Tears at Work: Gender, Interaction, and Emotional Labour


  • Angelo Soares




For a long time, it has been believed that it is possible to leave our emotions at the threshold of the workplace. This excessively simplifies the complexity and heterogeneity of work, leading to an underestimation of the effects of work on health. Our objective is to understand one particular form of the expression of workers’ emotions: crying at work, which may be linked to an excess of emotional labour or to the impossibility of its achievement. Thus, differences between male and female crying, at least at work, may be explained not only by a gendered socialisation of individuals, but also by the sexual division of emotional labour. This imposes an emotional overload on women, since a more intensive management of emotions is demanded of them at work.


Nous avons cru pendant longtemps qu'il était possible de laisser nos émotions à la porte des organisations. Cela simplifie excessivement la complexité et l'hétérogénéité du travail et, par conséquent, on finit par sous-estimer les effets du travail sur la santé. Notre objectif est de comprendre une forme particulière de l'expression des émotions des travailleuses et travailleurs : les larmes au travail qui peuvent être associées, soit à une surcharge de travail émotionnel, soit à l’impossibilité de son accomplissement. Ainsi, les différences entre les larmes des femmes et des hommes, au moins au travail, peuvent être expliquées, non seulement par les différences sexuées dans la socialisation des individus, mais aussi par la division sexuelle du travail émotionnel et des émotions qui impose une surcharge émotive plus prononcée aux femmes en demandant une gestion plus intensive de leurs émotions au travail.


Bloch, M. 1989. La société féodale. Paris: Albin Michel.

Crepeau, M. T. 1980. A Comparison of the Behavior Patterns and Meanings of Weeping Among Adult Men and Women. Ph.D. thesis, University of Pittsburgh.

Frey, W. H. & Langseth, M. 1985. Crying: The Mystery of Tears. New York: Winston Press.

Heller, A. 1980. The emotional division of labor between the sexes. Social Praxis, 7, 205-218.

Hochschild, A. 1983. The Managed Heart. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Hochschild, A. 1993. Preface. In: S. Fineman (Ed.). Emotion in Organizations (pp. ix-xiii), London: Sage.

Labott, S. M. & Martin, R. B. 1987. The stress-moderating effects of weeping and humour. Journal of Human Stress, 13, 159-164. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/0097840X.1987.9936809

Leymann, H. 1991. Mobbing. Paris: Seuil.

Lutz, T. 1999. Crying: The Natural & Cultural History of Tears. New York, W.W. Norton & Company.

Plas, J. M. & Hoover-Dempsey, K. V. 1988. Working Up a Storm: Anger, Anxiety, Joy and Tears on the Job. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Shields, S. A. 2000. Thinking about gender, thinking about theory: gender and emotional experience. In: A. H. Fisher (Ed.), Gender and Emotion: Social Psychological Perspectives (pp. 3-23). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511628191.002

Soares, A. 2002. Quand le travail devient indécent: le harcèlement psychologique au travail. Performances, no. 3, 16-26.

Soares, A. 2000. Tears at Work: Gender, Interaction, and Emotional Labour in the Brazilian Service Sector, Washington, 95th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

Vincent-Buffault, A. 1991. The History of Tears. New York: St. Martin’s Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-21317-7

Vingerhoets, A. & Scheirs, J. 2000. Sex differences in crying: empirical findings and possible explanations. In: A. H. Fisher (Ed.). Gender and Emotion: Social Psychological Perspectives (pp. 143-165). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511628191.008

Wagner, R. E., Hexel, M., Bauer, W. W., & Kropiunigg, U. 1997. Crying in hospitals: a survey of doctors’, nurses’ and medical students’ experience and attitudes, Medical Journal of Australia, 166(1), 13-16. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5694/j.1326-5377.1997.tb138695.x

Williams, D. G. & Morris, G. M. 1996. Crying, weeping or tearfulness in British and Israeli adults, British Journal of Psychology, 87, 479-505 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8295.1996.tb02603.x



— Updated on 2003-03-01


  • 2003-03-01 (2)
  • (1)

How to Cite

Soares, A. (2003). Tears at Work: Gender, Interaction, and Emotional Labour. Just Labour, 2. https://doi.org/10.25071/1705-1436.174