My emotions occasionally leak out my eyes. As such, I was grateful for this compassionate defense of those who have, at one time or another, cried at work. Thank you, Amy Gallo and HBR Blog Network.
So how do you help a colleague who starts crying at work? Action points from Gallo’s article:
- Act like you would in a social situation — be comforting and solicitous
- Keep your responses simple and focused on the employee
- Make a specific plan for handling the situation going forward
- Judge people who bring emotions to work — it’s not unprofessional to cry, it’s human
- Try to get your employee to stop crying — offer a tissue and let the tears flow
- Push a person to tell you what’s happening if he doesn’t want to talk about it
“Don’t judge people who bring emotions to work” is especially important to me. A former colleague and I once discussed the problem of being tear-prone. We find it frustrating, not because of the rare tears (though they can be embarrassing), but because of the reactions that tears might evoke—particularly from managers. Who wants to be perceived as weak, or unable to handle pressure, because of something that’s normal?
Plus, I know that I’ve been the most helpful to colleagues when I’ve tuned in to their feelings—and the least helpful when I’ve not paid attention. As Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, an associate professor of management and organization at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, says in the article, “We don’t leave our humanity at the office door.”
So to all of you humans out there, I offer my tissue box. Take as many as you need. And I hope you’ll share one with me, should the occasion arise.