Women try to control their emotions at work, but they sometimes cry if they feel they are being treated unfairly, according to a new study.

A number of female employees questioned by occupational psychologists said they believed crying was seen as a negative response to a problem at work, but it was the best way to show their emotions.

Yasmine Yaghmour, from the University of Bedfordshire, said her research showed that women often felt embarrassed and even ashamed if they broke down in the office.

Women cried when they lacked control over their work or felt they had been unfairly treated by a colleague, customer or manager.

They often felt better after a good cry and were surprised at how supportive colleagues were, the study found.

"Women feel embarrassed and ashamed when they succumb to tears at work, for fear of appearing weak or incompetent to colleagues or customers. They feel it reinforces a negative female stereotype.

"Successful coping with crying episodes often involves purposeful assertive action to restore rational thinking either through distraction or through physically removing themselves from the distressing situation.

"There is a feeling that men are allowed to shout and get aggressive, but women are not."

A 36-year-old flight attendant told the researchers "they do encourage you to sort of bring your personality out into work, but obviously there are certain aspects that you can't - you still have to put on the brave face, because people want to see the happy, smiling face."

A 23-year-old customer service employee said: "After a while I started to feel like I was non-existent, as though I didn't matter in the organisation, and that point is when I started to feel tearful. I was disappointed in the organisation I was working with. I mean, I'm a hard worker and I feel that I deserved a little bit more from the colleagues involved in it."

The report was published by the British Psychological Society.