As a new leader, what do you do when one of your employees or colleagues starts crying? Having experienced this first hand with both men and women, here are four tips that will help when encountering it yourself (and you will!).
1. Don’t get weird. Maybe you come from a family of non-criers or you believe crying isn’t acceptable at work. Or perhaps you are fine with it, but in the moment it affects you unexpectedly. Whatever it is, when someone’s eyes well up and they begin to lose their breath – it isn’t about you. It’s about them. Don’t make it about yourself. As the leader, it’s part of your job to be in the discomfort with them. Own it. Tip: when they apologize for crying, say, “It’s ok. It just means that you care.”
2. Create a safe space. Whether it’s your office or their’s, let them know that this conversation is just between you. Letting someone know they have a safe zone for moments like this goes a long way.
3. Listen. Period.
4. Avoid problem solving. At highly emotional moments like this your employee isn’t looking for you to solve their problems. Most likely they just need an ear. People cry for different reasons and you will likely experience the pendulum. Some will cry out of pure frustration, others may be grieving the loss/illness of a family member. There may be layoffs. Divorces. Whatever it is, don’t dole out advice just to fill the air.
It’s always a little challenging when these situations arise, and it’s 10x more challenging for the person doing the crying. It goes a long way when they feel that you were genuinely concerned for their wellbeing.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou