There’s been a lot of debate recently on whether or not it’s okay for women to cry at work. Some call it a professional taboo, while others are rejoicing in the fact that women are able to share their emotions and even cry at work. Back in 2013, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook made famous by her book Lean In, said that it was okay for women to cry and share their emotions at work. But is there a point where emotions can go too far?
When it comes to emotions in the workplace, I am a firm believer that there is always room to get mad, sad, cry, and even get angry if it’s done in the right way. When you feel like crying at work, it’s okay to shed some tears. In fact, 40 percent of women and 9 percent of men have admitted to crying at work. Getting your emotions out in the open by crying isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
But for women especially, learning how to control your emotions can be a very helpful skill in a workplace dominated by men and the “don’t cry at work” mentality that so many of us have today.
4 Ways to Handle Your Emotions
- Stop and Evaluate.
One of the best things to do when you’re having a breakdown, temper tantrum, or simply feeling overwhelmed is to just mentally stop yourself and evaluate the situation. Ask yourself why these feelings are present, and be very specific.
- Find something positive about the situation.
Finding one positive thing about what’s happening can make the entire bad situation turn into something good, no matter how terrible you might feel. If you can see the upside, it can make putting up with difficulties feel worth it, and that can have a huge impact on your emotional state.
- Consider your options.
Consider what steps are open for you to take next. You can react, do the opposite of what you would normally do, or remove yourself completely from the situation. Sometimes, the best option is to remove yourself from the situation. This can mean a temporary break, or it may mean that you need to be re-assigned so you’re not working with the same people. If it’s your boss, you need to sit down and have a civil conversation on why he or she frustrates you. If you don’t feel that you can have this kind of conversation with your boss, you can start by confiding in a trusted friend, or contact someone in HR.
- Bawl your eyes out.
You’re like, what?! Bawl my eyes out? Sometimes you just need a good cry. Go into the bathroom, go home on your lunch break, or shut your blinds and close your door and just bawl your eyes out. Sometimes you need a good cry to get over a situation. Don’t let it control your life, but if you’re just feeling terrible, go ahead and cry. Let it out. I mentioned a statistic earlier in this post that 40% of women admit to crying at work and 9% of men admit to it, but I wouldn’t be shocked if that turned out to be a low estimate.
Controlling your emotions at work isn’t easy, but if you can take these small steps, you’ll be able to get through your workdays in a much more focused way. Your emotions are telling you something, and you need to pay attention to them and perhaps take steps to change the situation. But you don’t have to let them run the show.
Unless your employees are members of the Justice League, asking them to restrain their emotions at work is simply useless and absurd. Nobody can put on a superhero’s suit of armor when they walk into the office and get rid of all their feelings and emotions.
In case you notice that emotional outbursts are happening more often, maybe it’s time to consider that your employees might not be the problem. Take time to find out what’s triggering those feelings of distress instead of looking away when one of your people walks out of the office and slams the door. Looking the other way is not the equivalent of tolerance and acceptance. Instead, it stands for indifference and disregard, which only leads to more discontent and a truly toxic working environment.
Emotions – either positive or negative – are part of us, part of being human. We’re all bound to become emotional once in a while; however, emotional outbursts should not become the norm. As HR pros, when the going gets tough, we should look for what is generating an employee’s emotional behavior in the first place. This will not only help us deal with the issues before they actually erupt, but it will also give us valuable insights into the touchy areas we should avoid.
Emotional Intelligence, which is to say the art and skill of understanding and *managing* (not controlling) ones own and others’ emotional responses to stimuli, is increasingly essential for effective individual contributors as well as managers and talent management professionals.
It is important to understand that emotions are *physiological* and neurological responses that have evolved because of the survival advantage they provide. The amygdala of the brain sorts sensory input and routes it either to the rational faculty of the brain for calm consideration or to the more primitive fight-or-flight mechanisms that allow us to quickly respond to and escape perceived danger, and does so nearly instantaneously.
Put one way, Emotional Intelligence helps us to teach our amygdala to better fine-tune that fight-or-flight response, to respond more appropriately to non-lethal, non-physically threatening and more sophisticated, conceptual stressors, and to perceive when others are having trouble doing so.
Remember “The Proposal” with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds in the leading roles? There was a scene there where the main character confessed that she cried in a bathroom after a row with a coworker. Maybe this scene was included to show the audience that even the strongest and the most solid people sometimes bawl their eyes and this helps them not to burn themselves out at work?