Dr. Zack Turner on whether it’s OK or inappropriate to cry in the workplace

Question: Hi Dr. Zach, I’m a middle manager currently working with burnt out employees and senior executives with backward philosophies.

I had one employee cry in the workplace and was scolded by management for telling the person it was okay to cry. They said it was inappropriate to cry in the office and that it would only make things worse.

I don’t think it’s true, because I know that after a good cry, it’s always great. Who is right in this situation? Is it good to cry?

Max, Melbourne

Reply: This is a very important question and is in line with current conversations going on in post-Covid workplace and in fact my own workplace.

Before we delve into this fascinating topic, let me start by saying that if you start crying regularly, you should seek help from a mental health professional. You need to take care of yourself and not ignore this inner red flag… and be aware of many other flags that are very obvious if you are aware of them.

Crying is one of the many stops on the journey of managing your emotions, and I highly recommend that you get off at an earlier stop. You must create a “safe space” environment in your workplace and make sure your employees know that it is okay to share their emotions without judgment. One of the keys to this is to start looking at potential “flags” early and be aware. Very rarely do we wake up one day and suddenly run into the notorious “wall”. In fact, there are many signs of early warning, and this is what we need to teach and talk about them at work, at home and in life.

A useful tool can be a monthly morning tea where people share their 3 Ps: a positive moment, a stressful situation, and personal achievements. It’s like show and tell, but for adults. They don’t have to talk about their work, but it’s an opportunity to have an open conversation about how they’re coping with life at the time. These tools are great, but it’s just as important to ask the right questions. Are you sleeping less? Do you have hobbies or activities for cardio, stretching, brain, libido and more? The answers to these questions will reveal so much – for example, if your relationship with your partner has gone from regular intimacy to monthly intimacy. Most often this did not happen immediately, but gradually.

When it comes to occasional stress-induced crying in the workplace, I say get used to it! Crying is a physical manifestation of letting off steam and experiencing your emotions. This is good for you and there is science to back it up. Along with this release of steam and what I like to call “emotional breakthrough” – it is necessary to cry when in various areas of your life there are too many events to talk about. This is actually the key to making sure you don’t ignore the signs and end up exhausting yourself and having a mental breakdown.

What exactly is crying? It is a natural response to a range of emotions, including sadness, grief, joy, and disappointment. It’s been a bit of a mystery why exactly we’re doing this – even Charles Darwin once said it was “nonsensical”.

Tears originate in the lacrimal gland and they really do lubricate your eyes. Have you ever had something stuck in your eye and found yourself screwing up? It is your body that is trying to get rid of what it is.

In addition to the practical benefits of crying, there are a whole list of reasons why crying is good.

Crying soothes the soul

You are right, after crying you feel a huge relief. I had one patient who explained it as a mini orgasm, and they were right. Crying regulates your emotions and calms you down from stress. Crying activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which makes you feel relaxed.

Crying is a red traffic light for others

Crying, in its simplest sense, is a signal to others that you are not doing well. People in most cases (with the exception of psychopaths) feel compassion for people they see crying. You understand that this person needs care, and this motivates you to ease the pressure around him.

You enjoy crying

Crying releases oxytocin and endorphins and I know it’s a contradiction, but it just goes to show that the body is an amazing machine! These chemicals released in your brain can ease your emotional pain and set you on the right path to well-being.

Crying tears is like walking #1

Our tears contain stress hormones and other unpleasant chemicals, and researchers have found that reducing these unpleasant substances through crying is beneficial. This is similar to how we excrete urea when we urinate.

I strongly encourage you to tell your management to get out of the 1960s and embrace the wonderful emotional world we live in today. Their employees will perform better if they know that it is normal to cry from time to time. If they don’t want to be victims of the great humility, I think they should cry too!

Got a question:


Dr. Zach Turner holds a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery degree from the University of Sydney. He is both a medical practitioner and co-owner of a telemedicine service. Concierge doctors. He was also a registered nurse and a qualified and experienced biomedical scientist, as well as a doctoral student in biomedical engineering.

Originally published as Is crying in the workplace normal or inappropriate?