In eleven years of working, I have witnessed someone cry at work over work issues only twice previously. Today I can add a third occurrence.
One time was at my previous job, where I explained to an underling how she had done something wrong and how she needed to delay some priorities to fix it. Mind you, this was very gentle and not punitive at all. I was just directing her to change her schedule to re-do the work. She thought I was mad at her because she had never been criticized over work before. Once I explained that mistakes happen and we all mess thing up sometimes, she calmed down quite a bit.
The second was here, when I watched one person get very angry at a roomful of people because they hadn't done what she thought they should do. Her boss came down very hard on her in front of the meeting for unprofessional behavior. Which I thought was unprofessional in itself. And she didn't take it well and started crying.
Today's was different. It wasn't over her own performance. She's responsible for a very large system. We were discussing some options for a project, one of which if done poorly would cause problems for that system. Meaning her life would be hell and she might also be blamed for the its failure. The risk is not large, but the problem if it happened would be catastrophic. The vision of that, and the pressure of trying to deal with that on very vague terms today, caused her to break down in the meeting.
The thing is, what do you do?
In a personal situation, I grab a box of tissues and be a friend or a shoulder to cry on or something like that. In a work setting it's different.
Hmmm, thinking about it, I just realized I've witnessed one other instance of crying over work issues at work. Also at this employer. The pressure here can definitely be extremely high.