6 Surprizing Ways to Handle a Crying Employee
Few people enjoy crying at work. Most feel embarrassed and worried about their reputation. Women especially can feel that crying might ruin their careers or relationship with others in the workplace. Tears can also be quite challenging to handle for a boss or a colleague.
It feels entirely out of place and evokes mixed reactions. However, we must know how to comfort someone who’s crying, as this situation will likely come up at some point. People cry due to stress, they face losses, or they might lose control one day.
We need to handle this maturely and in a way that is good for both employee and business. Here’s exactly what to say when handling a person crying at work.
Method 1 | Show Empathy
I can tell you are under a lot of pressure right now. I understand that it can be very hard to handle. Would you like to take some time to decompress?
By using this script (delivered in a soft and polite tone, without coldness or sarcasm), you are showing empathy for the employee’s situation, even if you don’t know what triggered the crying specifically. Using language like “decompress” allows the employee to keep their dignity and also signals that you are not angry at them for crying. You are also giving them the opportunty to take some time and deal with the tears. When they come back, you should retake the conversation you were having before.
Method 2 | Offer the Chance to Talk
You seem to be dealing with a lot right now. Would you like to talk about it? Is there something at work that is upsetting you?
Some people cry easily but others do not. If you find that someone you have never seen crying is doing so, it may be important to see what has happened. You should not probe if the issue is a personal one but there is a lot of value in understanding that something at work is going badly. First, it shows the employee that their concerns are valid and that you care for their well-being. Secondly, it can be a way of detecting and dealing with an issue, whether it’s excessive pressure on the employees or workplace bullying. If the issue seems small to you, it is worth noting it was upsetting for the employee and seeing what can be done about this.
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Method 3 | Signal That They Are Not Harming their Reputation
I understand that you are in a difficult situation right now. I value your work and you are an important part of this company. If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know.
Many people get upset after crying at work and worry that they have irreparably damaged their reputation or standing. By signaling that you value and appreciate their work, you are lessening this worry and giving them the opportunity to open future conversations with you about their issues or situations they have encountered in the workplace. Of course, you should use this script if you can sincerely say that the employee is valued.
Method 4 | Set Boundaries
Why don’t you take a little time to decompress and head back out? Let’s talk again tomorrow and revisit the conversation.
Some people (though they are rare) might use tears as a way of getting out of a feedback session or inducing pity. Most people will cry because they are upset but it’s worth noting that some might employ it as a way of gaining sympathy. It’s not always easy to distinguish when this is happening, and you don’t want to punish a employee for getting upset or overwhelmed. A good strategy is to show that the conversation will continue another day, while respecting the feelings of the other person. Give them the opportunity to calm down but show that the discussion is still happening.
Method 5 | Provide Some Support
Would you like some water or tea? I can see that things are hard for you right now. Is there something I can do to help?
Offering help is valuable. You begin this script by providing water or tea, which are comforting and can help a person calm down easier. Offering support, if you are genuinely willing to help, can be a very valuable thing in the moment. Tears can show that the individual is feeling alone and is at the end of their rope, so offering help can serve many positive goals in the moment. Even if there is nothing you can do, the employee will feel valued and appreciated. They will feel less alone. Also, they might be able to open up about a bad situation at work when you give them the opportunity to do so.
Method 6 | Reassure the Employee
I understand that sometimes our emotions get the best of us. This situation was quite difficult. I am sure that we will figure things out/that things will get better soon.
Providing reassurance can help the employee feel better and calm down. It also shows that you are invested and that you are not angry at them for crying. Reassurance is important, and it doesn’t have to be very personal. Provide some emotional support. Even if you are not particularly close to the employee, your effort will be acknowledged and will help the person deal with the situation.
Crying at work is unavoidable because tears are a part of our biology. They are the natural reaction we have to overwhelming stress. Some people cry easily and can’t control it. Others do it rarely but may come to the point where they lose control. To maintain a good sense of employee loyalty, it’s worth addressing these situations with respect and empathy, allowing the person to keep their dignity. This doesn’t mean you will let them get off scott-free for a mistake but you should give them time to compose themselves.
Gurchiek, K. (2018). How Does Your Workplace Handle Crying at Work? Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/pages/crying-at-work-how-does-your-culture-handle-it.aspx
Hasson, O. (2009). Emotional Tears as Biological Signals. Evolutionary Psychology, 7(3), 147470490900700. doi: 10.1177/147470490900700302
Kislik, L. (2018). How to Manage an Employee Who Cries Easily. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2018/03/how-to-manage-an-employee-who-cries-easily
At Never the Right Word, our aim is to give you practical examples of how to handle life’s difficult conversations. If you have an awkward situation that you’d like example templates for, request a topic here.
Lastly, if you found this content helpful or want to share your own examples, let us know in the comments. We’d also be delighted if you shared this article and joined us on social media too!
Never the Right Word
Hi there! I’m Amy, and I’m the person behind Never the Right Word. I’m a designer-by-day who’s fascinated by human psychology; you’ll find me learning about what makes others tick through all types of media and good old-fashioned conversation.
In 2019 Never the Right Word was born to fill the gap of ‘how-to’ websites with copy and paste examples showing you EXACTLY what you need to say to steer difficult conversations into positive outcomes.
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