The idea of being over-emotional in the workplace is a stereotype that has followed women ever since they entered the workforce. PMS and blonde jokes are as old as time, and even with all the advancements in the workplace, they still permeate many workrooms.
As a woman, there’s a fine line between being true to yourself and the emotions you feel and the level of professionalism that your job demands of you. This balancing act is tricky and requires work to achieve.
Through various jobs and internships, often in male-dominated workplaces, I've been placed in multiple situations where I have either felt like crying or have actually cried, not generally out of sadness or being overwhelmed, but out of frustration. If someone takes advantage of me or is being aggressive and rude, there’s a possibility I will cry, and that terrifies me. I never like to show that side of me while at work, so I’ve learned a few tricks to avoid it if at all possible.
If you find yourself in a situation where you feel like you might cry, one of the best solutions is to remove yourself from the area. If the issue is arising from a coworker, look for the opportunity to take an early lunch break or bathroom break. Walking away from a tense situation is one of the best ways to avoid crying. Taking a moment to catch your breath, regulate your breathing, and think critically will help calm you down and refocus your energy. Staying in a tense situation helps no one, and might leave you regretting what you say or do.
Taking a moment to regulate your breathing and think critically will help you avoid a breakdown.
This is what helps me the most when I feel like crying. Even five minutes away from a tense situation can defuse it, leaving me level-headed and prepared to finish the task at hand. If you can walk away, take 10 seconds to count slowly and regulate your breathing. Taking the time to physically make your body relax will make a world of difference to help you not cry.
Don’t Run from Every Tense Situation
This may seem counterintuitive with avoiding tense situations, but if you hide from every situation then you will never grow and learn how to handle uncomfortable situations without crying. Taking steps to learn to get out of your comfort zone, work with new people, and struggle with projects is a great way to learn new skills and healthy coping mechanisms. Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” If you remain in your comfort zone your entire life you will never grow. Knowing when to stay and when to remove yourself from the situation is a skill that takes practice to acquire.
If You Cry Frequently
If you’re a frequent crier who gets stressed easily, there are a few ways to train your body to not cry. Crying is a physical manifestation of your emotional state. Some of the tips include tensing up your face and releasing slowly. This will take your mental focus off crying and redirect it to relaxing your face muscles. Blinking rapidly will help disperse the tears if they’ve already started to collect in your eyes. Learning the physical cues that your body gives you before you cry and giving yourself space to calm down is one of the best ways to avoid crying.
Be attentive to the physical cues your body gives you before you cry.
If this is a continual struggle, getting a hormone test might be useful. Prolactin, one of the main hormones that helps women lactate, also makes you cry. If your hormones are out of balance, it's harder to be mentally balanced and less prone to crying.
Taking proper care of your body by eating well, exercising, and sleeping is another way to avoid crying. Exhaustion coupled with a bad day at work is the perfect storm to trigger crying at work. This is especially important if you’re on your period. It's a scientific fact that during your period your estrogen and progesterone are low and fluctuating, making it harder to regulate your mood. This could make it easier for you to cry or get frustrated. By taking care of your body you set yourself up for the best possible outcome.
Call Someone Who Can Calm You Down
My mom was always my first call when something really bad happened at work. By talking to someone who knows you they can help you figure out the root of the issue. Are you just having a bad day, or is there another underlying issue that could be the cause of your tears? Sometimes, we lie to ourselves about the root of issues in our lives and we might need another point of view to accurately address a problem. If it’s someone whom you respect, they can call you out and tell you if you were in the wrong. Having someone who is completely removed from the situation allows them to call you out on your behavior or support you when you need it. This is extremely useful in a highly charged situation at work.
If you have a work mentor, going to them can be the best way to learn to traverse sticky situations because they will have already walked that road and come out the other side. Finding wise counsel can only help you in life.
If You Do Cry at Work
If you get bad news about a family member or friend while at work, tears are natural. Quietly explain the situation to your coworkers and they will be more than understanding. The problem starts when you make a scene. Taking a moment to compose yourself in the bathroom, retouch makeup, and get your head straight will help avoid making a big deal out of it. Not everyone in the office needs to know you were crying at work, no matter the situation.
Crying at work becomes problematic when you make a scene or point fingers.
If you weaponize the tears to your advantage by blaming them on a co-worker or to get out of work, then you’re setting yourself up for failure and could be irreparably damaging your reputation. No one wants to work with an overly emotional coworker who blames others for the way they act. Take ownership of your emotions and work on figuring out ways that work for you and your body to avoid crying in the future.
Learning how to be a woman of dignity takes time and practice. While crying is a fully human emotion, learning how to do it at the right time and place is a skill most of us have not mastered. By taking care of your body, making sure your hormones are balanced, and working outside your comfort zone you can gain the skills to traverse any situation skillfully without sacrificing your femininity or your reputation at work.
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