I’ve mentioned before that I cry A LOT. I mostly cry at movies and TV shows, though books, songs, the news and the X Factor are often equally high on my tear-jerker scale. I actually see these emotional outpourings as positive things – if I’m home alone and watching/reading/listening to any of the above I’m likely to just go with it, use it as a sort of cathartic therapy session. It’s a useful release of pent-up emotions.
That said, my inability to hold back tears has caused me a lot of problems throughout my life. When my French exchange partner, a real little madam whose favourite trick was to put her watch back then let me take the blame from my parents for being out past curfew, was asked by some spiteful girls in my French class whether she liked me she replied no – “parce-qu’elle pleure” (because she cries). When, mid-row with my step-dad, I would begin to cry out of pure anger he would call me manipulative and tell me to stop with the crocodile tears as they undermined my every argument. Still, none of this taught me the capacity to control them.
The thing that annoys me most about my crying is that it isn’t just connected to sadness or happiness or anger or pride. I cry most often out of sheer frustration. Sometimes my frustration is aimed at myself, for not being able to express my hurt or anger at those who have hurt or angered me. Sometimes it’s at those who have hurt or angered me for not hearing or listening to the expression of my hurt or anger that has taken so much courage to express. Sometimes it’s at the general world for being so damned frustrating in the first place!
But a lot of the time it’s at work.
Incompetence frustrates me. There’s a lot of that at work (and I’m not talking specifically about my current company here – I’ve worked with a lot of different companies and it seems to be typical across the board).
Lack of communication also frustrates me. That seems to be fairly typical too.
Anything simple that get’s between me and getting my job done efficiently frustrates me. Like ordering new toner cartridges the first time we flag up that the “Toner low” light is flashing rather than waiting until the toner has all gone. Or synchronising my machine with the new printer as soon as the old printer has been replaced, instead of waiting until I have lots to print, suggesting I try any number of other, old machines that don’t work only to finally give in 2 wasted hours later – and discover that the new machine is offline and refusing to play ball. Or expecting me to turn up at a meeting without having actually invited me to said meeting, then coming to ask me why I’m not IN said meeting 10 minutes in.
All of this frustrates me. And frustration makes me cry.
I HATE crying at work. It makes me feel like I have relinquished all control, all pretence at professionalism, all my dignity to my emotions. There’s no way in which it looks good – at best it looks passionate (but emotionally unstable) at worst it looks manipulative and ‘girly’. (I hate using ‘girly’ in a negative way, but it’s not something that links positively with ‘career woman’).
I’ve cried a handful of times at work: once a few years back when a particularly vindictive colleague snapped unnecessarily at me because he was having a bad day; once in my former boss’s office after my engagement was called off (and this time I didn’t just cry but broke down – brought out a paternal side to my boss no-one had ever seen before, most embarrassing as his office was partitioned off from the rest of the open-plan with glass, so everyone could see me sob!); and once – ok, twice – at my current job because of redundancies. It’s only the first of these that really bothers me – the others were legitimate emotional outpourings, unconnected to my professionalism in any way. But that first incident, crying because a bully had been mean to me – it really stings still. The office is not a schoolyard – being attacked in any such way is not appropriate behaviour, but neither is bursting into tears an appropriate reaction.
Thankfully my line manager at the time had been working with me closely for a while and respected me. Enough, at least, to be convinced that it must have been the developer who was at fault and not me. Probably because I’d never cried before…
Still, I always felt that my frustrated tears had really let me down. In different circumstances I would have simply been disregarded as “the little girl who cried”. That’s a label I would like to avoid at all costs.