Skip to Main Content
by Cathy Vandewater | March 13, 2013


So, crying at work. It's not like you ever plan for it to happen. But when it does, is it a career killer? Should it be?

Sheryl Sandberg doesn't think so. Here's what she had to say in an interview with Jezebel on the topic:

"Look, I'm not suggesting that the way to get to the corner office is to cry as much as possible. Nobody is going to publish the next Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and say that crying is one of them. But I am saying that it happens. It has happened to me. It has happened to me more than once. It will happen to me again. It happens to other women. Rather than spend all this time beating ourselves up for it, let's accept ourselves. OK, I cried, life went on. And I think that's part of the message of Lean In, like we are human beings, we are emotional beings and we can be our whole selves at work."

Crying: it happens. But what do you do if it happens to you?

A few quick tips for managing tears while keeping your dignity intact:

1. Accept that it happened and move on

Your reaction to The Event will give everyone else their cues on how to handle it.

If you act like it was the most embarrassing thing to ever happen, others will cringe as well. But if you shrug and say, "I'm human, it happens," and move on… that's what everyone else will do too.

2. Make it about the issues at hand

Chances are you're crying because you didn't get enough sleep, you're overworked, something stressful is going on in your personal life, and this is what put you over the edge. But feel free to keep that to yourself in the event of tears. Instead, refocus on the work issue as quickly as possible: "I'm really frustrated that the numbers aren't adding up here," for example—and not your reaction to it. You'll shift the focus off of you while also defuse your emotional state… and get everyone else talking about the project again.

3. Show empathy to others who are upset

This doesn't mean you should hold impromptu therapy sessions in your office. Just show others kindness in the event of emotional upsets, and don't treat it like a huge, embarrassing deal. Simply passing someone a tissue and asking if they'd like to take a moment will help foster an environment of acceptance and maturity in your workplace. Much more so that avoiding eye contact and looking mortified. And you'll see that karma come back around the next time you need a Kleenex on the job.

--Cathy Vandewater,

Read More:
Stressed? Be Kind to Your Coworkers
Can Sheryl Sandberg Break Up the Old Boys' Club?
Is Yahoo Right to Ban Working From Home?


Want to be found by top employers? Upload Your Resume

Join Gold to Unlock Company Reviews