Alice Jones: Tears at your desk may be acceptable, but over-sharing is never a great idea


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The Independent Online

It's my multibillionaire company and I'll cry if I want to. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, talked this week in a speech to Harvard Business School about the positive power of crying at work.

"I've cried at work. I've told people I've cried at work," she said. "I talk about my hopes and fears and ask people about theirs. I try to be myself – honest about my strengths and weaknesses – and I encourage others to do the same." It might be argued that as one of the most distinguished business chiefs in America, if not the world, she could probably come to work in her pyjamas, and demand a constant supply of Twinkies and no one would dare to call her on it. For those lower down the ladder, leaking eyes and a snivelly nose make for a less good workplace look. For women – according to one study, four times more likely to cry at work than men – tears at the computer terminal are to be avoided. You can't knock on the glass ceiling with a fist full of snotty tissues.

Sandberg's point is that it is important to show one's human side at work. "If you want to win hearts and minds, you have to lead with your heart as well as your mind." It's the modern, touchy-feely approach to leadership. Moderation is the key. You don't have to talk only margins and strategy to succeed. And while an occasional crack in one's professional carapace can be excused and may even lead to office bonding, melt down too frequently and colleagues will, quite rightly, start to question whether you're up to the job.

Is it disheartening that it's a female who is advocating emotions in the boardroom? Perhaps, but Sandberg has valid things to say on women in the workplace. They should be allowed, she says, to be both mothers and managers, rather than simply "manning up" to climb up the ranks. As she rightly says, it's this kind of discussion around "having it all" that will start to right the gender wrongs.

What's less solid is her assertion: "I don't believe we have a professional self from Mondays through Fridays and a real self for the rest of the time ... It is all professional and it is all personal, all at the very same time." Is it? No one sane would argue against the benefits of a work-life balance but it's surely healthier to keep the two a little separate rather than merging them into one big caring-sharing-earning blur. The latter, though, is precisely what Facebook wants: for us to share everything with everyone, all the time. To lift the privacy settings at our desk, as well as on our profile pages.

Sandberg advised the class of 2012 to keep in touch via Facebook. "And since we're public now, while you are there, click on an ad." But of course. She's not COO of Facebook for nothing. You can cry if you want to, but never take your weeping eyes off the bottom line.

* Is there a Diamond Jubilee on? I hadn't noticed. With the streets cobwebbed in bunting, cupcakes topped with red, white and blue icing on every corner and wall-to-wall forelock-tugging on the BBC, this weekend's celebrations will be impossible to ignore – even if one wanted to. Nor is the next round of noisy collective patriotism far off, with less than two months to go until the Olympics.

One person must be enjoying the unusual amount of fluster rather more than anyone else - though he might not show it. Andy Murray. Remember him? The great, growling white hope of British tennis.

In a normal summer, the Brits tend to focus most of their face-painting and flag-waving on a single soggy fortnight at the end of June, putting intolerable pressure on the shoulders of any Brit who dares to step on to Centre Court.

Could it be this year, with so many other outlets for the nation's jingoistic energies, that Murray is allowed to play in peace without the accompanying Mania?

Probably not, but it's a nice thought.