01/15/2012 12:45 pm ET Updated Mar 16, 2012

On Crying at the Office

Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do. ~ Apple's "Think Different" campaign.

I want to start by telling you a simple story, a story of corporate America gone wrong. I am a senior female executive at a worldwide advertising agency. This past week, I witnessed something from our CEO which I'm sure you've all seen before. In this particular occurrence, a light bulb went off for me. I realized how inefficient Mr. CEO's behavior was in reference to the most important factor in our modern economy: innovation. I will not use my name here so as to sincerely state the details and furthermore connect the dots on how this behavior leads to an attenuation of our best talents and passions.

Last week, I had a conversation with Mr. CEO regarding the structure of our organization and why inefficiencies in the structure were leading to sub-par work US-wide. My job in the organization is to breed creativity US-wide and push the entire ship into emerging technologies and new digital services. At some point in the conversation, my voice broke. I know. I know. Your inner monologue just took over and you're now looking at the screen aghast. A senior female executive whose voice broke? Disgusting right? No. Furthermore, Mr. CEO translated this occurrence to our HR department by stating that I was in fact "sobbing on the phone." So, rather than doing what could have been assumed and feeling mass embarrassment, I felt angry. Angry at the lie which was shared and angry at the assumption that I was breaking apart at the seams.

Over the holidays, I read Walter Isaaacson's biography of Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs, the greatest visionary of our time, was a massive crier. If I played a drinking game while reading the book and drank whenever he cried, I'd be face down by the end. So, here we have the greatest visionary of our time, a crier. Not only did he cry, but his second chain in command of senior male executives also cried. He cried when he was fired from Apple, the company he built. He cried when his Apple employee badge listed him as #2 rather than #1 which went to his co-founder Woz. Why? One of the tenets which fashioned Steve Jobs into the innovator of an era was his incredible passion and attention to detail. Were it not for this passion, Steve Jobs would not have had the balls to 'spit in the face' of Michael Eisner at Disney and demand things be done differently. He wouldn't have asserted himself in a completely new category and taken the music or cell phone market by storm. Passion is a double-edged sword. It drives us to true greatness. It can also cause us great pain when things don't go according to plan.

So, back to the moment where my voice broke, and my CEO translated that as sobbing to our HR team. Since the moment we women watched Samantha rush to cry in the hallway away from prying eyes on Sex and the City, we have assumed we should supplant our natural female instincts. This is wrong. I'm not advising crying in boardrooms across corporate America but I am saying that it is OK when a critical moment causes passion of some kind. I'm not limiting this statement to women alone. Men, your natural reaction to moments like this, could be frustration in the form of anger. This is also OK. Again, I'm not saying that we should fly off the handle or cry with reckless abandon. I am saying, though, that in moments of extreme frustration, a break in step should not be flagged as a failure. Passion breeds creativity and creativity breeds innovation. To supplant these behaviors or recklessly call them out as ultimate dysfunctions diminishes what is most critical in companies across America: innovation. So, you know what, here's to being labeled a 'crazy one.' I certainly am not a genius but I am a passionate change agent. Steve Jobs' crying moments have taught me that this passion can cause pain but that's OK. Without a down, there is no up and in between is just average. So, go on. Go get excited, get passionate, and don't chastise yourself when things go wrong and you feel pain or anger.


A crier. A senior executive. A human.