Blogs & Comment

How to handle crying at work

If you're going to cry at work, here's how to deal with it.

(Photo: ERproductions Ltd)

Want to be taken seriously at work? Then start crying.

Just joking. Nothing says “he can’t hack the stress,” or “she’s young and unserious” more than being caught with red, puffy and shiny eyes.

The New York Times ran an article on Sunday ,“Taking your feelings to work,” about the blurred emotional lines between work and home these days. With more and more people using social media during the workday, and people bringing home work at night, it’s hard to keep boundaries between the emotions you experience in your personal life and the professional attitude you’re supposed to have towards your work.

But times have not changed enough to making crying at work an appropriate reaction.  Karen Rae Short, who teaches a course at the Canadian Management Centre in Managing Stress and Emotions in the Workplace, says that crying has the same effect as throwing a tantrum—it creates an upsetting environment for other people.

She says that although you must recognize that your emotions are genuine, you still must constantly work at reprogramming yourself to have different responses to situations that make you upset.  The first step is realizing what your triggers are. If you break down every time your boss gives you a performance review, then psyche yourself up beforehand by tell yourself that nothing he says is personal and that it’s all just words.  Visualize the situation and see yourself reacting calmly. Also, think abut how it will feel to face your boss after you’ve cried in front of him.  

Of course, it’s not easy to just will yourself to never cry at work again. Sometimes the tears just come. Your boss starts talking to you sternly, you feel like a failure, and then all of a sudden, you’re afraid to blink, and your chin gets all wobbly and you know big fat wet ones will start sliding down your face soon.

If you feel this happening, Short says to excuse yourself for five minutes and go to the bathroom. And when you return, here are some quick tips to disguise your emotional breakdown from your co-workers:

  • Keep Visine in your desk.
  • Keep concealer in your desk—for both men and women this can disguise the under-eye puffiness and the red nose that accompanies tears, without being too noticeable.
  • Blame it on allergies, keep an antihistamine in your desk and mutter: “These damn allergies. Awful this year”, as you pop a pill.  Expect nods of sympathy.
  • Go do something with your head down for a bit, surely something needs photocopying.