For Crying Out Loud (AKA Showing Emotion At Work)

This past week, NBC’s Today Show featured a segment about John Boehner, the future Speaker of the House, and his tendency to cry over spilled milk…and legislation…and kids on a playground at school.  Then, on the Tonight Show, comedian Jack Black shared a song he had written for his two young boys letting them know that it’s okay to cry.

The long held belief that trotting out emotion at work is a big “no-no” may be (slowly) changing; it has become increasingly more common for public figures to whip out a hanky at the drop of a hat. But, congressmen and celebrities notwithstanding: In most cases, we still recommend keeping your emotions at bay while at work.

So, what can you do if you find yourself on the brink of breaking down?

Take a moment. Once the waterworks start, it can be hard to turn them off.  So, as soon as you feel your emotions well up into what might be tears, take a series of long, deep breaths to try to calm yourself. If you really can’t stop the faucet, go somewhere private like behind the closed door of your office (if you have one) or the restroom so you can gather yourself. You may even consider taking a walk around the block or grabbing a coffee at Starbucks to put more distance between yourself and the situation.

Put things in perspective. Whether your boss lambasted you in front of co-workers, you screwed something up or you’re overwhelmed and stressed–it could always be worse. Try taking a step back and looking at things from a larger context, you may realize it’s not worth shedding tears over.


Get support. If you do break down and cry, find a trusted (key point!) colleague or confidante with whom you can talk about what’s bothering you. One caution: Be careful where, how and with whom you share the information; you don’t want a moment of venting to escalate into something worse.

If your relationship with a boss, co-worker or colleague is chronically upsetting and you believe that it’s not going to get better, make an appointment to meet with someone in your HR department where your conversation will likely stay confidential AND it’s alright to cry. (Ever noticed that HR folks always have a box of Kleenex on their desk? There’s a reason for that!)

Do you think it’s okay to shed tears or show emotion at work?  Share with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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