As women fighting for equality in the workplace, it is embarrassing when we cry at work – especially when others interpret our tears as a sign of weakness. It can undermine their trust in us and even derail our paths to the top. Andrea Zintz offers advice on what to do when you feel the tears come, how you can recover, and how you can help others in need.
Locate the cause. You will lose confidence in yourself if you are unable to identify what set off your emotions, as you feel unable to prevent it from happening again. When you start to cry, determine if your tears are a response to an event, such as a moving speech or sudden death in the family, or if they are the product of chronic stress – feeling overworked, underappreciated, or disrespected. If the tears are from an event, know that others will understand the situation and your reaction to it.
Take action. If no particular event set you off, you must pinpoint which of your own needs you aren’t effectively meeting. Earlier in my career, I was angry at a former boss because she didn’t think I could handle my job the same way I did before having my second child. I shed tears of rage as I protested that I could. After the fact, I realized I was not effectively managing my need for respect. Rather than blame my boss, I worked through ways I could assert my opinion and ask her what she needed to see to regain faith in my abilities – together we worked through alternatives. The next time your emotions get the best of you, reflect on beliefs that may not be serving you, skill sets to strengthen, or conversations to have to regain control of the situation.
Set the record straight. If you don’t provide insight into why you were crying, others will make up a story – and theirs will be far more damaging to your reputation than the truth. What is the truth? The truth is that instead of viewing your feelings as an issue of self-effectiveness, you were blaming them on someone else. Everyone does this from time to time. The good news is that your tears helped you see more clearly and you are now taking responsibility for your own effectiveness. Once I realized I had to prove to my boss that I could still manage my workload, we openly discussed ways to do this. The results spoke for themselves.
Assist others in need. When someone in your presence starts to cry, you may have an impulse to calm her by saying “Everything is going to be okay.” Don’t. As you know from having been on the receiving side of similar statements, it feels condescending. Reassure the person that everyone has moments when they feel overwhelmed – help her get in touch with what she is really feeling, and express your confidence that with a little time and creativity, she will discover how to turn the situation around.
Every employee wants to be revered by her peers. Here are some actions you can take so your coworkers see you in a positive light.
Have ambition. No one wants to associate themselves with a sinking ship. Regardless of what level you’re at, have plans on how you want to advance over time.
Keep a polished image. When your appearance is unkempt, people will assume your professional life is as well.
Don’t break confidences. Information that is confidential should always remain that way – whether it’s office related or personal.
Keep your commitments. Last minute cancellations – or not showing up at all – will make others question your integrity.
Accept honest feedback. When others offer you a word of advice, don’t get defensive. Listen to what they have to say, learn from it, and move on.