Crying on the Job

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Posted by The Editors on October 25, 2011
Crying on the Job

Recently it’s been in the news that Jennifer Lopez had a bit of an emotional breakdown on stage at a Connecticut concert. Video footage shows her tearing up and crying over her newsworthy breakups when triggered by an emotional song.

Although many people cringe at the thought of crying while on the job, J.Lo is embracing it. After all, she says, she is human and she has emotions. But J.Lo’s tear-up has me wondering, what is the best way to deal with crying on the job and what does it say about you?

University of California professor Kim Elsbach has studied workplace weeping for several years and has come to several conclusions about the topic. Her research has found that women are far more likely to cry at work than men (no surprise there… we’ve covered this in our Gender Stereotypes article), and crying on the job is almost always perceived badly, especially when it’s done in public—like in a meeting or in front of coworkers. Elsbach’s research says tears are considered weak, unprofessional or even manipulative. A harsh reality, but for many, tears are unavoidable if you’re feeling frustrated—which is common in the workplace.

If you feel yourself welling up or your voice wavering, you should immediately excuse yourself to the bathroom, or to go take a walk outside. Sometimes simply removing yourself from the situation can help you regain your composure, or at the very least, allows you to cry in a private place/away from your coworker’s view.

But, sometimes tears happen and you may not be able to excuse yourself or act quickly enough before they pour out. In these situations, it’s best to acknowledge your emotions. If you can’t regain composure, say something like “As you can see, I feel strongly about this. Can we continue talking about this later?” and excuse yourself from the room. If you feel the need to address your tears at a later date (which isn’t necessary, but you may want to), you can say something like, “I’m sorry for letting my emotions get the best of me, but obviously I feel very passionate about this.” Most people will be understanding—after all, everybody cries.

What do you think? Have you ever cried at work? How did you recover from it?

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