We may cry during sappy television commercials, when we argue with our spouse or best friend, or if we get some upsetting news, but letting the waterworks flow at work is not something we want to do or see all too often. Being emotional in the workplace setting to the point where tears fall can be embarrassing, disturbing, and often frowned upon. But like anything else in this imperfect world, things happen that are beyond our control. Anything from welled-up eyes to a full-on bawl can go down at work, but it is not the end of the world – no matter how you may feel in the moment.
You may have cried at work in the past or held in your bubbling up tears to the point of nearly bursting. You may fear the day will come that you will lose your composure and weep like you just lost your puppy. Before you relive the moment or stress out unnecessarily, know that many people at all levels have cried at work and managed to live to see another day, through clear eyes and a renewed sense of spirit.
Aside from reaching for the nearest box of Kleenex, here is what you should do if you cry at work.
Acknowledge the Wave of Emotions
OK, so the tears poured like a rainstorm and everyone saw the scene. You can't sweep the scene under the rug, but you do not need to cause a further spectacle. Once you can manage to get the words out, acknowledge that you became overwhelmed or overcome with emotions. And that's that.
Forbes recommends, "The key is to acknowledge the emotion or the circumstances that led to your outburst, but don't apologize for it. When you start apologizing, it takes one person's discomfort and makes two people uncomfortable."
Elle Canada suggests, "Own it. If you're in a meeting, be direct. Say 'Well, that hit a nerve." Clear and concise, end of subject.
Be brief and be mature. If you try to skirt the issue, people will be kept wondering what's going on with you, gossip can fester, and folks may think that anything said or done will cause the "fragile" you to break down again. Show your strength by exhibiting that emotions are part of humanity.
You will need to get back to work with a clear head and a fresh restart. You may need to remove yourself from the group to recompose. Head to the rest room, take a breather outside, or just go to your desk or office for a few moments of privacy.
Those who witnessed your tears will surely understand and probably expect you to step away for a bit. Once you have recovered, hold your head up high and resume your work. Do not let the upset dictate how the rest of your day will go. You might actually feel much better after releasing the pent-up tension and stress.
It is time to let it go. We all have our moments and this was yours. There is no need to rehash the episode or bring it up again. Most people will not even remember this happened in a day or so. As Fortune reminds us, "Just get over it. Everyone else will forget about it if you forget about it"
Like Elle Canada notes, "There's no 'tissue ceiling' — people can be successful at all levels of management, and crying is a biological thing that people are wired to do. Don't beat yourself up over it."