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Should You Cry At Work?

Wed, May 9, 2012

Office Politics

A sales deal that fell through, a bad appraisal, an boisterous/rude customer, a maniac who doubles as your boss – there are many work circumstances that could provoke an emotional response from persons at work. Such emotional responses include sulking, shouting or even crying.

Should you cry at work? According to Sigal Barsade, a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, employees who are put in a situation where they feel like crying, should first consider their place in the hierarchy and regulate themselves appropriately. Barsade researches the influence of emotions in organizations.

Whether you cry or otherwise lose your composure because of a work issue, undoubtedly there’s a stigma attached to emotional responses in the workplace, and this has caused may (especially executives) to simply bottle up their feelings. Experts call it “emotional suppression”, and studies have shown that it can lead to clouded thinking, promote job unhappiness and negatively impact the affected employee’s work performance.

This is why some experts say that it’s very important for employees to be attuned to what their typical emotional triggers are, so responses can be predictably managed for more productive outcomes. People tend to ‘catch’ strong emotions from others almost like a virus. It’s called “emotional contagion,” and it can be an instinctive response to mimic those strong emotions.

What’s recommended? Never vent at work. If necessary, excuse yourself and go home. Try to lean on your personal support network, a therapist, church leader, mentor or anyone else who can offer you some objective advice. You could also try writing about the matter from the point of view of your antagonist(s). Stopping to do this reflection will allow you to calm down, deconstruct the problem and find ways to move forward by understanding why your antagonist acted the way he or she did.

If you’re frequently battling strong emotions at work, you may want to consider whether or not you’re a good ‘fit’ for that organization.

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