machismo, intimidation and stoicism. In other words, every job.
“Crying in the workplace is taboo,” said Wallace Johnston, better known as workplace columnist Dr. Wally. “It’s seen as a sign of weakness.”
“Crybaby” is a tattoo that can’t be scraped off. “No one wants to feel out of control and that’s what that represents,” said West Palm Beach psychologist John F. Murray, who specializes in sports.
Women cry four times as often as men do. And when men cry, it’s more like their eyes well with tears rather than unmanly, lip-curling boo-hooing, according to a study by University of Minnesota medical school professor William H. Frey II, who wrote Crying: The Mystery of Tears.
It’s a cultural thing, of course.
“For boys, there’s no crying after Little League,” said Dr. Wally. Boys learn to keep it inside. Frustration is channeled to anger, an acceptable outlet, rather than crying.
Little girls, on the other hand, are comforted more often when they cry and are picked up more often when they are infants, said Dr. Susan Murphy, a California management consultant and co-author of In the Company of Women.
“God forbid if you’re a man. A woman can get away with it a little more,” said Dana Lightman, a Pennsylvania psychotherapist and author of Power Optimism. And the conventional wisdom that Americans can be more in touch with their feelings is merely lip service in the working world.
Serial weepers stunt their own careers. They’re viewed as unable to control their emotions. Managers and colleagues tend not to give them honest feedback on their performance, for fear of a crying jag, Murphy said.
Crying on the job can be a symptom of a deeper problem, such as depression, that needs treatment, Murray said. But for most stressed-out, mildly neurotic Americans, crying is a result of criticism or pressure and criers can learn to manage it.
“If my boss criticized me, I would think, ‘Omigod, I’m a terrible worker. Omigod, I’m going to get fired. Omigod, he doesn’t like me,’ ” said Lightman, who admits she was Miss Waterworks in her early career.
She had to learn to take 24 hours to consider the criticism and to tell herself she doesn’t have to be perfect.
Other tricks for criers: Take a breath, realize that criticism doesn’t mean you’re worthless, even warn others that you’re prone to tears and it means nothing.
There are times when a few strategically placed tears are appropriate: if a co-worker dies, but not if your dog does; you win the Nobel Prize, but not if you’re employee-of-the-month; your retirement party, but not when you go on vacation.
“But it’s rare,” Murphy said. “You’re better off taking the advice of the Four Seasons: Big Girls Don’t Cry.”
Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.