What to Do When You Cry at Work

Everyone has a breaking point. A heated argument could push you to the point of tears, from frustration, anger, or helplessness. There could be some personal problem that’s on your mind and it’s just building up to roll off your eyes. The point is, you can hold it all together for just so long before something has to give.


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“Often, the tears bubble to the surface because someone gives a sympathetic look or ear,” Katherine Reynold Lewis writes at Fortune. It serves as a trigger to all the built up emotion you’ve tried to withhold.

If your manager or a co-worker has pushed your buttons to the extent that you’ve burst out crying, it could actually help get the tension out in the open.

“Crying can be a valuable way to address something that’s bubbling beneath the surface, and that could pop up later in a more damaging way. Revealing a certain amount of emotion and upset can lead to reevaluating a situation, and initiating a productive conversation, which, in turn, may help everyone work more efficiently and successfully” writes Dr Peggy Drexler, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Weill Medical College, Cornell University at Psychology Today.

But you may have to try hard, if you wear emotions on your sleeve. As Drexler writes “Tears are less effective, and possibly damaging, when they occur in large group settings or during interactions with clients.”

So what do you do when you end up in tears?

1. If you can still control it, excuse yourself and step out.

Take a few minutes by yourself. Let it out in the bathroom, drink some water, take a deep breath and calm yourself down. If you must, you could seek some time off to compose yourself.

2. Don’t apologize.

By apologizing for crying, Fortune notes, “it takes one person’s discomfort and makes two people uncomfortable. If you’re crying because of a sympathetic response, “there’s no reason to apologize that you feel comfortable enough with someone to let your emotions out.”

3. Try to figure out your trigger.

When you have calmed down, try and explore the reason for your outburst. What caused you to cry? If you are more aware of how you react to situations, you are better able to stay in control in the future.

4. Move on

If you are physically able to, continue with your work. In many cases continuing to focus on the issue at hand, rather than the emotion could help stall the tears.

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