But What If Office Crying Comes From Mental Illness?

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

A reader complicates the discussion:

I’m a woman, and I’ve cried at work at least on three different occasions. Here’s the thing, though: I have severe mental illness that often makes the stress of a full-time job unbearable. Sometimes I have been so miserable that I was fantasizing about driving my car off the road on the way to work, but I still had to go, because 1) most of the jobs I’ve held thus far did not offer paid sick/vacation time, and 2) I could not seek ADA accommodations because I know how often mentally ill people are stigmatized or punished for asking for them. It’s ludicrous that so many companies actively block their female employees’ ability to address their personal, emotional, and professional challenges and then punish them when they crack under the pressure.

Another reader provides a link that could benefit readers who struggle with crying at the office:

I separate my work life from my personal life, and I prize colleagues and employees who can do the same to whatever degree. During stressful times in my life, after a break up for example, work has been almost a sort of refuge, where I can put my life problems on hold and deal with work problems.

Recently a beloved family member passed away. I knew it was coming and alerted my boss it would happen. To be honest, I expected when I found the news that I would probably take a short walk outside and have a cry. I find out in the midst of work and just kept working. I certainly felt and still feel terrible sadness over this. But I expect it will be at the funeral that these emotions well up into tears. I think keeping the office separate from your personal life can benefit productivity, but also one emotionally.

I would also like to note that before this happened, I reached out to Karla Miller of The Washington Post, who has a work-advice column, and she sent me her article on crying at work, from March 2012. I think it could prove valuable.

Any other professional advice, especially for those suffering from mental illness? Please drop us an email.