Why do women cry at work?

I’m not upset; I’m just frustrated.

This blog is a response to a question raised on LinkedIn.

“What about talking about how to deal with tears on site - for those prone to the odd cry in tricky situations 🙈🦆”

Lynsey McNeilly MEng CEng MICE, Chartered Civil Engineer at Farrans Construction.

I’m going to tackle this using The Duck Project method of identify, understand and explain.

Crying in the workplace is usually a sign of stress, not weakness; you are not weak; you are simply under too much pressure. Identifying that is the first step.

So we have identified the problem, now we need to understand it.


There are many reasons why we cry, but I am going to talk about the most common at work; crying as a response to stress.

Most of us are aware of “Flight or fight” as the typical stress response. What we are less likely to be mindful of is that this is a predominantly male response. Most of the early research on stress was done exclusively on men, so most of our understanding of stress is therefore gendered.

The female response to stress is markedly different* with some researchers even going so far as to say we have a “tend or befriend” response**. The “tend or befriend” response finds that women are more likely to either try and befriend the "threat" or seek social support.

These differences in the stress response can mean that we are more likely to see aggressive behaviour in men and crying (as an unconscious response to seek social support) in women.

Here’s the interesting thing, the male response here is usually seen as a sign of strength, whereas the female response is traditionally seen as a sign of weakness. Even though crying and anger are usually responses to the same thing. It is therefore, other peoples reactions that we often need to manage on top of the stress itself.


So lets borrow a little from health and safety and get ERIC involved.

Eliminate. Where, and if possible, try and eliminate stressful environments. Easier said than done, right? There are though plenty of techniques that can help with your response to stress. If you are like me, these will take you years to learn (still not mastered). Hopefully, you are a quicker student.