Time and time again, we as women are told that in order to rise to leadership positions, we have to be tough. That means being assertive, bold and most importantly – keeping our emotions in check.
When it comes to crying at work, most people view such emotional displays as career setbacks, but Sheryl Sandberg – Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer who is reshaping the conversation about women in the workplace through her bestseller Lean In – offers a different approach.
A recent Daily Beast article titled “The Perks of Crying at Work” mentions that Sandberg thinks it’s okay to cry on the job. An excerpt:
“Crying happens. Emotions, after all, were developed as survival mechanisms; they’re hardwired into our biology. Rather than spending time beating ourselves up for crying, we should accept the act as a part of what it means to be a human, emotional being who, by the way, doesn’t shut off at 9 a.m. when the clock starts.”
The Daily Beast article further highlights research conducted by Anne Kreamer from her 2011 book It’s Always Personal: Emotion in the New Workplace, which found that both men and women at all levels of management reported crying on the job within the previous year -- 41 percent of women and 9 percent of men -- and that it had made no difference in terms of their success.
While crying at work is not considered taboo, it’s always best to be equipped with the right tools on how to handle the situation if it happens. Below are some tips to help guide you through the next time you’re feeling tears welling up while on the job.
When you suspect that a certain conversation might evoke an unwanted emotional response, prepare yourself. Stay present, focus on your main points and if you feel like your eyes are beginning to tear up, excuse yourself. In an article titled “The Art and Science of Crying at Work” on the website Jezebel, Financial Times Magazine columnist Mrs. Moneypenny offers this advice:
“Mrs. Moneypenny says that if you're about to cry in a meeting or other semi-public work setting, ‘try to remove yourself from the room and preferably the building.’ In an open-plan office, she points out, going back to your desk is still pretty public. And in the bathroom, other people might hear you. Instead, Moneypenny suggests that you go outside, take a trip around the block, and "walk it off."’
Know Your Environment
Crying is a deeply vulnerable act. As such, it’s important to know your environment. Although crying in front of clients or in a large group of colleagues may not be the right place and time to shed tears, it’s okay to do so with close and trusted co-workers.
Think Happy Thoughts
In the Jezebel article, Mrs. Moneypenny offers this tip to gaining quick composure: change your thoughts.
According to the article, when you need to stop crying fast, think about something totally different, whether it be shopping, an upcoming outing, your children – whatever makes you happy.
Don’t Make it a Habit
No one wants to be thought of as being emotionally unstable. To stave off an emotional outburst, go for a walk, take a deep breath or air out your grievances with a colleague or boss that may be posing an underlying problem.
Crying can be very therapeutic and a great way to release tension and stress. However, don’t let your emotions consume you – once the tears stop flowing, it’s time to move on. Don’t bring it up, don’t apologize for it and focus on your accomplishments.