For many of us, getting frustrated, flustered or just plain emotional can have us end up in tears. And it happens more often than you may think in the one place you hope it doesn’t: the workplace. Turns out, 41 percent of women and 9 percent of men cry in the workplace and at some point in your career you will probably end up in tears in front of your boss, client or colleagues. It happens to most of us, and it is usually when we don’t see it coming. And even though crying is natural, it is unfortunately seen as weakness in the workplace.
I’m not stranger to crying in the workplace myself…more than once. Over the years I have cried to different managers out of fear, frustration or humiliation. One example that stands out is when I made the decision to leave a company after years of my commitment to this organization. My manager and I had agreed to meet in a very large and well-traveled hotel lobby to have this conversation. When it came time for us to discuss if I wanted to have a future and continue to work with him, my answer was “No.” Upon hearing myself utter this word, the tears came without warning. And then I started making that ugly cry face that I could not control. I tried to cover my face with my hand to not make him uncomfortable. Instead of having any words for me, he just zoned out and watched ESPN on the hotel lobby’s large plasma TV. I may have well been sitting by myself. Instead, I sat there and cried, snot and all.
Three Ways to Approach Crying in the Workplace
1. Take a Break If you are in a situation that catches you off guard, and the tears start to flow, politely excuse yourself to a safe space like an empty office or bathroom. A lot of women don’t do this. Instead, they continue to cry in front of their manager or director – which can really make the dynamic more uncomfortable for the parties involved. It will do you a big favor to take a break to pull it together, wipe your eyes, breathe, and return to the conversation when you are ready. Remind yourself that you are a professional and that you can handle anything. Your interaction will go much more smoothly and comfortably.
2. Be Prepared Maybe you are asking your boss for a promotion, or addressing a project or issue you feel passionately about. Any of these topics include risk, or putting yourself out there, which can be scary, yet empowering at the same time. Show them how put together, pointed and professional you are. Schedule the meeting in advance, email them your agenda and presentation. The point is, be prepared and think through what could become a potentially teary or emotional situation before you have the conversation. This will help you collect your thoughts and be ready for any objections you may face. 3. Don’t Become a Chronic Crier This is harsh, but it’s very true. If you can’t get her emotions under control in the work place, you will be seen as unstable, too emotional and difficult. Chronic crying does nothing to help a reputation.
I once worked with a woman who used crying as a way to get attention. When she first joined the company and she would shed tears about something that would frustrate her, I thought, Okay, no big deal. I get it. But after months passed, crying became the norm and it included breaking up with boyfriends, and overall personal issues, I thought, Okay, now I don’t get it. Crying became her modus operandi. If she was having drama, she would call you into her office in the middle of the workday and want you to listen to her issues as she cried. She would try to suck in those around her and involve them in her tears. This became toxic for us as coworkers because we did not want to be aligned with her behavior. Sadly, people tried to stay away from her and she ultimately isolated herself.
If crying becomes a consistent part of how you handle things, it is not seen in positive light. It not only affects you, it affects those around you. Do your best to not let every challenging situation make you fall apart, whether it is business related or a personal issue.
Crying comes as a result of emotions.We all experience emotions, all day, all the time. Considering careers can consume 40+ hours of your week, it is a big part of what feeds your feelings as it can be a part of your identity. Know that these feelings and emotions are natural – crying is so natural that it is known to shed stress hormones and toxins, which is actually good for you. In the workplace, regard it as natural too, but using he above tips will help you maintain your composure as needed, help you dry your tears and move on with your day in a positive way.
Holly Caplan is an award-winning manager and author of Surviving the Dick Clique: A Girl's Guide to Surviving the Male Dominated Corporate World. For more information, please visit, www.hollycaplan.com.