Many managers and leaders are not comfortable when things get emotional. Those in leadership positions may feel it is not professional to cry. But the reality is most people (and even some of your best) can’t just drop their emotions in the lobby before they come to work, or drop them in a bucket when they surface on the job. And as leaders we can’t leave caring and compassion at the office door.
I don’t think the objective should ever be to get the person to stop crying – unless of course they are hysterical and the crying is inappropriate. But instead leaders should first seek to understand why.
Here are five things I have personally done when someone has started to cry.
1. Be Quiet and Listen. When the emotions surface, be quiet. No matter what you say at that point, it isn’t going to magically solve the problems or feelings the person is having. In fact, it might just make things even worse.
Really try to listen instead. As awkward as it might feel, letting the person talk and cry it out is the best thing in most cases. The benefit to you is the trust it will create and the opportunity it will provide to help.
2. Don’t Make a Scene. If others can see the person crying, move to a place that is more private if you can. It’s one thing to cry in front of your boss, it’s another to cry in front of all your co-workers.
3. Demonstrate Empathy. Think back to times when you have been sad about something and then try to understand where the employee is coming from. Walk in their shoes – how would you want your manager to respond to you? Use caring words and expressions. Strive to bless, not stress.
4. Be Firm if Needed. There are times when the crying will be the result of poor performance. If this is the case, you must demonstrate empathy, but don’t lower your standards. Help the employee understand that you care about them and then provide clear expectations and direction on performance.
5. Be Aware of Bigger Issues. Some crying is the symptom of larger issues. Those issues may be at work or at home. You can delve deeper into the ones at work and see if there is something you need to fix. Personal problems sometimes just need a listening ear, or professional help.
What have you done when an employee has cried? Do you have any other tips? Please comment below.
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