At work

You cried

Glamour (South Africa) - - Glamour Self -

You’re mak­ing a big pre­sen­ta­tion when your boss launches into a crit­i­cism of your project in front of your co­work­ers. You’re caught off guard – and here come the tears. Did your pro­fes­sional rep­u­ta­tion just take a hit? “Peo­ple might say that cry­ing at work is OK, but their in­ter­nal re­sponses are still neg­a­tive,” re­veals Dr Kim­berly Els­bach, a pro­fes­sor of or­gan­i­sa­tional be­hav­iour. There’s an un­spo­ken cul­tural bias against the crier – and this bias is es­pe­cially po­tent to­wards women.

In her re­search, Dr Els­bach has found that “in most cases, women feel that their tears have hurt their rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing a leader.” But ex­perts agree that we should chal­lenge the stigma of cry­ing at work.

“The sense that there’s no room for emo­tion in the work­place is a com­pletely out­moded, 20th cen­tury par­a­digm,” ex­plains Anne Kreamer, au­thor of It’s Al­ways Per­sonal: Nav­i­gat­ing Emo­tion in the New Work­place (Ran­dom House Trade; R269). “To as­sume the work­place is a purely ra­tio­nal en­vi­ron­ment de­nies 100% of the sci­ence of how we as hu­man be­ings op­er­ate on a daily ba­sis.”

For mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sional Emily Veach, 33, burst­ing into tears in front of her man­ager ac­tu­ally had a pos­i­tive im­pact on her ev­ery­day work life: “I’d been work­ing all the time, and while I loved it, I got over­whelmed,” she says. “The stress built up so much that by the time I fi­nally brought up the is­sue with my boss, I broke down.”

Emily was em­bar­rassed, but her man­ager’s re­ac­tion was con­cern: they launched more fre­quent check-ins and ad­di­tional re­sources. The out­come was a best­case sce­nario, but of­ten in the work­place, tears tend to make col­leagues feel wildly un­com­fort­able. If it’s a mi­nor thing, ac­knowl­edge it, take a deep breath and talk through it.

“Many peo­ple do this and re­cover well,” Dr Els­bach says. In fact, the best way to in­ter­rupt cry­ing is to move – tak­ing a good breath ( longer on the ex­hale), slid­ing your of­fice chair back­wards or pinch­ing the top of your leg of­ten stops tears, says Anne. And for

Fact Women cry more of­ten than men, in part be­cause our tear ducts are smaller and over­flow sooner than guys’ do.

a big­ger emo­tional out­pour­ing, briefly step­ping out of the room may be best.

Af­ter­wards, don’t pre­tend that noth­ing hap­pened. Fol­low up with a brief, ac­knowl­edg­ing your tear­ful mo­ment face-to-face with your boss, if pos­si­ble, oth­er­wise via email. Ex­plain what got to you; a reaf­fir­ma­tion of your con­fi­dence can ease other peo­ple’s fears that you may not be in full con­trol.

Don’t be ashamed, in­sists Anne. “This hap­pens to ev­ery­one,” she says. “Peo­ple cry. Own it, then move on.”

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