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Crying at work can be mortifying. Here’s how to spin it.

Mar 13, 2017

Crying at work — we’ve all done it.

So, when something negative happens at work, like a bad performance review, what can you do to save face after shedding a few tears? 

Julia Lee, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan's Center for Positive Organizations and soon-to-be assistant professor at the Ross School of Business, researched crying at work in a new study.

When you cry about something bad happening to you on the job, it’s because you care, Lee said. Typically, people apologize for crying, attributing it to their own tendency to be emotional.

Lee and her colleagues decided to study how to give individuals more control after crying at work. The study revealed that workers could reframe an emotional moment by talking about their passion for the job.

“By attributing it to passion, we found that people perceive you as having more self-control,” Lee said.

Even after crying, the study found that “you can still change or manage the effect of you crying in front of everyone by telling a story about that in a slightly different way,” Lee said.

Lee said she hopes the study will help workplaces become more compassionate and accepting of exchanging true emotions.

Listen to the full interview above.

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