Kimberly Lew
August 31, 2015 7:00 am

I am all about being a boss in the workplace: leaning in, taking charge, kicking ass and taking names. But admittedly, for every job where I’ve found a way to make myself indispensable, contributed new ideas, and stepped up as a leader, I have also had at least once incident where I have cried. No, not just a few stray tears, but red-nosed, sloppy, waterworks, oh-lord-will-this-ever-stop crying.

Crying in the workplace can happen for countless reasons. If you care about your job, it’s inevitable that you will feel an emotional connection to the things you’re doing. Jobs are also stressful—they’re the place where you spend most of your time and it accounts for the money you make to support your livelihood. When there is uncertainty or you are not being recognized or you are just frustrated with what you’re doing, it’s hard to not take it personally.

Sometimes, also, life stuff happens, and you will be at your job when it does. As I mentioned before, work is a place where you spend most of your waking hours, so sometimes you will happen to be at work when you get bad news, will be stewing about the fight you had with your significant other, or mourning a personal tragedy.

So, if you’re at your desk and you suddenly feel the hot sting of tears on their way, what do you do? Here are a couple of my tips for successfully crying at work:

Accept the tears

People like to say that crying is a sign of weakness and that women are emotional—but so what? Crying is your body telling you something, and there is nothing wrong with giving in, being present, and listening to what it’s trying to say. Maybe it’s telling you that you’re tired or angry. Maybe it’s telling you that you need more sleep and are wearing yourself too thin. Maybe it’s telling you that you’re not in the right place and need to make a change. Ignoring this is not going to get you anywhere. Feel the burn, and try to listen to what your body is telling you.

Get out of your deskspace

Kelly Cutrone once said, “If you have to cry, go outside.” While this seems like a command for the benefit of your coworkers, it’s really something you should do for yourself. Take a walk around the block and breathe in some non-workplace air, remembering that there is life outside your job. Sit in a corner of a crowded area where you can just be anonymous. If you can’t leave the building, at least go into the bathroom, find a stall to get comfy in, and let it all out.

Vent to a friend

This step only applies if you happen to have a trusty friend within reach. However, if you do have a close buddy, feel free to lean on them a bit. Don’t necessarily get bogged down in the details, but let them know you’re having a rough day. Sometimes it helps to commiserate with someone else. Or, if a friend is available over email or Gchat, ask them to send you some supportive gifs or cat pictures to cheer you up.

Make yourself smile

When your sobs have subsided and you’re able to breathe a little more easily, allow yourself a moment of zen. Close your eyes and remember a favorite memory. Or hum a song that makes you happy. The Charles in Charge theme song is surprisingly effective. 

Get focused

Once you’ve purged a bit and are feeling back on solid ground, think about what is most important to you to get through the day. Don’t let the big picture get you bogged down—just make a few simple goals for yourself to get you home where you can cry some more, eat raw cookie dough, and binge watch episodes of Bob’s Burgers. Maybe your goal is just to make it through the day without crying again. Or maybe it’s to apply for a couple of new jobs when you get home. Whatever it is, keep it simple, but keep your eyes on the horizon. Tomorrow will be a new day.

Own it

More than anything, don’t let yourself be ashamed of feeling your feels! No, crying is not ideal in the workplace, but it happens. Trust me, it has happened, and it will happen again. Being a strong woman in the workplace doesn’t mean that you can’t be in touch with your emotions. As long as you know how to feel and learn from them, you can move on and continue to take charge of your career.

[Image via Warner Bros.]

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