Real Talk: How Can I Clear the Air After Crying at Work?

Woman Stressed at Work


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Leah Thomas866

It's many people's worst nightmare: a wave of emotion comes over you at work, and you can't help but cry. While our emotions shouldn't be stigmatized at work, crying in the office can make us feel vulnerable or even awkward. At least, that's how this FGB'er felt after she cried at a performance review

“Has anyone ever cried at work? What happened, and how did you deal with it?,” she asked the Community

“I received some really harsh feedback from a project I’ve been working, and I honestly didn’t see it coming. I was so caught off guard that I actually started crying. I’m embarrassed that I cried because I know my colleague was trying to just give constructive criticism, but I do believe the way he went about it was over the line. I feel vulnerable and don’t know how to address the fact that I cried in front of a coworker. I feel like I’ve lost my credibility. Has anyone else cried at work?”

Many FGB'ers who have been there before chimed in to offer their support — and their advice for how to make amends. 

“I have cried at work and can totally understand how you are feeling about the situation,” one woman wrote. “It is not as accepted to show our emotions in the workplace, but everyone has moments where they may have felt vulnerable or reacted in the moment. Don't be hard on yourself. You are human and that's okay!”

“I've cried before and felt awful until I confronted the situation. I felt 100 times better after addressing how I felt and why. I think I'm actually closer to the person after communicating further on how I felt at the moment,” another FGB’er wrote.

“I have cried at work, and people have cried in front of me,” a third said. “As I see it, crying is a healthy, non-violent way to get your feelings out. Thank the person and recap the facts to demonstrate that you were actually listening (and to make sure you got them).”

It is important to remind yourself that it’s okay to have emotions. 

Women feel they cannot show emotion because it is seen as a weakness, especially in the workplace. But don't let this sexist norm get you down. Try addressing the situation with your coworker. Say something simple regarding the incident, and then turn the conversation to the feedback. For example, you might say: “I want to acknowledge what happened the other day. I hope I did not make you uncomfortable. I am grateful for your feedback and wanted to go over it again with you if you have time.” Remember that you don't need to apologize if you don't want to.

“You did nothing wrong. It was a valid emotional response," another FGB’er advised.

"I would suggest acknowledging that his feedback obviously brought up some strong feelings, and express appreciation for his willingness to provide feedback and that you are open to it. I think it would also be worthwhile at some point when things are not heated to express how you are most comfortable receiving feedback, and to reaffirm that you do want to hear both positive and negative feedback."

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For all other career and workplace related questions, consult the Fairygodboss Community.