I have certainly cried at work before – sometimes in the privacy of my office and sometimes in front of my boss. And I hated it!! We’ve all been in one of those situations before like when your pet project is cancelled after many weeks of hard work, or when someone snaps at you unfairly, or when a beloved co-worker is laid off, or when your boss gives you even more work when you’re already completely overloaded.
Stressful situations are common in the workplace but the fact is, we are human and many of us are going to cry. Rather than avoid it at all costs and reproach ourselves for not keeping our emotions in check, it’s better to prepare for the time it happens.
Here are some facts to consider:
Women are biologically hardwired to cry more frequently than men. Crying is an evolutionary process and we don’t have a whole lot of control over when it happens. Crying has nothing to do with mental toughness, and everything to do with our biology.
Research shows that crying doesn’t typically hurt you professionally. It’s all in how you handle it and respond. It’s helpful to display your maturity by acknowledging your emotions. And no need to over-explain yourself or apologize. Just be diplomatic and thank colleagues for their concern and their offers to help. It’s appropriate to also say that you just need some space for a little while.
Compared with some other behaviors, crying is one of the least disruptive things you can do in the workplace. Unlike toxic actions like lashing out, manipulating or bullying people, crying doesn’t negatively impact others. You may feel embarrassed but in reality others most likely have forgotten your emotional reaction by the next morning.
The truth is that crying is natural no matter when or where it happens. You don’t leave your emotions at the door when you go to work each morning. Challenging and complex situations occur on the job all the time so there’s bound to be some emotional territory from time to time. Showing genuine feeling can sometimes draw colleagues closer and even initiate important discussions that benefit the whole team.
So you cried at work. Now what? Here are some suggestions:
Give yourself space and time. If you’re in a meeting or around other people and feel like you may cry try to excuse yourself and go to a private place, like a bathroom, stairwell, or your office, until you can compose yourself. If you are overwhelmed and you feel like you’re going to cry, take a walk and allow yourself time to calm your emotions and clear your head.
Be transparent if you have extra outside pressures. If you feel like your crying might be because of something that’s happening at home, like for example when I was getting a divorce, tell your boss what’s going on so he or she can understand your emotions and better support you. It’s helpful to be transparent about what’s going on in your life. It doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of doing a fine job at work, it just means you have other pressures you are dealing with right now.
Remember you are human. Sometimes all people need is a little sympathy, or a few minutes to collect themselves. That doesn’t mean they’re bad at their jobs, it simply means they’re human.
If someone did something to upset or offend you, speak to him or her directly.
If someone speaks dismissively in a meeting about something important to you or someone is harshly critical and you start to tear up, find the right time to speak to the person privately about how their specific actions, words, or delivery made you feel. Find a time when you are feeling fully in control and practice in advance what you are going to say so you can deliver your message in a calm and clear manner.
It’s important for us all to remember that displays of emotion, including a few tears every now and then are part of what it means to be a human. If you are having a hard time in your personal life and feel more emotional, be kind to yourself and get some extra help and support if possible. If your job is simply not going well, consider your options and take the appropriate steps. If it was just one of those days, never mind and move on.
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