A couple of interactions with clients recently have me thinking about my early days as a trainee solicitor. My first piece of work experience entailed working with a man who had very little time or patience for the insecurities of the rather nervous, red-faced student before him. An intensive series of sessions designed to clarify the complexities of a balance sheet resulted in nil learning and many dashes to the ladies where I would cry copiously and then compose myself for another round of exasperation from this increasingly ill-tempered man.
Many years later I look back at my younger self with a mixture of compassion and incredulity.
And I’m sad to say, I suspect there are still many young and perhaps older women who seek refuge in the ladies to release their pent up emotion.
Why is this? And might it somehow be connected to why so many women start out with great ambition, only to falter at various hurdles along the way leaving just a few standing in senior positions at the end of the race?
For too long the thinking is that for a woman to succeed in a professional or corporate environment, she needs to leave all that emotion and sensitivity at home and replace it with a very thick and shiny suit of armour when she goes to work. She needs to show up more, be strong, assertive and conceal her distinctively feminine vulnerabilities.
After all no one wants a weeping woman in the boardroom.
Or maybe they do. Maybe a weeping woman is exactly what they do need.
A feeling, sentient female who can bring not just her searing intellect but also her intuition, range of emotion and expert reading of the emotional field could be just the thing to promote creativity, full permission and heart to a turgid, stuck meeting for example.
Or to an all-nighter, say, for a legal negotiation where everyone is feeling stressed and exhausted, it might just take a brave, truthful and rather tired and emotional woman to see this is part of a silly, ego-driven stamina competition and be prepared to say ‘this is stupid, let’s go home and get some rest’.
If I could go back to my younger self I would urge her to look at those tears of frustration and humiliation, and go back to that man and explain exactly how his method of teaching inhibits rather than enhances her learning. I would probably then ask her to explore why an artistic, creative extrovert is struggling to understand dry balance sheets and encourage her to pursue a career better suited to her talents rather than wait almost a lifetime to discover her true vocation.
Tears, in fact all emotion, have something to teach us and are full of information – not just for the individual experiencing them but for the people witnessing them too – and it seems a crying shame to confine their rich wisdom to the sterile interior of the ladies loo.
If you have found yourself rushing to the ladies in order to hide those shameful tears from the office please share your experience with us. Or maybe you’ve chosen to cry in front of your work colleagues and faced disapproval.
Or perhaps you believe crying has no place in the work environment and is a self-indulgence best kept for behind closed doors.
Whatever your opinion, be OUT LOUD, be honest, fearless and speak up; your truth will inform and enhance the world.
And if you’re a woman struggling to be fully yourself at work, struggling in fact to be OUT LOUD, email me at and we can start the conversation.