Talking to a friend recently, the subject of crying women came up. Women who cry in the workplace, that is. This friend, whom I'll call aid worker friend, thinks that this is a common phenomenon in my home country where he has been working for almost eight years now. He is Canadian but has had experience working in Sri Lanka, parts of Africa, and now India.
He seemed baffled by the tears. Why do they immediately start crying when called upon to answer simple questions, he asked. If they goofed up, he stated, all they need to do is to assume responsibility and then they could work on rectification. But what the hell is up with the tears?
I told him that it's simple manipulation of course. Most men become speechless when confronted with women's tears, that too at work. So what better way to get out of a tricky spot than to produce a few drops? Now I'm sure there are people who are genuinely moved to tears frequently, whether at work or outside. But here, the way my friend was posing the question, his own intuition told him that he was being maneuvered.
Of course you are, I agreed. What should I do then, he asked, clearly frustrated at having his suspicion confirmed. Well, said I sagely. Why should you be so bothered by the sight of a few tears? Just wait a few seconds, offer a handkerchief, then ask her to go and complete the cry in private. Reschedule your meeting with the condition that the cry is not repeated, and with the agenda of solving the issue that brought on the crying in the first place. "You will feel like a jerk even if you don't say anything when she cries, " I carried on, "so take back control while showing that the tears will not sidetrack the actual issue."
He seemed satisfied. Wow, I congratulated myself, where the hell did that come from? I've never faced anyone crying in a meeting.
If it happened, what on earth would I do? And would the crying trick work against me (a woman, har har) as well as it seems to do against men?